Currently, there are a number of barrier methods available for women, including the diaphragm, cervical cap, and Lea's Sheild.
Barrier methods of contraception include all methods that permit intercourse but prevent the sperm and egg from coming together as its primary mechanism. Male condoms are the only barrier method available for men. Female barrier methods include the diaphragm, contraceptive sponge, cervical caps, and female condoms. Spermicides are also considered barrier methods because they kill sperm before they can reach a waiting egg, thus preventing fertilization.
Natural methods include any method of contraception where pregnancy is prevented by abstaining from sexual intercourse on days where the female is likely to be fertile. The most popular natural method is the calendar-rhythm method, which has been replaced by more effective methods such as the symptothermal method and the standard days method. The advent of fertility computers is an exciting new development in contraceptive technology, as these make natural methods easier to use by telling a couple when sex will or won't result in pregnancy. Natural methods are approved for use by the Roman Catholic Church and pose no health risks.
As the process of ovulation is directed by female hormones, synthetic hormones can be used to keep an egg from being released so that sperm are not able to fertilize it. These same synthetic hormones can also prevent a fertilized egg from being able to implant in a woman's uterus and grow into baby. These methods tend to be more effective but also pose greater health risks. Hormonal methods of birth control include systems with estrogen and progestins, such as combination oral contraceptives, the vaginal ring, contraceptive patch, as well as estrogen-free methods such as the mini-pill (progestin-only pills), injectables and some intrauterine devices (IUDs). These are the same drugs used in emergency contraceptive pills. There are no hormonal methods available for men. All hormonal contraceptives pose a risk to preborn life in the earliest stages of development.
These methods are often chosen by couples who have decided not to have any more children. This can be achieved either by female sterilization, also called tubal ligation, or vasectomy for men. These methods both require minor surgery, and should be considered permanent.
There are other methods of birth control that do not fit neatly into the categories above. One of the most popular methods for teens is withdrawal, also called the pull-out method. Although this is does not require drugs or devices, it is not classified here as a natural method because the sexual act is interrupted. Many intrauterine devices also do not fit into the categories above because not all IUDs contain hormones. Some people use elective abortion as their primary or back-up method of birth control. Finally, let us not forget that sexual abstinence is also an important method of birth control, and in fact, the only method that is one-hundred percent effective.
- Contraceptive Failure Info: Contraceptive Information Resource (Contracept.org)
- Table of Failure Rates: Epigee Women's Resources (Epigee.org)
- Catholic Teaching on Contraception: from Catholic Answers (Catholic.com)