Barrier Methods of Birth Control

Barrier methods of birth control are physical or chemical barriers that prevent sperm from passing through the woman’s cervix into the uterus and fallopian tubes to fertilize an egg. Some methods also protect against sexually transmitted disease (STDs).

What are spermicides and how are they used?

A spermicide is a foam, cream, jelly, suppository (an insert that melts after it is inserted in the vagina), or film (thin sheets). Spermicide can be used with all other barrier methods except the sponge, which already contains a spermicide.

A spermicide should be inserted into the vagina close to the cervix no more than 30 minutes before intercourse. It should remain in place for 6–8 hours after sex. A spermicide should be reapplied with each act of sex.

What are the benefits, risks, and side effects of using spermicides?

Benefits:

  • Spermicides are easy to use.
  • They do not cost very much and can be bought over-the-counter.
  • They have no effect on a woman’s natural hormones.
  • They can be used while breastfeeding.

Risks:

  • When used alone, spermicides do not protect against STDs, including infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • Frequent use of spermicides can increase the risk of getting HIV from an infected partner. Spermicides should only be used if you are at low risk of HIV infection.

Possible side effects: allergic reaction to the spermicide and vaginitis

What are condoms and how are they used?

Two types of condoms are available: male and female. The male condom is a thin sheath made of latex (rubber), polyurethane (plastic), or natural (animal) membrane that is worn by the man over his erect penis. Latex and polyurethane condoms provide the best available protection against many STDs, including HIV.

The female condom is a thin plastic pouch that lines the vagina. It is held in place by a closed inner ring at the cervix and an outer ring at the opening of the vagina. It can be inserted up to 8 hours before sex and provides some protection against STDs.

Both types of condoms should be used with a lubricant to prevent the condom from tearing or breaking and to reduce irritation. Latex condoms should only be used with water-based or silicone lubricants. Oil-based lubricants can weaken the latex and increase the risk that the condom will break.

Top 5 Facts to Know About Condoms:

  • Condom use really works in preventing unintended pregnancy and most STDs.
  • Condoms are easy to use and are available in many places, including family planning clinics and drug stores.
  • Condom testing is rigorous and goes above and beyond adequate safety measure testing.
  • U.S. consumers now purchase more than 440 million condoms per year.
  • Got a latex allergy? No problem–use a synthetic condom!

Things to Remember About Condoms:

  • Use a new condom before each sex act (oral, anal or vaginal).
  • If you use lubricants, use only water-based lubricants with latex condoms. Avoid oil-based lubricants like cold cream, mineral oil, petroleum jelly, body lotions, massage oil, or baby oil. They can damage latex condoms.
  • Store condoms in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Don’t keep condoms in temperatures above 85 degrees. Note their expiration date and heed it!

What are the benefits, risks, and side effects of using condoms?

Benefits:

  • Condoms do not cost very much and can be bought over-the-counter.
  •  They can be carried in a pocket or purse.
  •  They have no effect on a woman’s natural hormones.
  •  They can be used while breastfeeding.
  •  Latex and polyurethane condoms provide the best available protection against STDs.
  •  The female condom can be inserted up to 8 hours before sex.

Risks: none

Possible side effects: allergic reaction to latex or polyurethane

What is the sponge and how is it used?

The sponge is a doughnut-shaped device made of soft foam coated with spermicide. It is inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix. It is available without a prescription.

The sponge does not protect against STDs, including HIV. A male or female condom should be used with the sponge to provide STD protection if you are at risk of getting an STD.

What are the benefits, risks, and side effects of using the sponge?

Benefits:

  •  It can be bought over-the-counter.
  •  It can be carried in a purse or pocket
  •  It has no effect on a woman’s natural hormones.
  •  Each sponge contains enough spermicide for repeated acts of intercourse during a 24-hour period.
  •  It can be used while breastfeeding beginning 6 weeks after childbirth.

Risks:

  • Cases of toxic shock syndrome have occurred in a few women using the sponge.
  •  The sponge should only be used if you are at low risk of HIV infection. Frequent use of spermicides can increase the risk of getting HIV from an infected partner.

Possible side effects: vaginal irritation and allergic reactions to polyurethane, spermicides, or sulfites (all of which are found in the sponge)

What is the diaphragm and how is it used?

The diaphragm is a small dome-shaped device that fits inside the vagina and covers the cervix. It is used with spermicide. Diaphragms are made of latex or silicone. They require a prescription and need to be fitted by a health care provider. Use water-based lubricants only if you use a latex diaphragm.

The diaphragm does not protect against STDs, including HIV. A male or female condom should be used with the diaphragm to provide STD protection if you are at risk of getting an STD.

Spermicide

These are chemicals that are put into the vagina to kill sperm. Spermicides come as foam, gel, cream, suppositories, and film. They must be put in the vagina just before you have sex (10–30 minutes before for suppositories and film).

Diaphragm

The diaphragm is a round rubber dome that fits inside the vagina and covers the cervix. It always is used with a spermicide. A diaphragm may be put in place up to 6 hours before you have sex (but spermicide must be added within 2 hours before sex). It must be left in place at least 6 hours after sex, but not more than 24 hours.

What are the benefits, risks, and side effects of using the diaphragm?

Benefits:

  •  It has no effect on a woman’s natural hormones.
  •  It can be used while breastfeeding beginning 6 weeks after childbirth.
  •  It can be inserted up to 2 hours before sex. If it is inserted more than 2 hours beforehand, the spermicide must be reapplied.

Risks:

  • Birth control methods that need spermicides to be effective should only be used if you are at low risk of HIV infection. Frequent use of spermicides can increase the risk of getting HIV from an infected partner.
  • There is an increased risk of toxic shock syndrome if the diaphragm is left in for more than 24 hours.
  • Use of a diaphragm and spermicide may increase the risk of urinary tract infection.

Possible side effects: allergic reaction to latex or to the spermicide

What is the cervical cap and how is it used?

The cervical cap is a small plastic dome that fits tightly over the cervix and stays in place by suction. The cervical cap is used with a spermicide. It has a strap over the dome that is used for removal. A cervical cap must be fitted and prescribed by a health care provider.

The cervical cap does not protect against STDs, including HIV. A male or female condom should be used with the cervical cap to provide STD protection if you are at risk of getting an STD.

What are the benefits, risks, and side effects of using the cervical cap?

Benefits:

  • It has no effect on a woman’s natural hormones.
  • It can be used while breastfeeding beginning 6 weeks after childbirth.
  •  It can be inserted up to 6 hours before sex.

Risks:

  • Birth control methods that need spermicides to be effective should only be used if you are at low risk of HIV infection. Frequent use of spermicides can increase the risk of getting HIV from an infected partner.
  •  To avoid an increased risk of infection, including toxic shock syndrome, the cervical cap should not be used during your menstrual period.
  • Use of a cervical cap and spermicide may increase the risk of urinary tract infection.

Possible side effects: allergic reaction to the spermicide and vaginal irritation or odor

Talk to Your Partner

Before you have sex, talk to your partner about using condoms. This is the best way to prevent STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Do not be shy—be direct. Be honest about your feelings and needs.

You can talk about it in many ways, for instance:

“You know, it makes sex even better for me knowing that both of us are protected. Let’s use a condom.”
“I’d really like to have sex with you as long as we use condoms. Condoms protect both of us.”

Source & More Info: Marine Family Planning and ACO.org 

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