Dr. Varshali Mali, MBBS, DNB - Obstetrician and Gynecologist

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Barrier Contraception Methods
Barrier Contraception Methods

How to avoid pregnancy by barrier contraception methods

Methods | Effectiveness | Pros & Cons

By

MBBS, DNB (OBGY)

Gynecologist & Pregnancy Doctor

Barrier Contraception Methods
Barrier contraception methods work by creating a physical barrier between sperms and egg. The barrier created by these methods does not allow sperms to reach the egg and hence avoid pregnancy. The barrier contraception methods include spermicide, diaphragm, male condoms, female condoms, contraceptive sponge, and cervical cap.
A few barrier contraception methods like spermicide, condoms, and sponge, can be bought from most of the medical stores and does not need any prescription from the doctor. The other methods like a diaphragm and cervical cap must be prescribed by a doctor. To avoid pregnancy, these methods need to be used every time you have a sex. Barrier contraception methods are not as effective as other methods to prevent the pregnancy. You may need to keep your emergency contraception ready in case if barrier method breaks, dislocated, or if you forgot or unable to use it. Both male and female condoms contraception is one of the most frequently used family planning methods. This also helps to protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
This article contains details about barrier contraception methods and how to avoid pregnancy effectively using these methods.
Male condoms barrier contraception method

Male condoms contraception method

Male condoms barrier contraception method type
Type
Barrier contraception methods
Effectiveness of male condoms barrier contraception method
Effectiveness
85%
Male condoms barrier contraception method frequency of use
Frequency of use
Every time
STD protection by male condoms barrier contraception method

Protection against STDs

Yes
Male condoms barrier contraception method
Male condoms are latex/rubber made wearables for men which is used to prevent the sperms from entering the vagina. Male condoms are one of the oldest and most widely used contraception for family planning. Male condoms also prevent sexually transmitted diseases by preventing contact with semen and vaginal fluids, and by limiting skin-to-skin contact. Condoms are the only contraception methods that help to protect against STDs. So even if you are using other contraception methods like contraceptive pills, IUD to avoid pregnancy, it's advisable to use condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
Male condoms are very easily available at any medical store. Buying condoms does not need any doctor's prescription. Even though its most commonly used method to prevent pregnancy, they do come with significant failure rates of around 15%. The failure is mostly due to breakage, slippage, improper techniques and sometimes use after its expiration date.
Advantages
Male condoms are very easy to get and easy to use. Male condoms do not cost much when compared to other contraception methods. Condoms are the only contraception methods which help to avoid pregnancy as well as gives protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Condoms help other contraception methods even work better. Adding condoms as a backup helps you prevent pregnancy in case if you do some mistake with other method or it fails. You do not need any medical procedure and chances of pregnancy return to normal the moment you stop using it. Like the hormonal contraception methods, condoms do not cause hormonal changes in your body.
Disadvantages
How to avoid pregnancy using male condoms depends on how accurately you use them every time you get involved in sex. To avoid pregnancy, you must use condoms contraception methods every time you have sex. You need to use the new male condom every time. To avoid STDs, male condoms need to be used before any skin-to-skin contact and you need to keep it on until you are done with sex. You always need to keep the male condom handy and need to remember to always use them. Using the condoms properly may take some efforts. Few people also feel that using a condom may not give full satisfaction and pleasure during sex. Few of them also do not like the interruption between sex and do not feel comfortable with male condoms as contraception.
Female condoms barrier contraception method

Female condoms contraception method

Female condoms barrier contraception method type
Type
Barrier contraception methods
Effectiveness of female condoms barrier contraception method
Effectiveness
79%
Female condoms barrier contraception method frequency of use
Frequency of use
Every time
STD protection by female condoms barrier contraception method

Protection against STDs

Yes
Female condoms barrier contraception method
Female condoms are a novel contraception methods device developed for women to avoid pregnancy, prevent STDs, and to do appropriate family planning. It is made up of a soft plastic called polyurethane. Female condoms have a cylindrical shape with one end open and held in position by a ring at another end. Its closed end covers the cervix and open end is positioned at the entrance of the vagina. Female condoms are sometimes called as internal condoms and can be inserted into the vagina even 8 hours before having intercourse.
As a contraception methods, female condoms create a barrier between sperm and an egg and hence prevent pregnancy. As female condom covers the inside part of the vagina and some part of the vulva, it helps to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. It decreases the chance of coming in contact with semen, pre-cum, or skin which can spread STDs. To make effective use of female condoms and avoid pregnancy, you need to fit it properly and place it right. If you use it perfectly every single time, they are about 95% effective. Some people aren't perfect, so in real life, this barrier contraception methods is 79% effective to prevent pregnancy. You should NOT use the men condom together with a female condom. Each kind of condoms is designed to be used on its own. Even if you are using other contraception methods like contraceptive pills, IUD, it is advised to use condoms to protect against STDs.
Advantages
As that of male condoms, female condoms also avoid pregnancy as well as gives protection against STDs. Female condoms are made of a material called nitrile and are totally hypoallergenic. So, it's a good choice for those who are allergic to latex and cannot use male condoms as contraception methods. As you can wear this well before your sex, there is no interruption during the sex and few people have also experienced the increase in sex pleasure while using the female condom. It is one of the women-controlled contraception methods which gives you an upper hand in taking care of your sex life. Like the hormonal contraception methods, condoms do not cause hormonal changes in your body.
Disadvantages
How to avoid pregnancy using female condoms depends on how accurately you use them every time you get involved in sex. You must use the female condoms contraception methods each time you have a sex to prevent pregnancy. You must use the new one every time. You need to use them all the time during your sex. Using the female condoms properly may take some efforts. Some people may feel irritation on their vagina, vulva, or penis when they use the female condoms.
Diaphragm barrier contraception method

Diaphragm contraception method

Diaphragm barrier contraception method type
Type
Barrier contraception methods
Effectiveness of Diaphragm barrier contraception method
Effectiveness
88%
Diaphragm barrier contraception method frequency of use
Frequency of use
Every time
STD protection status by diaphragm barrier contraception method

Protection against STDs

No
Diaphragm barrier contraception method
A diaphragm is a small oval device inserted into your vagina that snugly fits into your cervix. The diaphragm is made of thin, soft silicone and shaped like a cup which is bendable. There are several types of diaphragm like arching spring, coil spring, flat spring, and wide seal rim diaphragm. Arching spring diaphragm is the most common type. It has a firm rim, easier to insert, and suitable for women with poor vaginal muscle tone. Diaphragm comes in different sizes and correct size matters for the comfort of use, and effectiveness to avoid pregnancy. Consult the doctor to find the best size for you. You also need a prescription from a doctor to purchase it from a medical store.
Diaphragms are effective contraception methods when you use it properly every time you have a sex. But many times, people do a mistake and so in real-life diaphragms are about 88% effective family planning and contraception methods. It is advised to use a diaphragm along with a spermicide. In this combination, the diaphragm acts as a barrier between the sperms and egg, and spermicide stops sperm from moving so they can't get to an egg. The diaphragm can be inserted in vagina 1 hour before the sex and should be in place for at least 6 hours after sex. You must not leave the diaphragm in the vagina for more than 24 hours. In case of repeated sex without changing the diaphragm, you must apply more spermicide for making it effective. You need to take care of the diaphragm to use it again. Make sure to clean it properly and check for any cracks, holes, wrinkles or weak spots before you use it next time.
Diaphragm contraception methods do not give protection against sexually transmitted diseases. In some cases, like if you have toxic shock syndrome, if you are sensitive or allergic to silicone or spermicide, if you have given birth or had an abortion in last 6 weeks, diaphragm contraception methods are not advisable. Few women who use diaphragms get urinary tract infections (UTIs) a lot. So, check with the doctor before taking a decision about using a diaphragm.
Advantages
Diaphragms is a portable and reusable contraception methods. It becomes effective the moment you start using it and gives a control on when to get pregnant. It is very easy to stop diaphragm contraception methods in case you wish to have a baby. Like the hormonal contraception methods, diaphragms are the hormone-free contraception methods and do not interrupt the sex. The diaphragm can last for 2 years with proper care and you can use it again and again.
Disadvantages
How to avoid pregnancy effectively using diaphragm depends on how accurately you are using it. You must use diaphragm every time you have a sex. For a few women inserting and removing the diaphragm might not feel comfortable. You need to leave the diaphragm in position for at least 6 hours for it to be effective. Diaphragm contraception methods do not protect from sexually transmitted diseases. You need to consult the doctor to get the perfect size for you and get the prescription. Using the only diaphragm is not a safe bet to avoid pregnancy, you need to use spermicide to effectively prevent pregnancy. Spermicide may have side effects if you are using it a lot. Few people also get urinary tract infections (UTIs) after using a diaphragm.
Cervical cap barrier contraception method

Cervical cap contraception method

Cervical cap barrier contraception method type
Type
Barrier contraception methods
Effectiveness of cervical cap barrier contraception method
Effectiveness
71% to 86%
Cervical cap barrier contraception method frequency of use
Frequency of use
Every time
STD protection status by cervical cap barrier contraception method

Protection against STDs

No
Cervical cap barrier contraception method
A cervical cap is a small cup-shaped device made up of silicon or latex. It looks like a little rubber sailor's hat and is about an inch and a half wide and one inch high. It has a strap which is used for easy removal. Cervical cap generally comes in three sizes, small, medium and large. The appropriate size of the cervical cap is selected based on if the woman was never been pregnant, the woman was pregnant but did not delivered vaginally and the woman was pregnant and delivered vaginally. The cervical cap is much like a diaphragm, but they are much small and less commonly used. Diaphragm looks like a dish and cervical cap looks like a sailor's hat. You can leave the cervical cap much longer (up to 2 days) in vagina compared to the diaphragm (maximum up to 24 hours). You can consult the doctor to understand how to use, what size is suitable for you and what are the side effects.
The cervical cap is inserted deep into the vagina and fits snugly over the cervix. It is used every time you have a sex and avoid pregnancy by preventing sperms to reach the egg. The cervical cap is more effective (about 86%) for a woman who had never given birth before. For a woman who has given birth before, the cervical cap is a bit less effective (about 71%). As with other contraception methods, it is important to use cervical cap correctly to avoid pregnancy. It is highly recommended to use spermicide along with a cervical cap to increase the effectiveness to prevent pregnancy. Male condoms also add more effectiveness to prevent pregnancy and protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
The cervical cap is one of the safe family planning contraception methods for a woman, but for few, its use might not be comfortable. Cervical cap may not work for you if you are allergic to silicone or spermicide, if you have given birth or had an abortion in last 6 weeks, or if you have cervical cancer or other cervical conditions. Use of cervical cap is not advisable if you have toxic shock syndrome. Use of cervical cap as contraception methods should be avoided during the periods as it increases the chances of infection. If your cervical cap feels uncomfortable, if your vagina is sore, itchy, red or swollen, if you have discharge from the vagina which is not normal, you should talk to the gynecologist immediately. Also watch for toxic shock syndromes like sudden high fever, a rash that looks and feels like a sunburn, diarrhea or vomiting, a sore throat, aching muscles and joints, dizziness, faintness, and weakness. Consult the doctor immediately if you experience any such symptoms.
Advantages
The cervical cap is a portable and reusable contraception methods to prevent pregnancy. You have a complete control over its use and decide when to avoid pregnancy and when to have a baby. Like the hormonal contraception methods, the cervical cap is hormone-free contraception methods and does not have any hormone-related side effects. It does not interrupt the sex. You can reuse them and last for about a year after proper care.
Disadvantages
How to avoid pregnancy effectively using a cervical cap depends on how accurately you are using it. You need to use cervical cap every time you have a sex and want to prevent pregnancy. It takes some time and practices to learn how to use cervical caps. It comes in different sizes and selecting one suitable for you could be tricky. You also may need to change the cervical cap after you have a baby or a miscarriage as the old size cervical cap might not fit well. When the cervical cap is used alone as only contraception methods, it is not super effective to avoid pregnancy and you may need to use spermicide to increase the effectiveness. Overuse of spermicide can irritate your vagina and increase the risk of getting sexually transmitted infections. For the cervical cap to be effective, you must make sure that you leave the cervical cap in the vagina for at least 6 hours after sex. Don't leave it in the vagina for more than 24 hours.
Spermicide barrier contraception method

Spermicide contraception method

Spermicide barrier contraception method type
Type
Barrier contraception methods
Effectiveness of spermicide barrier contraception method
Effectiveness
78%
Spermicide barrier contraception method frequency of use
Frequency of use
Every time
STD protection status by spermicide barrier contraception method

Protection against STDs

No
Spermicide barrier contraception method
Spermicide is a contraceptive substance which comes in different forms like cream, gel, foam, film or suppositories. Most of the spermicide contains the chemical nonoxynol -9. As a contraception methods spermicide prevent pregnancy by two ways: blocking the sperms entering the cervix so that they can't go to the egg, and by substantially reducing the movement of sperms so they can't swim to the egg. The sperm is trapped by the foam or gel barrier and destroyed by the chemical inside spermicide. The "cide" in spermicide means "to kill", but spermicide actually doesn't kill the sperms but slows it down so that it cannot reach the egg.
Spermicide is placed deep into the vagina and close to the cervix. Read the instructions to know about how long before sex the spermicide should be used. Spermicide contraception methods aren't effective right away and must be placed 10-15 minutes before the sex. Many spermicides are effective only for about 1 hour. Timing is a very important factor in the effectiveness of spermicide to avoid pregnancy. If you have any doubt, reach out to the doctor to know how to use it and what timing needs to be followed for this contraception methods to work well. Spermicide is most effective when you use it correctly every time. Using spermicide alone is about 78% effective to prevent pregnancy, means 22 out of 100 women who use spermicide will get pregnant every year. As with other contraception methods, spermicide alone is not effective. So, it is advised to use spermicide with other contraception methods like a condom, diaphragm, cervical cap, or withdrawal.
Spermicide contraception methods do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases. In fact, using spermicides many times in a day may increase your risk for sexually transmitted infections. The chemical Nonoxynol-9 in spermicide can irritate your vagina and make it easier for STD germs to enter your body. Best way to avoid STDs is to use condoms along with a spermicide. Condoms are not damaged by spermicides, in-fact they work well together to avoid pregnancy and protect against STDs. Few women are sensitive to the Nonoxynol-9 chemical used in spermicide. This chemical may irritate the sensitive genital tissues especially after overuse of spermicide. Consult the gynecologist immediately when you feel that something is wrong with the use of spermicide. The doctor will understand the problem and may suggest alternative contraception methods which will be suitable based on your family planning requirements.
Advantages
Spermicide is easy to use, affordable and convenient family planning and contraception methods to avoid pregnancy. You can get it from the medical store even without any prescription from a doctor. The spermicide package is very easy to carry wherever you go. As spermicide is put into the vagina before sex, it does not interrupt the process. Spermicide is a hormone-free contraception method and does not have hormone-related side effects.
Disadvantages
How to avoid pregnancy effectively using spermicide depends on how accurately you are using it. You need to use it every time you have a sex. Spermicide does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, you need to use condoms to avoid STDs. Few people are allergic to spermicide. Sometimes your vagina or partner's penis may feel irritated. This irritation may cause the increased chances of getting sexually transmitted infections. So, consult the doctor in case if you have any irritation after use of spermicide. Spermicide might feel a bit messy for a few people. So, check how it suits your contraception requirements and if you are not comfortable using it, you can switch to other family planning and contraception methods to avoid pregnancy.
Contraceptive sponge barrier contraception method

Contraceptive sponge

Contraceptive sponge barrier contraception method type
Type
Barrier contraception methods
Effectiveness of contraceptive sponge barrier contraception method
Effectiveness
76% to 88%
Contraceptive sponge barrier contraception method frequency of use
Frequency of use
Every time
STD protection status by contraceptive sponge barrier contraception method

Protection against STDs

No
Contraceptive sponge barrier contraception method
Contraceptive sponge or sometimes referred as just a sponge is a round piece of plastic with squishy porous foam inside it. It is shaped like a donut and has a dimple on one side. The contraceptive sponge is typically around 2 inches in diameter and has a nylon loop across the top which is used to easily remove it from the vagina after sex. The contraceptive sponge is inserted deep inside the vagina before sex, covers your cervix and contains the spermicide to help avoid pregnancy. The sponge works in two ways: First, it fits tightly against your cervix, blocking the entrance to the cervix so that sperms cannot reach the egg. Second, it contains spermicides which substantially reducing the movement of sperms, so they can't swim to the egg. You can just use the sponge or use condoms also for extra protection to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
You can insert the contraceptive sponge immediately before you have a sex. Before using it, just put two tablespoons of clean water, squeeze the sponge once, and insert it deep into the vagina. The water will activate the spermicides inside the sponge and make it ready to fight against sperms. All the directions about how to use contraceptive sponge come with the package. Just read the instructions and follow them. To avoid pregnancy, the sponge can be inserted immediately before sex or maximum up to 24 hours before the sex. You can have sex multiple times without removing this contraception. You should NOT keep the sponge in for more than 24 hours and remember to give at least 6 HOURS AFTER SEX before you remove it for it to be effective to prevent pregnancy. The sponge is NOT reusable contraception methods, and you cannot take them out and put them back in.
As contraception methods, the effectiveness of sponge depends on your pregnancy history. For those, who use the sponge perfectly and had never given the birth, it is about 91% effective. This means only 9 out of 100 women using the contraceptive sponge will get pregnant. Those who have given birth before, it is about 80% effective. Many times, it is difficult to use sponge perfectly. Considering this, in real life, it is about 88% effective for those who have not given the birth before and 76% effective for women who have given the birth. The contraceptive sponge does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases. In fact, the spermicide inside may actually increase the risk for STDs. It is advised to use condoms contraception methods to avoid STDs. This also adds an extra layer of protection to avoid pregnancy. You can buy the contraceptive sponge from the medical store even without a doctor's prescription. The sponge is considered safe for most of the people. Few people might be allergic to spermicide inside it. If you recently had a miscarriage, or given a birth, or have an infection around the vagina, it advised not to use it. After using a sponge, if you feel any symptom like sudden high fever, rash, diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat, dizziness, faintness, and weakness, consult the doctor immediately.
Advantages
Once you put in the sponge, you need not think about how to avoid pregnancy for the next 24 hours. You can have sex as many times as you want. It is available at the medical store and you can buy it without a doctor's prescription. It is one of the convenient contraception methods, it is small, individually wrapped packet and can easily fit into your bag. Easy to carry, best buddy wherever you go. The contraceptive sponge can be inserted well before the sex and does not interrupt the sex. Like the hormonal contraception methods, contraceptive sponge does not cause any hormonal changes in the body.
Disadvantages
How to avoid pregnancy effectively using contraceptive sponge depends on how accurately you are using it. You must use the sponge every time you have a sex. You must remove the sponge after 24 hours. The contraceptive sponge does not protect from sexually transmitted decreases, and you need to use condoms to avoid STDs. Few people are allergic to spermicide inside the sponge and may feel irritation after its use. Consult the doctor if you feel anything abnormal after its use. The doctor will provide input if contraceptive sponge is suitable for you or you need to use other contraception methods to avoid pregnancy.
Getting pregnant and having a baby is exciting and the best thing that can happen to a woman. Many times, the unplanned pregnancy is undesirable and can bring stress, disturbance in your plans and overall unhappiness about pregnancy. Unintended pregnancy has a major impact on numerous social, economic, and cultural aspects of life. Through a good selection from all contraception methods and appropriate family planning, you can avoid all this and decide when you want to get pregnant.
Barrier contraception methods create a physical barrier between sperms and egg. These methods avoid pregnancy by not allowing sperms to reach the egg. The barrier contraception methods are easy to use and available at the majority of the medical stores. Male condoms, female condoms, and contraceptive sponge can be used only once. You need to use the new one every time you have a sex. With good care, you can use the diaphragm and cervical cap for multiple times. Make sure that you never share your diaphragm or cervical cap with anyone else.
Male condoms are very widely used barrier contraception methods. Its wide availability and ease in use make it the preferred contraception methods. Both male and female condoms also help to protect from sexually transmitted diseases. So even if you are using any other contraception methods, it is advised to use condoms for protection from STDs. How to avoid pregnancy using barrier contraception methods depends on how accurately you use them. Many of the unplanned pregnancies happen due to incorrect use. If you are sexually very active women, it is advised to think about long-acting reversible contraception methods (LARC).
Remember that having a baby is very exciting and a life-changing event. Do not allow this to happen as an accident. Plan for it to avoid stress, disturbance in your plans and overall unhappiness about pregnancy. You can learn to avoid pregnancy naturally, use hormonal contraception methods, or use these barrier contraception methods. If you sexually very active and looking for a long-term, fit-and-forget solution, you can use long-acting reversible contraception methods. It is also understood that selecting the best one from all available contraception methods might go tough. If you are in doubt, consult the doctor who will help you to choose a contraception method that is best suitable for you. The more you know about these contraception methods and family planning, the more in control you can be of your sexual health. If you do not want the pregnancy, use appropriate contraception methods to avoid pregnancy. Let the pregnancy bring happiness than a stress and worry about what to do next.
Dr. Varshali Mali (MBBS, DNB). Gynecologist & Pregnancy Doctor

About Author

Dr. Varshali Mali is an Obstetrician and Gynecologist. She did her MBBS from Dr. D. Y. Patil Medical College, Pune, and DNB (Obstetrics & Gynecology) from Jehangir Hospital, Pune. She has a number of years of experience working as a gynecologist, pregnancy doctor, and lecturer. Currently, through her clinic located at Life Republic township near Marunji, she provides gynecology and pregnancy care solutions to the women around Hinjewadi, Wakad and nearby area in Pune. In her patient community, she is known for her welcome nature, smiley face, supportive attitude, intelligence and in-depth knowledge about gynecology and pregnancy. Mother of two daughters, she believes that motherhood is the best gift one can get. As her contribution, she puts her best efforts to make the pregnancy journey most enjoyable for her patients.

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