Male and female condoms, as well as the diaphragm, cervical cap and spermicide are examples of mechanical barriers. Having already covered male and female condoms we can now look at the diaphragm, cervical cap, and spermicide.
The diaphragm is a latex cup with a spring-like instrument used to hold it in place in the vaginal canal. Diaphragms are made in all different sizes thus to be sized you must have a pelvic exam and measure the diagonal length of the vaginal canal. The diaphragm is inserted before intercourse and spermicidal is put on the inside of the dome which covers the cervix. The diaphragm works by preventing semen from entering in the cervix. The diaphragm works for 6 hours after being placed in the vaginal canal. If you do not remove the device in these 6 hours a fresh application of spermicide can be applied. After intercourse the diaphragm cannot be removed until at least 6 hours have passed. Depending on the age of the person using the diaphragm and the use of spermicide the effectiveness can range. On average the diaphragm is 80 percent effective. The diaphragm is beneficial because no hormones are used or altered and the woman has control of conception. The disadvantages of this device include the increased risks of having a urinary tract infection, the risk of toxic shock syndrome, and the high failure rate. The diaphragm can produce an odor if it is not properly cleaned.
The cervical cap is a cup shaped latex device that fits over the bottom of the cervix. A seal is made with a small groove in the device. The cap has to be three-quarters full of spermicide before being inserted into the vaginal canal. The cervical cap prevents sperm from entering the cervix and also is a chemical agent using spermicide. The cervical cap is normally 80 percent effective in nulliparous women and 60 percent effective in parous women. The advantage of using the cervical cap is that it provides continuous protection for its full extent of use, regardless of the number of intercourse acts. The cervical cap doesn’t use ongoing hormones. Unfortunately cervical erosion can result in spotting and you may be at an increased risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome when you leave the cervical cap in for lengthy periods of time. You may only use the cervical cap if you have a history of normal results on Pap tests.
Spermicide contains an agent which obliterates the cell membrane of the sperm. Spermicide comes in the form of jellies, foams, films, creams, suppositories and foaming tablets. Spermicide must be inserted into the vagina before intercourse. Using spermicide also lessens the chance of conditions caused by both viral and bacterial organisms that can lead to STI’s. The efficiency of protecting against HIV is limited. Spermicide is 94 percent effective if used perfectly, but typically has a 74 percent rate of effectiveness in the first year of use. The benefits of using spermicide are that the lubrication from spermicide can increase the pleasure for both partners, it is available without a prescription, and spermicide does not affect future fertility. Spermicide does not protect against HIV/AIDS. Using spermicide can be messy and cause a bad taste during oral sex. If spermicide is used frequently they can irritate the vagina and make it easier to contract STI’s. Spermicide can cause an allergic reaction in some people.
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