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There are different types of vaginal contraceptives that may aide in the personal decision between a woman and her partner to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. Vaginal contraceptives usually come in spermicide form as a gel or film. A diaphragm is a latex cup that is inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix — the opening between the vagina and the uterus, which is also called the womb and is where a fetus is nourished until birth. The cervical cap is another vaginal contraceptive used to block sperm from entering the uterus. A prescription from a health care provider is typically required for either the diaphragm or cervical cap.
Another name for vaginal contraceptives is the barrier method. This term is based on the contraceptive device being used as a barrier between the male sperm and female egg. Generally, these types of contraceptives contain chemical substances that will prevent sperm from making contact with the egg.
Some women decide that using vaginal contraceptives offer the best balance between convenience, safety, and avoiding an unwanted pregnancy. A prescription is typically not required for most vaginal contraceptives. Most vaginal contraceptives have fewer side effects than what a woman may experience from using hormonal methods such as birth control pills.
Gel vaginal contraceptives form a barrier over the cervix. Sperm is killed almost instantly after coming into contact with the gel. It is usually recommended that the vaginal contraceptive gel be inserted directly into the vagina within one hour before having sexual intercourse.
The vaginal film is a thin piece of soluble material placed on or in close proximity to the cervix. Within seconds, the film dissolves and is usually effective 15 minutes after insertion. The duration of its effectiveness may not last beyond the first hour, so another application might be necessary. Using the vaginal contraceptive film in combination with condoms or other forms of birth control may increase its effectiveness.
Another barrier method form of vaginal contraceptives is the diaphragm, which also blocks the cervix. The diaphragm can typically maintain its effectiveness even if inserted several hours before sexual intercourse. Latex material is normally used to make the diaphragm. This might not be the contraception of choice for a woman allergic to the materials used in latex.
Similar to the diaphragm is the cervical cap which is considered most effective when used with a spermicide. The combination of the cervical cap and spermicide creates a double barrier — the uterus is blocked and sperm cannot pass into the uterus. In general, it is possible to insert the cervical cap within six hours of having sexual intercourse. Irritation or itching may occur in some women who use the cervical cap.
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