most common form of barrier method of contraception in the male
condom. The male condom is a latex barrier that is placed
on the penis before insertion into the vagina, catching sperm upon
ejaculation. The condom is easily purchased in pharmacies and other
stores, costs little, and is fairly simple to use. Some agencies
and doctors’ offices distribute free condoms. When a condom
is used correctly, it has a high percentage of effectiveness. However,
it’s easy to apply a condom incorrectly and allow leakage
and even breakage. If latex allergies could prevent you from using
a condom, you may seek out an alternative method of barrier birth
control such as non-latex condoms. Unlike other forms of contraception,
the condom will be effective in preventing STDs. As a woman, you
should never leave it up to the man to provide a condom. If you
are sexually active, carry your own condoms with you. If a man
refuses to wear a condom, or complains about a “loss of sensation,” you
shouldn’t have sex with him. Contraception is a mutual responsibility
for both partners.
Some women prefer to use the female condom. This
is another form of barrier contraception that can be bought over
the counter at most pharmacies. The female condom is a plastic
pouch that fits inside your vagina. It has a soft ring on each
end. The outer ring stays on the outside of the vagina and partly
covers the labia (lips). The inner ring fits on the inside of the
vagina, somewhat like a diaphragm, to hold the condom in place.
When used correctly, the female condom is highly effective in protecting
against STDs and pregnancy. However, the female condom is difficult
to insert, may irritate your sensitive vagina, and can slip inside
of the vagina during intercourse if not secured. Because of a prevalence
of misuse, the female condom has a low rate of effectiveness.
Some women use spermicide to protect against
pregnancy. Spermicide will not protect you against STDs. In fact,
spermicide also has a low effectiveness in protecting against pregnancy.
It is best to use spermicide along with another form of barrier
method, as added security. Spermicide comes in many forms—jellies,
creams and suppositories—and is applied deep into the vagina
shortly before intercourse. Spermicide paralyzes sperm and tries
to prevent them from joining the egg. In addition to being ineffective,
spermicides are also messy and can irritate the sex organs of both
you and your partner.
The diaphragm is a barrier method of contraception
available by prescription and through a special fitting from your
ob/gyn. The diaphragm is a thin rubber “dome” with
a flexible rim that is inserted in the vagina and fits over the
cervix. The diaphragm is held in place by your vaginal muscles.
Diaphragms are designed to hold spermicide and
must remain in place for 6-8 hours after intercourse in order to
optimize effectiveness. The diaphragm cannot be inserted more than
2 hours before intercourse because the spermicide only lasts for
2 hours. The diaphragm needs to be cleaned and handled with care.
The diaphragm may lead to certain infections, including urinary
tract infections. Your fit needs to be carefully monitored
by your doctor to ensure effectiveness. The diaphragm does not
protect against STDs, and is not highly effective in preventing
pregnancy either. If you have intercourse more than once, do not
remove the diaphragm, just add more spermicide.
The cervical cap is a latex, thimble-shaped apparatus
that is inserted into the vagina and fits over the cervix. The
cervical cap is intended to block sperm from entering the uterus.
It should be left in place after intercourse for 8 hours, to ensure
effectiveness. Cervical caps are not highly effective in preventing
pregnancy and will not protect against STDs. The cervical cap is
not for everyone. If you have already given birth, the effectiveness
of the cervical cap as a method of birth control is greatly reduced.
It’s very important that you do not share your prescription
barrier methods, such as the cervical cap and the diaphragm, with
other women. They need to be fitted to your particular size in
order to be effective, plus this can pass around unwanted bacteria
and is generally unclean.
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