Understanding 4 Types of Barrier Birth Control 

Understanding 4 Types of Barrier Birth Control 

Birth control is a personal choice that comes with another set of choices. What type of birth control do you want? Something easily reversible? Permanent? Or portable?

Portable birth control refers to barrier methods that include condoms, birth-control sponges, diaphragms, and cervical caps. Like all contraception, each barrier method has its advantages and disadvantages.

At Mian OB/GYN & Associates in Silver Spring, Maryland, Dr. Rafiq Mian and our team want you to find the right kind of birth control for your needs. If you’ve ruled out hormones and intrauterine devices (IUDs), and you’re not interested in permanent sterilization, then you can choose from various barrier methods.

Unlike birth control implants and IUDs, which stay in place for years at a time, you have to remember to use barrier contraception each time you have intercourse. Which barrier method is most effective and best for your needs? Read on to find out. 


Condoms are easy to carry with you so that you can use them at will. They also have the advantage of offering some protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), which no other birth control method can do (except for abstinence). 

What most people think of as condoms are external (male) condoms, which are meant to slip over a penis and catch any ejaculate. These are 87% effective against pregnancy. 

 Also available are internal (female) condoms, which fit inside the vagina. They’re about 79% effective against pregnancy.  


A diaphragm looks like half a thin, hollow rubber ball. You spread spermicide inside the hollow part, then fold the diaphragm, insert it into your vagina, and let it unfold in front of the cervix.

A diaphragm blocks the entrance to your uterus so that sperm can’t swim into it and find an egg to fertilize. The spermicide kills the sperm that manage to slip under or around the diaphragm barrier. 

Diaphragms are 83% effective against pregnancy, as long as you use spermicide as directed. Without spermicide, they’re significantly less effective. 

You must leave them in place for about six hours after you have sex. You must also remove them within 24-30 hours. 

Birth control sponges

The birth control sponge works similarly to a diaphragm. You insert it into your vagina to block your cervix.However, the sponge is smaller and is pre-loaded with spermicide. It has a fabric loop attached, which makes it easy to remove. 

After sex, you must leave the sponge in place for at least six hours. When inserted and used correctly, the sponge is 86% effective if you’ve never given birth, but only 78% effective if you’ve given birth before.

Cervical caps

A cervical cap is a little rubber cap that fits snugly over your cervix. As with sponges and diaphragms, you insert the cap through your vagina and then position it over your cervix. Because the cap is smaller than the diaphragm, it’s better at holding spermicide close to the cervix, so sperm can’t get through.

You must use spermicide with the cap for it to be effective. Like a diaphragm or a sponge, you must keep the cap in place for at least six hours. You can leave it in place for up to two days. They’re about 86% protective against pregnancy if you’ve never given birth, and about 71% effective if you have delivered a baby.

Condoms plus

The most effective, safest way to use barrier birth control methods is to combine condoms with one of the other methods. That way you get extra protection against pregnancy. Plus you get the added benefit of some protection from STDs, thanks to the condom.

Are you ready for barrier birth control? Call our friendly team or use our online form to set up a contraception consultation today.

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