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How effective are female barrier methods of contraception?

The diaphragm is a shallow rubber cup that fits tightly over the cervix, the entrance to the uterus. It prevents sperm from entering the uterus. The diaphragm is coated with spermicidal jelly before you insert it. The diaphragm is put into place just before intercourse and needs to be kept in place for at least 6 hours after intercourse and then removed.

It is 80–94% effective for preventing pregnancy. The effectiveness depends on the user’s ability to place the device correctly, use of spermicidal jelly, and leaving it in place for the full time. Your gynecologist will fit your diaphragm and teach you how to place it properly and check to be sure it is covering the cervix.

The sponge contains spermicidal jelly and is placed into the vagina over the cervix to prevent sperm from entering the uterus. It can be inserted up to 24 hours prior to intercourse and needs to be left in place for 6 hours afterward. Sponges are 80–91% effective.

The condom, a thin sheath that is placed over the penis before intercourse, is a common form of birth control. It prevents the sperm from entering the woman’s vagina. When used correctly and along with a ­spermicide, the condom is 85–90% effective in preventing pregnancy.

The female condom is another barrier method of contraception. It is a larger type of condom that you insert into your vagina up to eight hours before intercourse. You remove it afterward, taking the sperm with it. It can also help protect against sexually transmitted diseases. It is 74–79% effective.

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