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Barrier Methods

Designed to prevent sperm from entering the uterus, barrier methods are removable and may be an option for women who cannot use hormonal methods of contraception. Types of barrier methods include:

Male condoms

This condom is a thin sheath that covers the penis to collect sperm and prevent it from entering the woman's body. Male condoms are generally made of latex or polyurethane, but a natural alternative is lambskin (made from the intestinal membrane of lambs). Latex or polyurethane condoms reduce the risk of spreading sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Lambskin condoms do not prevent STDs. Male condoms are disposable after a single use.

Female condoms

These are thin, flexible plastic pouches. A portion of the condom is inserted into a woman's vagina before intercourse to prevent sperm from entering the uterus. The female condom also reduces the risk of STDs. Female condoms are disposed of after a single use.

Diaphragms

Each diaphragm is a shallow, flexible cup made of latex or soft rubber that is inserted into the vagina before intercourse, blocking sperm from entering the uterus. Spermicidal cream or jelly should be used with a diaphragm. The diaphragm should remain in place for 6 to 8 hours after intercourse to prevent pregnancy, but it should be removed within 24 hours. Traditional latex diaphragms must be the correct size to work properly, and a health care provider can determine the proper fit. A diaphragm should be replaced after 1 or 2 years. Women also need to be measured again for a diaphragm after giving birth, having pelvic surgery, or gaining or losing more than 15 pounds. Newer diaphragms, such as the Silcs diaphragm, are designed to fit most women and do not require fitting by a health care provider. The Silcs diaphragm is currently in clinical trials for approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulatory agencies.

Cervical caps

These are similar to diaphragms, but smaller, more rigid, and less noticeable. The cervical cap is a thin silicone cup that is inserted into the vagina before intercourse to block sperm from entering the uterus. As with a diaphragm, the cervical cap should be used with spermicidal cream or jelly. The cap must remain in place for 6 to 8 hours after intercourse to prevent pregnancy, but it should be removed within 48 hours. Cervical caps come in different sizes, and a health care provider determines the proper fit. With proper care, a cervical cap can be used for 2 years before replacement.2 Currently, FemCap is the only cervical cap approved by the FDA.

Contraceptive sponges

These are soft, disposable, spermicide-filled foam sponges. One is inserted into the vagina before intercourse. The sponge blocks sperm from entering the uterus, and the spermicide also kills the sperm cells. The sponge should be left in place for at least 6 hours after intercourse and then removed within 30 hours after intercourse. Currently, the Today® Vaginal Contraceptive Sponge is the only sponge approved by the FDA.

Spermicides

A spermicide destroys sperm. A spermicide can be used alone or in combination with a diaphragm or cervical cap. The most common spermicidal agent is a chemical called nonoxynol-9 (N-9). It is available in several concentrations and forms, including foam, jelly, cream, suppository, and film. A spermicide should be inserted into the vagina close to the uterus no more than 30 minutes prior to intercourse and left in place 6 to 8 hours after intercourse to prevent pregnancy. Spermicides do not prevent the transmission of STDs and may cause allergic reactions or vaginitis


Reference: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services