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A Guide To Barrier Contraception

Published : Thursday February 25, 2016 | Posted in : Contraception

Barrier contraception is heavily pushed by health workers. Why? Because it's a form of contraception that keeps body fluids under wraps.

Most STIs are passed on via the transfer of body fluids or skin-on-skin contact, and although the pill, the implant and the coil are all excellent ways to prevent pregnancy, they don't provide a safe barrier against STIs.

Here's a run-down of the barrier contraceptives available and how to use them correctly.


Condoms are the most widely known type of barrier contraception. They've been around since the days of ancient Egypt and Greece, when couples used the intestinal skin of cattle to trap semen - so hey you've got it good.

Nowadays condoms are made from latex, polyisoprene or polyurethane and are available literally everywhere. Tesco, Sainsbury, Lidl all stock condoms in various flavours, sizes and textures. Condoms are free from clinics and family planning centres. There is no excuse to avoid using a condom for penetrative, oral and anal sex, no matter your gender preferences.

How to use a condom

Condoms are 98% effective but first check the expiry date. If a condom has been hanging around in a wallet long enough to leave a circular mark in the leather, chances are it's beyond hope so don't risk it. If it's in date, you're good to go.

Rip the foil wrapper carefully and check to see which way it unravels. Then gently roll the condom onto an erect penis. If a penis is flaccid at this point it won't go on properly, putting you at risk. Roll it all the way to the base being careful of sharp fingernails, teeth and jewellery.

  • Use only one
  • Check it's still on during sex
  • Withdraw immediately so the condom is removed on an erect penis
  • Dispose in a bin not down the toilet
  • Stock up on more condoms

Dental Dams

So these are rarer, but not so elusive you won't find them. Check online, at your local clinic or when you see your GP because they can save your life, or at least a great deal of discomfort.

A dental dam is used to provide a barrier between your mouth and someone's genitals. Lady lovers should always have some handy. They look like thin plastic sheets which unfold to provide a safety barrier. Use one if you are giving oral sex to a lady or performance anal-oral (rimming) on either sex.

How to use a dental dam

  • Check expiry date
  • Use only once
  • Don't turn it over halfway through
  • Use it from the start of oral sex

Top Tip. If you're caught short and need a dental dam like RIGHT NOW, unroll a condom, cut off the ends and split it down one side. Voila - a dental dam that's ready to go.

Female Condom

These are made from polyurethane and are worn inside the vagina to prevent semen getting to the womb. They're 95% effective. In the UK the only type available is Femidom; they work well but look a little scary. Not as scary as chlamydia though.

How to use a female condom

  • Check the expiry date
  • Open the packet and slide it out gently
  • Insert the smaller end into your vagina with the tip squeezed shut. The larger end should cover the vaginal opening
  • Remove it immediately after sex by twisting it to prevent leakage
  • Bin it

With all barrier contraception, use a water-based rather use an oil-based lube because it can destroy the latex.

Remember barrier contraceptives are not 100% effective, but their efficiency is very high with proper use. Don't get carried away and forget them. Life with HIV, herpes and HPV is no joke, not to mention visiting the clinic to get your facial syphilis seen to. Be sensible out there.

It's really quite comfortable on this soapbox, so feel free to borrow it and shout about barrier contraception at your earliest convenience.


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