1. Barrier contraceptives, are they a valid contraceptive method?
  2. The condom, how to use it and store it correctly
  3. The feminine diaphragm, what are its advantages?

Barrier contraceptives, are they a valid contraceptive method?

Barrier contraceptive methods are one of the oldest techniques to prevent pregnancy and their use dates back to ancient times because with their double role of preventing pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, they have always been extremely important. These methods include physical barriers, like male condoms, female condoms, diaphragm, cervical cap and sponge, and chemical barriers like gelatine, foam or film containing spermicidal material. Physical and chemical barriers are often used together to prevent the passage of sperm and in many cases to provide an adequate protection from sexually transmitted diseases. Barrier methods are an advantageous form of contraception because they are reversible and do not cause any side effect. The main barrier contraceptive methods used by males are latex condoms while women use the diaphragm. Barrier methods have the additional advantage that they can be used by those women that cannot use hormonal methods due to the identification of different kinds of risk factors. The contraceptive effectiveness of all barrier contraceptive methods depends on their coherent and correct use.

The condom, how to use it and store it correctly

Condoms are thin latex (or other alternative materials for allergy sufferers) sheaths that are placed on the male sex organ and work as a barrier for sperm and sexually transmitted diseases. Condoms are also pre-lubricated with spermicidal to provide greater effectiveness. Even though they have a failure rate that ranges from 3 to 14%, if correctly and coherently used, condoms are an effective contraceptive method. Their correct use involves placing the condom at the time of erection, leaving a small space at the end of the penis, and holding the base of the condom during its removal from an erect penis. Condoms are one of the most ancient contraceptive methods, and exist in different types, shapes, thicknesses, colours and tastes. No medical prescription is required to use condoms but particular attention must be given to wearing it properly before penetration and during its extraction after sexual intercourse making sure it does not come off or does not remain inside the vagina to prevent a potential leakage of semen. It is important that condoms are stored properly and that they are not in continuous contact with other objects or heat sources that could cause them to break; they will need to be stored in a cool, dry place away from light. Even though the use of condoms requires a male partner, this method has the additional advantage of preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

The feminine diaphragm, what are its advantages?

Medical prescription based on the doctor’s evaluation of the appropriate dimensions for each patient (60-90mm) is required for diaphragms. The diaphragm should be inserted before intercourse and removed afterwards or after maximum 24 hours. One of the advantages of the diaphragm is that women can independently decide their time and use. Even though there are some studies that indicate a reduction of sexually transmitted diseases with the use of the diaphragm, other studies instead indicate an increase in the risk of infections of the urinary tract and of the toxic shock syndrome. Standard practice is to use the diaphragm in combination with spermicidal creams. The diaphragm‘s use has reduced in time: the percentage of women that use it is quite low and still decreasing not only because of the availability of more effective contraceptive methods but also for the use of spermicides that women consider uncomfortable due to the fact that these cause an increased risk of cystitis. Spermicides in fact alter the normal vaginal flora and thus allow the excessive growth of strains pathogenic.

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