Advantages and Disadvantages of Barrier Birth control methods

In our society people have become more responsible with regards to family planning. Almost each couple is using various methods of birth control. Barrier contraception is one of the most popular and common birth control methods. It was used long before oral contraceptive pills and intrauterine devices appeared.  Barrier contraceptives do not allow the sperm to enter the vagina or the uterine. Both men and women can use this method. Barrier contraception today offers a great variety of products, so each couple can choose what is convenient and effective for them.

What is barrier contraception?

Barrier contraception includes the products for men and the products for women. Birth control is provided mechanically or chemically.

Among the mechanical contraceptives are:

  • Male condoms;
  • Cervical caps;
  • Contraceptive diaphragms.

The chemical barrier contraceptives are:

  1. Aerosol products;
  2. Vaginal tablets;
  3. Gels or creams;
  4. Suppositories.

Chemical products have a spermicidal effect, it means that they are able to destroy or deactivate male sex cells. These products usually contain highly active chemical substances such as nonoxynol-9 and benzalkonium chloride. Spermicide products are seldom used as a separate birth control method. Usually, they are used together with mechanical contraceptives.

Condoms are the only male product among the variety of barrier contraceptives. All other things need to be inserted into the female vagina.

Male condoms

male condom

Condoms are considered to be one of the most popular and available means not only of barrier contraception but of male contraception, in general. Now, there are a lot of different condoms and a man can choose what suits him best. The advantages of the condoms are:

  • Availability: condoms can be bought not only in drugs stores but in many supermarkets;
  • Simple use: a man can quickly put on a condom right before sex and it does not require any special skills or efforts;
  • Protection against pathogenic bacteria: for a man, this is the only way to protect himself against sexually transmitted infections;
  • Condoms can be used with other birth control products;
  • Condoms prevent the development of cervical tumors as they protect against papilloma virus;
  • Condoms make sex longer and prevent premature ejaculation.

Disadvantages of male condoms:

  1. Low effectiveness: studies showed that the use of a condom as the only birth control method is less effective than the use of oral contraceptive pills;
  2. Condoms diminish the intensity of pleasant sensations during sex;
  3. Some people have allergy to the material of a condom or to lubrication;
  4. A condom can be used only during one intercourse;

Female condoms

female condom

The mechanism of action of female condoms is the same is of male condoms. However, female condoms are not very popular. A female condom is a contraceptive pouch 15-17 cm long and 8 cm in diameter. It is made of polyurethane. At the end of a condom there are two rings of different sizes. A ring with a smaller diameter is closed with polyurethane and it is located right in front of the uterine neck and the second ring remains at the vaginal orifice. It is very easy to use a female condom, it is inserted into the vagina like a tampon.

Female condoms have the same advantages and disadvantages as male condoms.

Contraceptive diaphragm

Diaphragms are thin domes made of latex. The diameter varies from 50 to 100 mm. There is a spring in the rim of the diaphragm forms a seal against the vaginal walls. The diaphragm covers the cervix and physically prevents sperm from entering the uterus.


  • It can be used together with additional birth control products;
  • Does not have any effect on lactation;
  • A woman does no need to insert a diaphragm shortly before sex because it can be inserted several hours before an intercourse.


  1. Low effectiveness: it should be used with spermicides only;
  2. It can be used only during one intercourse;
  3. Before using a diaphragm, it is necessary to consult a gynecologist to exclude cervical erosion. If a woman wants to use this birth control method after a child birth, she also needs to see a gynecologist first;
  4. Improper personal hygiene can provoke infections and inflammations of the genital organs;
  5. A diaphragm cannot be removed from the vagina for 5-6 hours after sex.

Cervical cap


A cervical cap is another barrier contraception for women. It is an alternative to a diaphragm but  has a smaller size. The difference is that a cap cover only the neck of the uterus.


  • It does not have any adverse effect on breast milk and lactation;
  • A cap can be inserted several hours before an intercourse;
  • It is suitable for women with irregular periods.


  1. It must be used with additional birth control methods;
  2. Before using this method, a woman needs to consult a gynecologist;
  3. A cap cannot be removed from the vagina for, at least, 6 hours after sex;
  4. Low effectiveness against unintended pregnancy.

Cervical caps cannot be used by women with an individual abnormal anatomical structure of the genital organs, women with allergic reactions (spermicide is applied each time before inserting a cap).

Chemical barrier contraceptives

Spermicides are a very popular additional method of contraception. Spermicides deactivate or destroy the sperm. Spermicides are available in many different forms: vaginal suppositories, creams, aerosols and others. They gained popularity due to their simple use and effective protection if used together with a contraceptive diaphragm, cervical cap and some other products.

The advantages of spermicides are:

  • Low risk of side effects (exceptions are allergies and individual intolerance);
  • Spermicides have a local anti-inflammatory effect and can protect against some sexually transmitted infections;
  • Have a lubrication effect;
  • Easy to use and do not require any medical control.


  1. Spermicides need to be inserted 15-20 minutes before sex;
  2. They are effective for an hour only;
  3. They are not effective as a separate birth control method.