methods are contraceptives that prevent the passage of
bodily fluids from one person to another. Examples of
barrier methods include condoms, cervical caps, diaphragms,
sponges, and dental dams. Only dental dams and condoms are
recommended agents of HIV transmission
The male condom is a sheath placed over the erect penis
before penetration, preventing pregnancy by blocking the
passage of sperm. Because they act as a mechanical
barrier, condoms prevent direct vaginal contact with
semen, infectious genital secretions, and genital lesions
and discharges. A condom can only be used once! Most
condoms are made from latex rubber, while a small
percentage are made from lamb intestines (sometimes
called "lambskin" condoms). Condoms can also be made from
a type of plastic called polyurethane. For people who are
sensitive to latex, polyurethane is a good alternative.
The condom has many slang names, including "rubber,"
"wrapper," and "raincoat." Except for abstinence, latex
condoms are the most effective method for reducing the
risk of infection from viruses that cause AIDS, other
HIV-related illnesses, and other STDs.
Some condoms are prelubricated. These lubricants don't
provide more birth control or STD protection.
Non-oil-based lubricants, such as water or K-Y jelly, can
be used with latex or lambskin condoms, but oil-based
lubricants, such as petroleum jelly (Vaseline), lotions,
or massage or baby oil, should not be used because they
can weaken the material.
The female condom consists of a lubricated polyurethane
sheath shaped similarly to the male condom. The closed
end, which has a flexible ring, is inserted into the
vagina, while the open end remains outside, partially
covering the labia. The female condom, like the male
condom, is available without a prescription and is
intended for one-time use only. It should not be used
together with a male condom because they may slip out of
A diaphragm is available only by prescription and must be
sized by a health professional to achieve a proper fit.
It is a dome-shaped rubber disk with a flexible rim that
covers the cervix so sperm can't reach the uterus.
Before inserting the diaphragm, you must apply a
spermicide cream or jelly as an extra precaution. A
diaphragm will protect for six hours after it is
inserted. For intercourse after the six-hour period, or
for repeated intercourse within this period, fresh
spermicide should be place in the vagina with the
diaphragm still in place. The diaphragm should be left in
place for at least six hours after the last intercourse
but not for longer than a total of 24 hours because of
the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS). The diaphragm can
be effective when used properly, but has a higher failure
rate than oral contraceptives.