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Birth Control Barrier Methods

What Are Birth Control Barrier Methods?

Patient Comments
  • The practice of birth control or preventing pregnancy is as old as human existence. For centuries, humans have relied upon their imagination to avoid pregnancy.
    • Ancient writings dating back to 1850 BC refer to techniques using a device placed in a womans vagina made of crocodile dung and fermented dough, which most likely created a hostile environment for sperm. Other items placed in the vagina included plugs of gum, honey, and acacia.
    • During the early second century in Rome, a highly acidic concoction of fruits, nuts, and wool was placed on the cervix as a type of spermicidal barrier.
  • Todays barrier methods include the male condom, which is inexpensive, available everywhere, and effective when used properly.
  • The female condom is used less often.
  • Women often elect, instead, to use a diaphragm or cervical cap.
    • Both require a doctors visit.

Male Condom

The condom (also called a rubber) is a thin sheath placed over an erect penis. A man would put a condom over his penis before he places the penis in a womans vagina. A condom worn by a man prevents pregnancy by acting as a barrier to the passage of semen into the vagina. A condom can be worn only once. It is one of the most popular forms of barrier methods for birth control. Condoms may be purchased at most drugstores and grocery stores, and dispensers can be found in many public restrooms.

Condoms made from latex are the most effective at preventing pregnancy. They also protect against sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS and gonorrhea. Condoms should not be used with petroleum jelly (e.g. Vaseline), lotions, or oils. They can decrease the effectiveness of the condom and increase the chance of pregnancy, as well as sexually transmitted disease. Condoms can be used with lubricants which do not contain oil, such as K-Y Jelly.

Many women prefer the male condom because it prevents the contraction of HIV (the virus that leads to AIDS) and other STDs.

  • How effective: The failure rate of condoms in couples which use them consistently and correctly is estimated to be about 3% during the first year of use. However, the true failure rate during that time period is estimated to be about 14%. This marked difference of failure rates reflects usage error. Some couples fail to use condoms with each sexual encounter. Condoms may fail (break or come off) if you use the wrong type of lubricant. Using an oil-based lubricant with a latex condom will cause it to fall apart. The condom may not be placed properly on the penis. Also, the man may not use care when withdrawing.
  • Advantages: Condoms are readily available and inexpensive. A prescription is not necessary. This method involves the male partner in the choice in contraception. Besides abstinence, latex condoms provide the best protection against STDs. They are the only method of birth control that is highly effective in preventing AIDS.
  • Disadvantages: Condoms possibly decrease enjoyment of sex. Some users may have a latex allergy. Condom breakage and slippage can make them less effective. Oil-based lubricants may damage the condom.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/5/2016
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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Birth Control Barrier Methods:

Birth Control Barrier Methods - Patient Experience

Tell us what barrier method of birth control you used. Was it effective?

Spermicides as Birth Control

Spermicides are chemicals that are used during sexual intercourse that prevent conception by rendering sperm ineffective. They come in the following forms:

  • jellies,
  • films,
  • suppositories,
  • foams, or
  • tablets.

Spermicides don't work as well as other reversible barrier methods of birth control.


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Contraception »

The practice of contraception is as old as human existence.

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