You may know that when it comes to birth control, there are quite a few options on the market. But what are they? How do they work? Are they effective?

Below and in related installments, you’ll find a comprehensive list of birth control methods, along with their function, failure rates, and if applicable, potential risks and side effects.


In this post, we will cover barrier methods, which physically keep sperm from entering the cervix to fertilize the egg. This includes use of condoms, cervical caps/diaphragms, and spermicides.


Male/Female Condoms: One of the most commonly used forms of birth control, condoms can be made of latex, plastic, or lamb skin. They can only be used once. When they work, they prevent semen from entering the vagina and by so doing keep the female egg from becoming fertilized. However, they fail between 18-21% of the time due to ripping, slippage, or breakage.


Diaphragm or Cervical Cap: Each of these items are cup-shaped. They are inserted to cover the cervix, thereby impeding sperm from entering it. They may have to be specially fitted by a doctor. They generally fail about 12% of the time, for many of the same reasons as condoms.


Spermicides: These products can come in various forms (gels, creams, tablets, foams, films, suppositories, etc.) and are to be inserted into the vagina an hour before intercourse and left there for six to eight hours afterward. They work by killing sperm, and in part because of their high failure rate (28%), are generally combined with the use of a condom, diaphragm, or cervical cap.


Please see other posts from this series for information about intrauterine contraception, hormonal methods, and fertility awareness-based methods.


Think you may be pregnant, or just want to know more? At Harmony, we offer free pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, and even STD testing and treatment at no cost to you. Click here to schedule an appointment.


This information is not meant to replace professional advice.


Source: “Contraception.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 09 Feb. 2017. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.