Barrier Contraception: Which one is right for you?

Barrier methods of birth control are easy to use and temporary – when you stop using them there is no contraceptive protection. There is a full range of products to pick and choose from depending on your needs. If one does not work for you, you can try another.

Male Condom

What is it?
A latex, polyurethane, or lambskin sheath that fits snugly over the erect penis. It must be applied before any penetration of the mouth, vagina, or anus to ensure effectiveness. A male condom used consistently and correctly will be effective 98% of the time.

Pros:

  • Easily found at grocery, convenience, and major retail stores.
  • Latex condoms provide protection from most STI’s including HIV.
  • One of the most affordable methods of contraception, and the most effective barrier method when used correctly.

Cons:

  • Lambskin condoms will not protect against STI’s.
  • May tear if used improperly

Where can I get them?
Rutgers Pharmacy has a full range of condoms at great prices – individual condoms are $0.25 and one-dozen is $2.95. Condoms can be purchased at many retail and grocery stores. Condoms come in a variety of sizes, textures, and styles, so pick the one that fits best and works for you. Be sure to pick latex or polyurethane for maximum protection.

Female Condoms

What is it?
The female condom is a polyurethane sleeve with a closed end and ring at the base that fits snugly into the vagina. The tube extends to the outside of the vagina and helps protect the labia from skin-to-skin contact during intercourse. The female condom is 95% effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly and consistently.

Pros:

  • Lets a woman be in control of the condom use during intercourse
  • Offers more protection from skin-to-skin transmission of STI’s
  • Disposable and widely available

Cons:

  • Slightly noisy during intercourse
  • May be difficult to insert
  • Not as effective if both partners wear condoms

Where can I get it?
Rutgers Pharmacy carries the female condom. Some retail pharmacies carry them as well or order them online.

Diaphragm

What is it?
A diaphragm is a thin, shallow disk made of latex or silicone and used as a barrier to prevent sperm from entering the uterus through the cervix. It is filled with spermicide and inserted 15 minutes prior to intercourse. An applicator is used to add spermicide for additional intercourse. Take it out several hours (minimum of 6 hours) after intercourse, and wash it with warm, soapy water. Keep it away from direct light or heat.

Pros:

  • Lightweight and portable.
  • Lasts for years if stored and maintained properly.
  • Helps a woman maintain control over contraception
  • Use it only when you need it

Cons:

  • Must be sized by a health care professional.
  • Offers no protection against STI’s
  • Latex diaphragms cannot be used by women with latex allergies

Where can I get it?
Diaphragms are available by prescription only. Most retail pharmacies can fill the prescription.

Cervical Cap

What is it?
Similar to a diaphragm, a cervical cap is a cap made out of latex or silicone and is placed over your cervix to block sperm from entering. Spermicide is added to the dome but additional spermicide is not needed for additional intercourse. A cervical cap can be inserted several hours ahead of time and left in place for up to 48 hours. It should be removed no earlier than 6 hours after intercourse

Pros:

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Lasts a long time with proper storage and maintenance
  • Helps a woman maintain control over contraception
  • Use it only when you need it

Cons:

  • Must be individually sized by a professional.
  • Can’t be used by women with a latex allergy.
  • Does not protect against STI’s

Where can I get it?
Cervical caps are available by prescription only. Most retail pharmacies can fill the prescription.

Spermicide

What is it?
A spermicide is a chemical barrier that kills sperm. Spermicides come in many forms – jellies, foams, suppositories, and films. It is inserted into the vagina before sex. Additional acts of sex require additional applications of spermicides. Spermicides should always be used with condoms.
Pros:
• Temporary
• Affordable
• Easily available

Cons
• Can be messy
• Do not protect against STIs
• Need to reapply for additional sex

Where can I get it?
Rutgers Pharmacy carries spermicide at affordable prices. Retail pharmacies and grocery stores also sell spermicide. It is available over-the-counter.

If you have questions or concerns about birth control, speak to any RHS clinician. Check out the Safer Sex Corner at the Rutgers Pharmacy, Hurtado Health Center, for a great variety of safer sex products at affordable prices.