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Barrier Methods

Barrier methods of contraceptives are physical or chemical barriers designed to stop sperm from entering a woman’s uterus.

What are the Barrier Methods?

  • The male condom is a tube of thin material (latex rubber) that is rolled over the erect penis prior to contact with the vagina. The male condom is the most common barrier method.
  • The female condom is a seven-inch long pouch of polyurethane with two flexible rings and is inserted into the vagina prior to intercourse. The female condom covers the cervix, vaginal canal, and the immediate area around the vagina.
  • Spermicides are chemicals that are designed to kill sperm. They are available as foam, jelly and vaginal suppositories.
  • The diaphragm is a soft rubber dome stretched over a flexible ring; the dome is filled with a spermicidal cream or jelly. The diaphragm is inserted into the vagina and placed over the cervix no more than 3 hours prior to intercourse.
  • The cervical cap is a small cup made of latex rubber or plastic. The cervical cap is filled with a spermicidal cream or jelly and inserted into the vagina and placed over the cervix.
  • The IUD (intrauterine device) Paragard is a T-shaped device (contains copper) that is placed directly in the uterus by a doctor. Must be inserted in women with no history of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and/or who have monogamous relationship with one partner.

What is IUD?

The intrauterine device (IUD) is a method of birth control designed for insertion into a woman’s uterus so that changes occur in the uterus that makes it difficult for fertilization of an egg and implantation of a pregnancy. Some IUDs approved for use in the U.S. contain medications that are released over time to facilitate the contraceptive effect.

The IUD does not stop the sperm from entering into the uterus, but rather it changes cervical mucus decreasing the probability of fertilization and it changes the lining of the uterus preventing implantation.

What is the difference between ParaGard and Mirena?

The TCu380A (ParaGard) is a copper-containing IUD. It releases copper from a copper wire that is wrapped around the base. The released copper contributes to an inflammatory reaction in the uterus that helps prevent fertilization of the egg. It is approved to remain in place for up to 10 years.

Levonorgestrel-releasing IUD (Mirena): This form of IUD releases a progestin hormone from the vertical part of the T. Progestin acts to thicken cervical mucus, creating a barrier to sperm, as well as renders the lining of the uterus inhospitable to implantation of a pregnancy. This form of IUD is approved for up to five years of use.

When does my ParaGard start working?

Your ParaGard starts working right away, immediately after insertion.

I can’t feel the threads of my Paragard anymore, what should I do?

If you cannot feel the threads, you should schedule an appointment with the doctor. Your doctor will make sure that IUD is positioned properly. You should use a back up method before your appointment.

Is it safe to use just a spermicide without a condom?

Spermicide is a contraceptive substance that kills sperm, inserted vaginally prior to intercourse to prevent pregnancy. As a contraceptive, spermicide may be used alone. However, the pregnancy rate experienced by couples using only spermicide alone is higher than that of couples using it with other methods. Usually, spermicides are combined with contraceptive barrier methods such as diaphragms or condoms.

Many women and men like to use spermicide, because it is relatively inexpensive, easy to use and can be purchased without a prescription at a pharmacy. However, it is not a perfect method of birth control and can even increase your chances of contracting certain sexually transmitted diseases. It is much safer to use condoms and reduce your risk of STD infection.

What is a diaphragm?

A diaphragm is a shallow, dome-shaped silicon rubber disk with a flexible rim that fits within the vagina and covers the cervix so sperm cannot reach the uterus. A diaphragm will last several years, it is an inexpensive contraceptive method, apart from the expense of the spermicidal cream that must always be used with it.

Are there any side-effects to a diaphragm?

  • A very few women will have an allergy to the material that the diaphragm is made from
  • Cystitis is a problem for a few women – possibly because the front of the diaphragm presses against the urinary passage
  • Some people are sensitiv to spermicides


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