There are many barrier methods of birth control that are on the market today. Some methods can be obtained through a prescription, while other are easily accessible over-the-counter. Barrier methods of birth control block sperm from entering the uterus and joining an egg. Most will protect and/or cover the uterus; others will kill nearby sperm and or avoid sperm from making contact with the uterus all together. Each has their list of pros and cons and it is important to learn about each one so that you can decide which will work best for you. It is important to note that the male or female condoms are the only protection against sexually transmitted diseases.
Condoms are probably the most widely used contraception of all birth control methods on the market today. Worn on the penis, condoms are made of latex or plastic and protect a female from both pregnancy and sexual transmitted diseases. They can be purchased at any drug, grocery, or convenience store and are affordable and widely available. Condoms can be used for all forms of sex and can also be used with another form of birth control for extra protection.
Also on the market today, is a female condom. This soft, plastic tube is inserted deep into the vagina over the cervix. At the end of the condom is a ring, which remains outside of the opening of the vagina. This condom contains a lubricant on the inside and captures sperm during sexual intercourse. Once intercourse is complete, the outside ring is twisted and closed in order to hold the semen inside, and then it is removed.
A diaphragm is a flexible, dome-shaped, shallow cup that is made of silicone and inserted into the vagina prior to intercourse. When placed properly into the vagina, it covers and protects the cervix so that sperm cannot get through and join with an egg. The diaphragm is often used with a spermicide cream or gel, which kills the sperm and stops them from moving inside the vagina. A diaphragm can be obtained through your gynecologist. Your physician will walk you through and show you how to insert and use this form of contraception. This process takes a little practice, but once it is inserted correctly, it can be very effective in preventing pregnancy. After intercourse, the diaphragm is removed; it’s important to follow the special care instructions regarding how to clean and protect the diaphragm so that it continues to remain effective. A diaphragm typically lasts up to two years.
The sponge is another device that has been around for a long time. It is a widely used barrier method and consists of a round, plastic foam that contains spermicide to help protect the cervix from sperm. The sponge used on the market today, is called the Today Sponge. Once the sponge is inserted correctly, it covers the cervix and blocks sperm from entering the uterus. It has an attached nylon loop connected to the bottom for easy and convenient removal. To use the sponge, a woman inserts it deep into the vagina before intercourse. Most women feel that it is as easy as using a tampon. Once in place, the sponge continuously releases a spermicide that keeps sperm from moving. The sponge is effective in prevention pregnancy. It is not for everyone, however, and some women may find they get vaginal irritation or that it is too messy to use. Most who use the sponge like it because it is easy to carry, use, insert, and feels natural once in place. Once the sponge is in place, it can stay in for up to 24 hours and a woman can have intercourse as many times as she desires within that timeframe. The sponge can only be worn once and must be discarded after use.
Spermicide is available at most drugstores and comes in different forms including gels, creams, foams, and suppositories. They can be used alone, or with another type of birth control method. Spermicides contain chemicals that stop sperm from moving—essentially creating a toxic environment for them. This prevents them from moving through the cervix to meet with an egg. If a woman uses a diaphragm or cervical cap as a birth control method, she will almost always use some form of a spermicide with it—in most cases, a gel. Spermicides are inserted deep into the vagina shortly before intercourse. Most women can use spermicide safely and effectively, and those who use it on a regular basis, have much success in preventing pregnancy. In some women, irritation or an allergic reaction can occur. Similarly, a partner’s penis may also react negatively. Each brand of spermicide varies, so it might be helpful to switch brands to see if one works better than the other.