Birth Control 101: Barrier Methods

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Barrier methods are exactly what they sound like: they stop sperm from reaching the egg. There are four types of barriers:

  • Condoms (Internal and External)
  • Diaphragm
  • Cervical Cap
  • Sponge

Barrier methods start working right away but require more effort and attention. They have to be used every time you have sex and need to be used correctly to work. All barrier methods are hormone free and can be used with other methods.

Read about the different barrier methods below.

The Condom

Condoms are the most popular blocking method. There are two kinds of condoms: external (worn on the outside of the penis) or internal (worn inside a vagina or anus).

Condoms are easy to find – you don’t need a healthcare provider to get them.

Every time you have sex, check the date on the back of the condom and only use one at a time. Expired condoms or multiple condom use increases the chance of the condom breaking.

And remember: condoms are not reusable.

Quick Facts to Keep in Mind:

Effectiveness: Perfect Use: 98%         Typical Use 82%

  • Protects against STIs – including HIV
  • No side effects
  • May help sex last longer
  • Come in hundreds of shapes, colors and sizes
  • Come with or without lube

The Diaphragm

The diaphragm is a dome-shaped silicone cup that can be placed in the vagina to cover the cervix. This keeps sperm out of the uterus. The diaphragm starts working right away but it works best when used with spermicide.

One diaphragm size does not fit all. To get a diaphragm, visit a healthcare provider.

Quick Facts to Keep in Mind:

Effectiveness: Perfect Use: 94%         Typical Use: 88%

  • Does not protect from STIs – including HIV
  • Can be put in hours before sex
  • May cause irritation or UTIs
  • Wait at least 6 hours after sex to remove to make sure sperm has died
  • Do not use with silicone-based lube

The Cervical Cap

The cervical cap is a silicone cup. Much like the diaphragm, the cervical cap is placed in the vagina to cover the cervix and keep sperm out of the uterus. Use spermicide for it to work best. Talk to a healthcare provider to be fitted for the right size and get a prescription.

Quick Facts to Keep in Mind:

Effectiveness: Typical Use: 71-86%

  • Does not protect from STIs – including HIV
  • Can be placed up to 6 hours before sex
  • May cause irritation or discomfort
  • Wait at least 6 hours after sex to remove to make sure sperm has died
  • Do not use with silicone-based lube

The Sponge

The sponge is a round piece of plastic foam with an imprint on one side and a loop across the top. The sponge gets placed in the vagina before sex. It blocks the cervix to keep sperm from getting to the uterus. It also releases spermicide when it is placed in the vagina. No prescription is needed – the sponge can be found online and in stores.

Quick Facts to Keep in Mind:

Effectiveness: Perfect Use: 80-91%         Typical Use: 76-88%

  • Does not protect from STIs
  • May not be as effective if you have given birth
  • Can be inserted up to 24 hours before sex
  • May experience some irritation
  • Wait at least 6 hours after sex to remove to make sure sperm has died

Are you ready to take control of your sexual health? Find a FHCCP healthcare provider near you or visit KeepRelationshipsReal.com.


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