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Birth Control Barrier Methods: What Are They Anyway?

Birth Control Barrier Methods: What Are They Anyway?

Barrier forms of birth control rely on physical or chemical methods that bar sperm from passing through a woman’s cervix and into the uterus during intercourse. Sperm that enters the uterus and fallopian tubes has the potential to fertilize an egg, so blocking it effectively reduces the risk of pregnancy. Although barrier methods are less effective than hormonal forms of birth control, they are, nevertheless, popular types of birth control because they are associated with fewer side effects and many are available inexpensively, over-the-counter at pharmacies.

Types of Barrier Forms of Birth Control

Barrier methods of birth control greatly reduce the risk of pregnancy. Most are theoretically effective 95% and higher of the time, but in actuality, the risk is slightly higher due to errors in usage. The male condom does, however, offer men and women the added protection against STDs, like HIV. Understanding all of the options available to you, as well as their pros and cons, can help you make a decision regarding your reproductive health. Many women sometimes employ two types of birth control to double-guard against pregnancy and STDs.

Male Condom

The male condom is a widely used form of birth control that guards against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. It has the added benefits of being widely available and inexpensive. Lubricated and non-lubricated condoms may be made of various materials such as polyurethane, latex, or even natural lambskin. Please keep in mind that the lambskin condoms can not prevent HIV – the pores are large enough for the bacteria to go through the condom.  The sheath is placed over a man’s erect penis where it can block the passage of sperm. Regarded as a highly effective form of birth control, the condom is considered 98% effective when it is used correctly.

Female Condom

The female condom is designed with a soft thin layer of polyurethane formed into a sheath. The sheath has two flexible rings. One ring contains the sheath and is inserted into the vagina. The other attached ring remains out for easy removal. This type of birth control cannot be used at the same time as the male condom. However, it can be inserted up to eight hours before intercourse.


Spermicide is made with ingredients such as nonoxynol-9 or octoxynol-9 and is available as a cream, foam, film, suppository, or gel. It is far more effective when used with another form of birth control; on its own, spermicide is only 82% effective for contraception. Available in a non-prescription format, spermicide stops sperm from moving to reduce the chance of unwanted pregnancy. However, spermicide does not guard against STDs.


The diaphragm is a shallow cup made out of silicone. It has a flexible rim that covers the cervix in order to block sperm from entering the vagina. Some diaphragms come in different sizes. Women will need to visit their doctor to be fitted for one and they should be refitted every year. The newest diaphragm is the Caya that fits most women without the need for sizing. The diaphragm should be left in place for a minimum of six hours and a maximum of twenty-four hours after sex in order to effectively reduce the risk of pregnancy.

If you believe one of these barrier methods is ideal for you, talk to your healthcare provider for more information or to address any questions you may have about usage or efficacy.  Additionally, Visit Caya for more information.



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