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Barrier Methods of Contraception: Effectiveness & Proper Use

What is contraception?

Contraception refers to methods or techniques used to prevent pregnancy by intentionally interfering with the process of fertilization or implantation. It helps individuals and couples to have control over their reproductive choices and prevent unintended pregnancies. There are various types of contraception available, including:

  • Barrier Methods: These methods physically block sperm from reaching the egg, such as condoms and diaphragms.

  • Hormonal Methods: These methods use hormones to prevent ovulation or thicken cervical mucus, including birth control pills, patches, rings, and injections.

  • Intrauterine Devices (IUDs): These small devices are inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy, either by releasing hormones or using copper to create an environment that is unsustainable for the growth of sperm.

  • Emergency Contraception: Also known as the "morning-after pill," this method is used after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure to prevent pregnancy. However, it is only to be used as a last resort and will not be effective once ovulation begins.

  • Sterilization: Surgical procedures that permanently block or cut the fallopian tubes in women, known as tubal ligation, or the vas deferens in men known as vasectomy.

  • Natural Methods: These methods involve tracking a woman's menstrual cycle and avoiding intercourse during fertile periods.

Understanding Barrier Methods

Barrier methods refer to contraceptive techniques that create a physical barrier between the sperm and the egg. These methods work by preventing sperm from reaching the cervix, thereby reducing the chance of fertilization.

Common types of barrier methods include:

  • condoms

  • diaphragms

  • cervical caps

It is important to note that barrier methods can be used by both males and females, providing options that cater to diverse needs and preferences. This article aims to provide valuable insights into the different types of barrier methods, their effectiveness rates, and guidelines for their correct usage.

Effectiveness of Barrier Methods

Barrier methods are increased in efficiency when used correctly and consistently. According to research, condoms are one of the most effective barrier methods, with a typical-use failure rate of around 13% for preventing pregnancy.

Diaphragms and cervical caps, when used correctly, have typical-use failure rates ranging from 12% to 24%. It is crucial to emphasize the importance of proper usage and adherence to instructions provided with each specific barrier method to maximize their effectiveness in preventing pregnancy.

Proper Usage of Barrier Methods

Using barrier methods correctly is essential for their effectiveness. Here are the few most common methods of protection:

Male Condom:

  • Check the expiration date before use.

  • Carefully open the package to avoid tearing the condom.

  • Ensure the condom is unrolled onto an erect penis before any genital contact.

  • Leave a small space at the tip of the condom to collect semen.

  • Use water-based or silicone-based lubricants to reduce friction and prevent breakage.

  • After intercourse, hold the condom at the base of the penis to prevent slippage.

  • Carefully remove the condom to avoid any spillage.

Female Condom:

  • Unwrap the female condom carefully, ensuring not to tear or damage it.

  • Find a comfortable position and squeeze the inner ring of the condom between your thumb and middle finger.

  • Insert the closed end of the condom into the vagina, similar to inserting a tampon, and push it as far up as possible.

  • Use your finger to push the inner ring up against the cervix.

  • The outer ring should remain outside the vagina and cover the area around the opening.

  • During intercourse, the penis should be guided into the condom through the outer ring.

  • After ejaculation and before withdrawing, hold the outer ring to prevent slippage and gently pull out the penis.

  • Remove the condom carefully, twisting the outer ring to trap any semen, and dispose of it properly.

Diaphragms and Cervical Caps:

  • Consult a healthcare provider for guidance on selecting the appropriate size.

  • Learn the correct insertion and removal techniques.

  • Use a spermicide with the barrier method.

  • Place the diaphragm or cervical cap deep into the vagina, covering the cervix.

  • Leave the barrier method in place for several hours after intercourse.

  • Locate the removal strap or rim and gently pull it to remove it.


  • Use lubricants that are compatible with the specific barrier method.

  • Lubrication can enhance comfort and reduce the risk of breakage or slippage.

  • Water-based or silicone-based lubricants are commonly recommended.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Barrier Methods

Advantages of Barrier Methods of Contraception

Protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs): Barrier methods, such as condoms, provide a physical barrier that helps reduce the risk of STIs, including HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and herpes.

Availability and accessibility: Barrier methods are widely available without a prescription and can be purchased over the counter at pharmacies, convenience stores, and online.

Non-hormonal: Barrier methods do not contain hormones, making them suitable for individuals who prefer non-hormonal contraceptive options or have contraindications to hormonal methods.

Immediate effectiveness: Barrier methods provide immediate protection when used correctly, offering peace of mind during sexual activity.

Disadvantages of Barrier Methods of Contraception:

User-dependent: Barrier methods require proper and consistent use during each act of sexual intercourse to be effective. Incorrect or inconsistent use may increase the risk of pregnancy or STIs.

Interruption of spontaneity: Some barrier methods, such as condoms, may require interruption of sexual activity for application, which can affect the spontaneity of the moment.

Allergic reactions: Some individuals may experience allergic reactions or sensitivity to materials used in barrier methods, such as latex. Non-latex alternatives are available for those with latex allergies.

Potential for breakage or slippage: Barrier methods, particularly condoms, may have a small risk of breakage or slippage during use, which can compromise their effectiveness.

Despite these limitations, barrier methods remain a valuable contraceptive option for many individuals.

Common Concerns Regarding Barrier Methods

Common issues associated with barrier methods include incorrect usage, failure to consistently use them during sexual activity, and misconceptions about their effectiveness. To address these challenges, individuals can consider using dual protection methods, such as combining condoms with hormonal contraception or other barrier methods.

It is also important to be aware of emergency contraception options that can be used as a backup measure in case of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. Seeking accurate information from reputable sources, such as healthcare providers or trusted sexual health organizations, can help dispel misconceptions and ensure informed decision-making.

Making Informed Choices

When selecting a barrier method, it is crucial to consider individual needs, preferences, and factors such as STI protection. Consulting healthcare providers can provide personalized advice, address any concerns, and assist in choosing the most suitable barrier method. Reliable sources of information, such as doctors should be utilized to ensure accurate and up-to-date knowledge about barrier methods.


Understanding the effectiveness and proper usage of barrier methods of contraception is vital for individuals seeking reliable and safe contraception.

By utilizing barrier methods correctly and consistently, individuals can significantly reduce the risk of unintended pregnancies and protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is crucial to consult healthcare providers for personalized guidance and to ensure the selection of the most suitable barrier method based on individual needs and preferences.

Additionally, seeking accurate information from reputable sources helps dispel misconceptions and empowers individuals to make informed decisions about their sexual health. By embracing the effectiveness and proper usage of barrier methods, individuals can confidently take control of their reproductive health and engage in responsible and protected sexual activity.



  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (n.d.). Barrier methods of birth control: Spermicide, condom, sponge, diaphragm, and cervical cap. ACOG. Retrieved from

  • Trussell, J., Strickler, J., & Vaughan, B. (1993). Contraceptive efficacy of the diaphragm, the sponge, and the cervical cap. Family planning perspectives, 25(3), 100–135.


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