Sexual Health - Barrier Contraception

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Male Condoms
Female Condoms


Male Condoms
Condoms are the only form of contraception that help protect against STI's (sexually transmitted infections) and unintended pregnancy. When condoms are used consistently and correctly they are about 98% effective at preventing unintended pregnancies. Correct and consistent use means using a condom every time you have sexual contact (vaginal, oral, anal sex) and using it correctly. On average, condoms tend to be about 85% effective. Condoms are made from latex, polyurethane, or sheep membrane (called natural condoms). Latex condoms are the most common and inexpensive condoms on the market. Some people may have latex allergies, in which case you will need to choose polyurethane condoms. Polyurethane condoms provide the same protection as latex but they are allergy free and a little more expensive than latex. Natural condoms are made from sheep membrane. They offer some protection against unintended pregnancy but do not protect a person from sexually transmitted infections.

Female Condoms
A female condom is a method of contraception worn by women that's inserted inside the vagina before intercourse. It is made of soft polyurethane, a type of plastic and it's shaped like a long tube or sheath. It has one closed end and one open end that creates a barrier between the penis and the vaginal canal. Similar to the male condom, when used consistently and correctly, the female condom prevents pregnancy and protects against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). For some women, the female condom is an ideal form of contraception because the woman controls it. A woman can take the initiative to protect herself, especially when partners are unwilling or unable to use male condoms. It can also be a good alternative for those who have a latex sensitivity or allergy.

The female condom can be a bit intimidating to someone who has never seen or used one before. It may help to practice inserting one before the time comes to have intercourse. If you look at the female condom, you'll see that at each end, there's a flexible polyurethane ring. These rings help to keep the female condom in place once it's inserted. The fixed outer ring has an opening, where the penis glides in and out of the vagina during intercourse. The moveable inner ring secures the tube in place and is closed off by polyurethane so that it can collect the ejaculated sperm.

To insert the female condom:
• hold the sheath at the closed end and pinch the inner ring together in the center so that it becomes long and narrow.
• gently insert the inner ring end as far into the vagina as possible, using your index finger to push up the inner ring until your finger reaches your cervix. It won't go in too deep or get lost inside your vagina. When in place, it'll cover the opening of the cervix and line the vaginal walls. A general indicator is that you'll no longer be able to feel the ring. The outer ring must always remain outside the vaginal opening.
• before having intercourse, be sure that it hangs straight and isn't twisted. Then, add water-based lube on the penis and/or to the inside of the female condom to increase comfort and decrease noise.
• after intercourse, twist the outer ring, gently remove the female condom, and discard (don't flush it down the toilet).

If you choose this method of contraception, carefully read the instructions that come with it. Please remember that each female condom can only be used once. Also, never use the female condom together with a male condom. Friction between the two could cause the male condom to pull off or the female condom to be pushed inside the vagina. Before using this method of contraception, consider the following advantages and disadvantages:

• A woman can take the initiative and offer her partner the choice between his or her condoms.
• It provides protection against HIV and other STIs since the polyurethane acts as a barrier.
• It can be inserted immediately or up to eight hours before having intercourse.
• A man doesn't have to be fully erect when his partner uses the female condom.
• Those who are sensitive or allergic to latex are often able to use products made of polyurethane.
• It can be purchased over-the-counter.

• It's more expensive than male condoms and they can be hard to find. The Health Ed Department, located on the third floor gives them out for free.
• It may be awkward to use because the outer ring must stay outside of the vagina during intercourse.
• Since the female condom is inserted into the vagina, it's necessary to be comfortable with your body and vagina.
• It may cause irritation.
• Without enough lube, it can make strange sounds.

The sponge was removed from the market in 1995 and reintroduced by the FDA in 2005. It is a soft and dome-shaped, polyurethane device that fits over the cervix. There is a small loop that hangs down for easy removal. The sponge provides unintended pregnancy protection by blocking sperm from entering the uterus and through nonoxyl-9, the active ingredient in spermicides. Many women are allergic to nonoxyl-9, so this method may not be acceptable for all women.

How to use the sponge correctly:
1. Remove the sponge from package and wet it thoroughly with tap water. Squeeze sponge to activate the spermicide.
2. Insert the sponge with dimple facing the cervix and the loop hanging downwards. The sponge must stay in place for 6 hours after intercourse, but can stay in for up to 24 hours.
3. Remove sponge and dispose of it.

• Can protect against pregnancy for up to 24 hours no matter how many times intercourse occurs
• Virtually no major health risks associated with its use
• Does not cause any physical or hormonal changes in a woman's body
• Does not interrupt spontaneity of sex
• No need to continue its use when you are not sexually active for it to provide benefits

• Possible risk of irritation due to nonoxynol-9
• Does not provide any STI protection
• Using the sponge (especially if it is left in too long) slightly increases the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome
• May be a little messy

These are products that attempt to prevent pregnancy by killing off sperm before it can fertilize an egg. They come in a wide variety of forms that include foam, liquid, jelly, film, and suppositories. They are inserted into the vagina before intercourse. Some condoms also come with spermicides already applied to them. Many women are allergic to the active ingredient, Nonoxyl-9 that is contained in spermicides. For this reason one should use caution with these products. Spermicides should always be used with another form of contraception such as condoms, hormonal contraception, etc. Spermicides DO NOT provide any protection from sexually transmitted infections (STI's), including HIV/AIDS.