Barrier Methods of Birth Control

Barrier methods prevent pregnancy by keeping sperm from reaching an egg. You must use barrier methods every time you have sex for them to be effective. When used consistently and correctly, barrier methods prevent pregnancy about 79–98% of the time. Some barrier methods also protect against STDs. 


Condoms come in traditional (also called "male") and internal (also called "female" or "insertive") versions. The traditonal condom covers the penis so that after ejaculation, the sperm stays inside the condom. The internal condom is a thin plastic pouch that lines the vagina or anus. It can be put in place several hours before sex and is made of non-latex materials.

Condoms can be used alone or with other birth control methods to protect against STDs. 

Things to Remember About Condoms:

  • Use a new condom before each sex act (oral, anal or vaginal).
  • Lubricants can increase effectiveness by reducing breakage and improving pleasure (so you're more likely to use them consistently!), but make sure to use only water-based lubricants with latex condoms. Avoid oil-based lubricants like baby oil, petroleum jelly, body lotions, massage oil, or cooking oil. They can damage latex condoms.
  • Got a latex allergy? No problem! Safe, effective options are available in polyurethane and nitrile.
  • Store condoms in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Don't keep condoms in temperatures above 85 degrees.
  • Note every condom's expiration date and don't use them after they've expired!


These are foams, gels, creams, or films that are put into the vagina before sex; spermicide kills sperm in order to reduce pregnancy risk. Spermicide doesn't work great alone, but can offer additional protection from pregnany when used along with a condom, diaphragm, or cervical cap. Spermicide is NOT a good method for preventing STDs and can increase the risk of HIV transmission. Spermicide can be irritating to some people's skin.