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— Barrier contraceptives prevent sperm from entering the uterus. Barrier contraceptives include the condom, diaphragm, and cervical cap. A full discussion of barrier methods of birth control is available separately.
Male condom — The male condom is a thin, flexible sheath placed over the penis. To be effective, men who use condoms must carefully follow instructions for their use. Condoms are most effective when used with a vaginal spermicide.
Many people who choose another method of birth control (eg, pills) also use condoms to decrease their risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases.
Female condom — The female condom is worn by a woman to prevent semen from entering the vagina. It is a sheath made of polyurethane, and is prelubricated. You wear it inside the vagina.
Diaphragm/cervical cap — The diaphragm and cervical cap fit over the cervix, preventing sperm from entering the uterus. These devices are available in latex (the Prentif cap) or silicone rubber (FemCap) in multiple sizes, and require fitting by a clinician. These devices must be used with a spermicide and left in place for six to eight hours after sex. The diaphragm must be removed after this period. However, the cervical cap can remain in place for up to 24 hours.
Spermicide — Spermicides are chemical substances that destroy sperm. They are available in most pharmacies without a prescription. Spermicides are available in a variety of forms including gel, foam, cream, film, suppository, and tablet.
— Sterilization is a procedure that permanently prevents you from becoming pregnant or having children. Tubal ligation (for women) and vasectomy (for men) are the two most common sterilization procedures. Sterilization is permanent, and should only be considered after you discuss all available options with a healthcare provider.
— Tubal ligation is a sterilization procedure for women that surgically cuts, blocks, or seals the fallopian tubes to prevent pregnancy. The procedure is usually done in an operating room as a day surgery. Women who have recently delivered a baby can undergo tubal ligation before going home. The procedure may be done at another time as well. A separate article discusses tubal ligation.
— Essure is a permanent birth control method in which tiny coils are placed into a woman’s fallopian tubes. The tissue within the fallopian tubes grows into the coil, blocking them three months after placement in most women. The procedure can be performed in the doctor’s office under local anesthesia (medicine is injected into the cervix to prevent pain). A back up method of birth control (eg, pills, condoms) is needed until you have a test confirming that the fallopian tubes are completed blocked; this is usually performed three months after coil placement.
— Vasectomy is a sterilization procedure for men that cuts or blocks the vas deferens, the tubes that carry sperm from the testes. It is a safe, highly effective procedure that can be performed in a doctor’s office under local anesthesia. Following vasectomy, you must use another method of birth control (eg, condoms) for approximately three months, until testing confirms that no sperm are present in the semen.
OTHER BIRTH CONTROL METHODS
— Some women and their partners cannot or choose not to use the birth control methods mentioned above due to religious or cultural reasons. Fertility-awareness based methods for preventing pregnancy are based upon the physiological changes during the menstrual cycle. These methods, also called “natural family planning,” involve identifying the fertile days of the menstrual cycle using a combination of cycle length and physical manifestations of ovulation (change in cervical secretions, basal body temperature) and then avoiding sexual intercourse or using barrier methods on those days.
— Emergency contraception refers to the use of medication after unprotected intercourse to prevent pregnancy. Types of emergency contraception include the intrauterine device (IUD) or pills. You can use emergency contraception if you forget to take your birth control pill, if a condom breaks during sex, or if you have unprotected sex for other reasons (including victims of sexual assault). An IUD can be inserted for use as emergency contraception, and is much more effective at preventing a pregnancy than pills. It is the best choice for emergency contraception and you can continue to use it as your ongoing method of birth control. The other options are morning after pills, which may be hormonal (eg, PlanB One-Step) or nonhormonal (eg, Ella).