The different types of barrier methods for birth control include cervical caps and diaphragms, as well as condoms and contraceptive sponges. Some barrier methods require a physical examination and prescription, while others are sold over the counter. It is important to be aware that these methods are most effective when used as directed and that failing to follow directions can expose people to an increased risk of pregnancy.
Cervical caps, diaphragms, and the Lea's shield all function by creating a physical barrier that blocks sperm from entering the uterus. Before people have sex, they apply lubricants and spermacide and insert the devices, which fit snugly over the cervix. Diaphragms and cervical caps are made from latex while silicone is used to make the Lea's shield. To receive these barrier methods, women must go to a gynecologist for a physical exam that includes measurements, and the doctor will write a prescription.
Another option is a vaginal sponge. These devices are coated in spermacide and inserted to block and kill sperm. The contraceptive sponge is available at many drug stores. Drug stores also stock condoms. The male condom is a barrier method most commonly made with latex that slides over the penis to keep the sperm from entering the vaginal canal. Female condoms made from polyurethane are inserted into the vagina. Condoms can help prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, as well as being effective barrier methods.
There are a number of things to consider when choosing a birth control method. Barrier methods are used every time people have sex, unlike hormonal methods, where people need to take regular doses at set intervals for the birth control to be effective. A gynecologist can provide more information about the options available and may have specific advice based on a patient's history and personal preferences.
People with latex allergies can find latex-free options that will allow them to use barrier methods without experiencing allergic reactions. Women who have been pregnant before may want to avoid cervical caps, as the failure rate of these devices is higher in women with a history of one or more pregnancies. Likewise, people who think that they may have trouble cleaning, caring for, and inserting a barrier device like a sponge or diaphragm should consider condoms. This single use barrier method is easy to use and is often available for free from public health agencies, for people who cannot afford other birth control options.
Dental dam is a barrier method that works for control of sexually transmitted infections only. It can be used for a variety of sexual activity to limit the spread of herpes and other infections, but it will not prevent pregnancy.