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Barrier methods

Monday, June 3, 2013


Barrier methods work by stopping sperm from entering the vagina.

A pretty simple concept and one that has been used for millennia – cave paintings in France show a man using a condom during sexual intercourse date from 12-15,000 years ago.

Barrier methods have come a long way in the last few thousand years. They’ve even come a long way in the last 60 years – in the 1950s condoms were reusable!

There are three main barrier methods of contraception. These methods use:

Condoms protect against sexually transmissible infections (STIs) as well as unwanted pregnancy.

The Male Condom

Male condoms are a fine rubber covering that is rolled on to the penis before sex. Polyurethane condoms are available for people who are allergic to rubber.

When male condoms are used correctly and every time, they are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy. They are also the most effective method of preventing STIs.

Using a condom correctly includes using a water-based lube to stop the condom rubbing and possibly tearing.

Heat can also damage the rubber and cause the condom to break down. So it’s not a good idea to keep your condoms in your purse, wallet or pocket. They should be stored at room temperature.

Condoms have expiry date on the packet. Before using a condom make sure it is not beyond the expiry date on the packet!

There’s no excuse for not using a condom. You can get them from Family Planning clinics, chemists, supermarkets, pubs, public toilets, garages, nightclubs, dairies, mail order and sex shops.

You can even get condoms for free, with a prescription!

The Female Condom

Female condoms are a polyurethane cylinder with one open end. It is held in place by a ring at either end. The closed end of the female condom covers the cervix and the open end is positioned at the entrance of the vagina.

When female condoms are used correctly and every time, they are 90% effective in preventing pregnancy and also protect against STIs.

The Diaphragm

A diaphragm is a dome-shaped device made of silicone that is put into the woman’s vagina. It must be put in place before sex and left in for at least six hours afterwards.

Diaphragms come in different sizes and have to be fitted for the first time by a doctor or nurse.

Diaphragms are 80-96% effective in preventing pregnancy. Their effectiveness is increased if a spermicide is used at the same time. Spermicide is a cream that kills sperm on contact.

Spermicide or contraceptive cream for use with diaphragms or similar products is currently hard to obtain in New Zealand. However, contraceptive cream or gel containing spermicide can be purchased online.

The effectiveness of diaphragms against STIs is not yet known.

Right for You

It is sometimes said that it’s the responsibility of men to organise the condom and the responsibility of women to ensure pregnancy is out of the picture. But women should also always be prepared to protect themselves and their partner against STIs.

Contraception isn’t just for the girls either. Men can take an active role by being informed of the options and talking about what contraceptive and/or STI protection methods are right for both partners.

International Men’s Health Week

International Men’s Health Week runs this month from 10-16 June. It’s very important for men to maintain their sexual health. Family Planning clinics have a number of services to offer men, including

  • contraceptive advice
  • STI checks
  • fertility services
  • vasectomies
  • help with sexual dysfunction or issues.

Contact your nearest clinic for more information.

Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.

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