Barrier Methods of Birth Control
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Introduction to birth control
Terminology that is used to describe birth control methods includes:
- pregnancy prevention,
- fertility control, and
- family planning.
But no matter what terminology, sexually active people can choose from a number of methods to reduce the possibility of their becoming pregnant. Nevertheless, no method of birth control available today offers perfect protection against sexually transmitted infections (sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs), except abstinence.
In simple terms, all methods of birth control are based on either preventing a man's sperm from reaching and entering a woman's egg (fertilization) or preventing the fertilized egg from implanting in the woman's uterus (her womb) and starting to grow. New methods of birth control are being developed and tested all the time. And what is appropriate for a couple at one point may change with time and circumstances.
Unfortunately, no birth control method, except abstinence, is considered to be 100% effective.
What are barrier methods of birth control (contraception)?
Barrier methods of contraception work by creating a physical barrier between sperm and egg cells so that fertilization cannot occur. The most common forms of barrier contraception are:
- condoms (male and female),
- cervical cap, and
- contraceptive sponge.
Spermicides, a form of chemical contraceptive that work by killing sperm, are often combined with barrier methods of contraception for greater effectiveness.
Barrier methods of contraception generally do not have the side effects of hormonal contraceptives, and some forms of barrier contraception (contraceptive sponges and condoms) may be obtained without a prescription and easily purchased over the counter at pharmacies.
The only medical contraindication to the use of barrier contraception is latex allergy (when using latex condoms). However, with the exception of male and female condoms that can provide some protection against infection with sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), most methods of barrier contraception are not effective in preventing STDs.
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