What are barrier methods of birth control?
Barrier methods of birth control literally block sperm from entering the uterus to fertilise an egg. Barrier methods include:
- The male/female condom
- The cervical cap and diaphragm
- The FemCap
- Spermicides (foam, cream, gel, suppository)
The benefit of birth control barrier methods is that they have no effect on a woman’s natural hormones and cycle. Some barrier methods also provide protection against STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). A disadvantage is that some people feel they disturb the spontaneity of sex.
The male condom
The male condom is a classic barrier method of birth control. The male condom is a thin sheath made of latex (rubber) that is worn by the man over his erect penis to prevent sperm from entering the uterus. Condoms should preferably be worn during foreplay, in any case before pre-ejaculatory fluid is issued from the penis. It is also important to withdraw the condom correctly after ejaculation to prevent condom slippage or leakage. Leakage or slippage increases the risk of unwanted pregnancy. In general, the quality of condoms is good. However, condom breakage can occur if they are handled roughly. Condoms may also cause skin irritation in men with a latex allergy. For this group of users, latex-free condoms have recently been introduced on the market.
Spermicidal lubricated condoms, special condoms that have an added lubricant to it, are especially safe. You can also buy a lubricant and apply it to the condom yourself.
The female condom
The female condom is a plastic pouch with flexible rings at each end that is worn during intercourse to prevent pregnancy. The smallest ring should be inserted deep into the vagina and pressed against the neck of the womb. The ring at the open end stays outside the vaginal opening during intercourse. Like male condoms, female condoms collect sperm when a man ejaculates. Because female condoms are inserted into the vagina before vaginal intercourse, they are more reliable at preventing pregnancy than male condoms. This is because the female condom is inserted before sex, i.e. before any sperm or pre-ejaculatory fluid is issued.
The cervical cap and diaphragm
The diaphragm and cervical cap are small dome-shaped devices that fit inside the vagina and cover the cervix. They are inserted before having sex and are used with spermicide. Both the diaphragm and cervical cap need to be fitted by a health care provider.
If you used this barrier method before you got pregnant, a new diaphragm or cervical cap will need to be fitted after childbirth.
The FemCap is a reusable cervical cap made of silicone which covers the cervix, preventing sperm from entering. The FemCap does not require custom fitting.
The FemCap comes in three sizes:
- Small: for women who have never experienced a pregnancy
- Medium: for women who have been pregnant, but subsequently had an abortion, miscarriage or caesarean delivery
- Large: for women who have given birth naturally
Spermicides are used to enhance the effectiveness of the above-mentioned barrier methods. They are available as gel, cream, paste or foam. All forms of spermicides are only effective for up to two hours after they are applied.
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Last updated on October 12, 2016.
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