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How Effective Are Barrier Contraceptive Methods?

Birth control methods such as the pill, vaginal ring, patch, or an implant may not be preferred contraceptive choices for some women. They may find it inconvenient to obtain a prescription, while others may prefer not to use a hormone-based method. This is why some women rely on barrier methods to prevent unexpected pregnancies. These forms of birth control typically work by physically preventing the egg and sperm from meeting, reducing your chances of an unexpected pregnancy. If you’re looking into contraceptive methods that do not involve taking a pill, then it may be helpful to learn about alternative forms of birth control. You may already be familiar with a few barrier methods, but understanding how they work and what their failure rates are may aid you in finding a method that works for you.

No birth control method is 100% effective. If you suspect you may be unexpectedly pregnant despite having used birth control, then Avenue Women’s Center is here to help. We can provide you with free medical-grade pregnancy tests and confidential consultations, supplying you with information regarding your unexpected pregnancy options. Schedule your free appointment today to meet with one of our expert client advocates to address your individual questions and concerns!

Understanding Your Barrier Method Options


You may be able to buy spermicide over the counter in gel, foam, or suppository form (to be inserted into your body). When used alone, spermicide has a failure rate of 28%, but condoms and other contraceptives can boost its effectiveness. Before using this barrier method, you may want to consult a healthcare provider, as some women may be sensitive to nonoxynol-9, the main chemical used in spermicide. It should be noted that spermicides are generally unable to protect you against STDs. Also, some spermicides recommend avoiding any rinsing of the vagina for 8 hours, to help increase their effectiveness.


Typically, diaphragms are ordered through your healthcare provider. This little saucer-shaped silicone cup is usually inserted into your vagina, and this form of birth control may be used to block semen from entering your womb. A diaphragm may be more effective when coupled with spermicide, and when used correctly, the chances of becoming pregnant are generally 6%. Conveniently, you may be able to carry your diaphragm around with you, and it is often reusable up to 12 months. However, diaphragms may need to be left in for at least 8 hours after intercourse, which means it’s unlikely to guard you against STDs.

Female or Male Condoms:

A female condom typically comes in the form of a lubricated latex tube that you place inside your vagina. This form of birth control has flexible rings on both ends, and these are meant to keep out sperm. A thin sheath that may be made of latex, polyurethane, or natural animal membrane, a male condom works a bit differently, as it is worn over the man’s penis during intercourse. Both types of condoms may work to collect sperm so it is not released into the vagina, and the estimated effectiveness of the male latex condom is 87-90%, compared to 85% for female condoms. Problems can arise with condoms if they break or slip off during intercourse, and in the case of male condoms, they should be removed immediately after ejaculation. However, there is an advantage to this barrier method, as latex condoms can offer protection against sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and herpes when used correctly. Allergies and side effects are often rare when it comes to condoms, and you can usually buy them at the drugstore or online without a prescription. Not only are condoms often very affordable, but they are unlikely to effect a woman’s natural hormones if that is a concern when selecting a birth control method.

There is still a chance you may experience an unexpected pregnancy after using barrier contraception methods. Avenue Women’s Center provides free services, including medical-grade pregnancy tests, accurate just 10 days after possible conception. Our caring pregnancy consultants can talk you through each of your pregnancy options, supplying you with reliable information, as well as a safe place to share your concerns and feelings. Reach out today! Our compassionate staff is waiting to listen to you and support you.


  • WebMD. (2018, December). Non-Hormonal Birth Control Options. Retrieved from:
  • Medicinenet. (2018, September). Birth Control Side Effects, Advantages, Disadvantages. Retrieved from:

Reviewed by Patricia Kuenzi, APN-CNP, MSN, ANP, PNP.

The information provided here is general in nature.  It is not a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional. Before any medical procedure, it is imperative that you discuss your personal medical history, risks, and concerns with your doctor. If you have questions during or after a procedure, your doctor should be immediately contacted. Avenue Women’s Center is not an emergency center.  If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as bleeding and/or pain, seek immediate medical attention.  Contact your physician, go to an emergency room, or call 911.