Lots of people aren’t keen on hormonal contraception, but barrier methods such as condoms, diaphragm, IUD and ‘natural’ methods for people who want to have penis in vagina sex but not get pregnant.
These methods all work by preventing sperm from entering the fallopian tubes. Condoms can prevent STIs but others don’t.
They are a very popular and effective method of contraception and safer sex. Condoms have few side effects and they are easily available but you need to use them properly.
All contraceptive clinics give them away for free. Lots of youth clubs and advice centres for young people also give them away for free in the UK. They can also be bought from shops, chemists, garages, supermarkets and online.
Read more about how to use condoms.
They have been in use for thousands of years. Early condoms were made out of leather or sheep’s intestines. Early latex condoms (from back in the day) were reusable! They had to be washed out and dried after use! (check this video on you tube).
Condoms are worn on the penis which means that it’s usually men that wear them. Lots of people assume that men are irresponsible and won’t want to wear them: why?
There are loads of different kinds of condoms, different thicknesses, different shapes, different sizes. There are flavoured condoms for oral sex. Some condoms can help to make sex feel better by increasing stimulation, or by delaying male ejaculation.
Condoms are extremely good at preventing STIs because they stop semen, discharge, vaginal juices and blood getting inside someone’s body. But some (usually less serious) STIs can be caught from genital contact alone.
Condoms – ‘Internal’
They’re sometimes called female condoms but they’re not just used by females so I’m also calling them internal condoms. These are made out of very thin plastic and are inserted into the vagina. Like external condoms they prevent pregnancy and sex infections. They are not as available as condoms and not as easy to use.
‘Female’ condoms can be quite expensive and they’ve never really got that popular, so they aren’t very available (though they are free from clinics that have them). The flexible inner ring of the condom is squeezed together and has to be pushed all the way into the vagina. Lots of people aren’t really into putting their fingers deep into their vagina. They can also be used for safer anal sex (to prevent STIs).
Find out about your nearest sexual health services
The IUD is a small device which fits inside the womb; it remains inside the womb preventing pregnancy for a number of years. IUDs have to be fitted by a trained professional but it is highly effective and popular.
It contains copper which prevents conception by killing sperm inside the womb. The IUD, unlike the IUS, is a non hormonal contraceptive method, so it’s good for people who do not like to use hormonal methods. It is a barrier method because it prevents sperm from surviving in the womb. The copper releases ions (molecules) into the womb which means that the sperm can’t fertilise eggs but also affects the womb lining so implantation can’t happen.
It is widely available at contraceptive clinics but you’ll probably need to make an appointment or discuss your options in advance/ Because it goes inside the womb it can be a bit uncomfortable to fit but it is very very safe. The arms are folded down and then spring out inside.
Some people don’t like this method of contraception because they worry about side effects. All methods of contraception can have side effects, some good, some manageable, some ok and some bad. They are different for different people, so one person might get a particular side effect but someone else might not. If you don’t like the contraception you are using go back to the clinic and discuss alternative types. Once it’s in the user doesn’t have to do very much at all. Just check that the threads are in the right place at the top of the vagina now and again. It lasts for five to ten years.
It is very very very effective. It’s also an effective emergency contraception within 120 hours of unprotected sex.
The diaphragm forms a seal inside the woman’s vagina blocking the entry of sperm into the womb. They have few side effects but can be difficult to fit so aren’t very popular.The diaphragm is a barrier method which prevents sperm from getting past the cervix.
Spermicide is put on the outside which kills the sperm as they try to get past the barrier.This method is available at all contraceptive clinics. Diaphragms come in different sizes and a nurse will help to pick the right one for the user. As with the female condom this method involves putting fingers deep inside the vagina, which a lot of young women aren’t keen on. It’s a good alternative for females who don’t want to get pregnant, want to be in control of their own contraception and don’t want to use hormonal methods.
As with the female condom it can be put in place some time before sex so it’s possible to have sex without interruption. It is a good method of preventing pregnancy but it’s not as effective as hormonal methods of contraception.
These methods aren’t usually recommended for young people, but if you want to try them you can get advice and information about it.
This involves not having sex when the female is at their most fertile. It is good for people who don’t want to use hormonal or barrier methods (eg for reasons of faith). It has no side effects. It is very complicated and the woman needs to be trained to do it. It works for people with regular periods, which is why it’s not so great for many teenagers, because their periods can be all over the place.
There are times in a menstrual cycle when it is not possible to get pregnant. This method involves counting the number of days between periods to try and work out when the safe times are. It is not an easy method to get right mainly because it is difficult to be certain how long the current menstrual cycle might be. And sperm can live for up to seven days inside the female.
Lots of people who are religious are told that they can’t use any contraception which interferes with the process of fertilisation and/or implantation. This method doesn’t do that as it just involves not having sex at the right time. A similar method involves checking the vaginal discharge and changing temperature at different times of the menstrual cycle.
Here’s more about fertility
Vasectomy is a surgical procedure where sperm is prevented from being released during ejaculation (coming).
Because it is not easily reversible it is not recommended for young people. It isn’t the kind of procedure that you can get immediately. A doctor will normally refer someone for a procedure after a consultation.
A vasectomy doesn’t prevent semen from being ejaculated, so it prevents unwanted pregnancy but not STIs. The procedure is quite straight forward and a lot of older guys like getting it once they are sure they don’t want kids (or any more kids) but also want to have sex. It doesn’t affect ejaculation and males can enjoy orgasms after a vasectomy.
This is a surgical procedure which prevents eggs from reaching the fallopian tube.Because it is not easily reversible it is not recommended for young people. It isn’t the kind of procedure that you can get immediately. A doctor will normally refer someone for a procedure after a consultation. It is a straight forward operation which does not require an overnight stay in hospital.
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Justin Hancock has been a trained sex and relationships educator since 1999. In that time he’s taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. He’s a member of the World Association for Sexual Health.