Women's Barrier Contraceptive Methods: Poised for Change


  • Deborah Narrigan CNM, MSN

    Corresponding authorSearch for more papers by this author
    • Deborah Narrigan, CNM, MSN, is a staff member, Department of Internal Medicine at Meharry Medical College, Nashville, TN.

4003 Auburn Lane, Nashville, TN 37215. E-mail: dnarrigan@worldnet.att.net


Over the past 20 years, the number of women in the United States choosing a cervical barrier contraceptive method has dramatically declined. By 2002, fewer than 3% of women reported using any woman-initiated barrier method, including the diaphragm, female condom, or cervical cap. At the same time, however, research in infectious diseases indicates that cervical barriers may effectively prevent the transmission of several sexually transmitted infection. This possibility has fueled the recent development of two novel devices. This article examines the seven devices currently available in the United States, comparing their characteristics, efficacy, benefits, and drawbacks. Compared to the diaphragm, the new devices do not offer improved odds of pregnancy prevention, and evidence for their efficacy is sparse. Reasons for the limited acceptance of these methods as contraceptives on one hand—and for interest in their potential for limiting sexually transmitted infections on the other—will also be reviewed. Despite the limited acceptance of cervical barrier methods, midwives and other clinicians should promote their availability as an alternative to other reversible contraceptives.