Birth Control: Barrier Methods

Without the use of contraceptives, 85% of sexually active couples can expect to be pregnant within a year.  Dr. Blumberg discusses barrier methods, one of the most popular and convenient contraceptives.  

Barrier contraceptives work by stopping sperm from reaching an egg, and therefore prevent pregnancy.  The male and female condom, the diaphragm, the sponge and the shield are all types of barrier devices.  When choosing a birth control method, it is important to consider effectiveness, health risks, if they protect against STDs, and comfort with using the method.  To get full protection from any of these barrier devices, you'll need to use them with a spermicide, which inhibit the movement of sperm.  

The most well-known barrier is the condom, which is the only non-abstinence method that protects against STDs.  When used correctly, the male condom is 89% effective and the female condom is 79% effective.  Condoms are disposable after one use, can tear and some people are allergic to latex, but plastic or polyurethane are also available.   Another barrier method is the diaphragm, which is a small disk that you insert into the vagina and fit over the cervix.  The diaphragm must be left in place for 6-8 hours after sex, with proper care is reusable for 1-2 years and is 85% effective when used correctly.  Concerns you should be aware of are latex allergies, toxic shock syndrome and vaginal and urinary tract infections.  You will need to visit a doctor to be measured and fit for a diaphragm.  

There are two over the counter methods that are similar to the diaphragm, the sponge and the shield.  They are also inserted into the vagina, work with a spermicide and must be left in place for 6-8 hours after sex to ensure protection.  The shield is reusable for up to 6 months, can be left in place for up to 48 hours and is 85% effective when used correctly.  The sponge is disposable after one use and is 84% effective.  Talk to your doctor and partner when deciding which is best for you.

Dr. Isabel Blumberg

This video features Dr. Isabel Blumberg. Dr. Isabel Blumberg is a Clinical Instructor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science

Duration: 03:51.
Reviewed by: Dr. Preeti Parikh, Dr. Suzanne Friedman . Review date: July 06, 2014
Sign up for our daily newsletter!