What You Should Know About Barrier Methods

Barrier methods, put simply, are “a covering used to prevent contact with body fluids.”[1] One of the most well-known barrier methods in the US is the condom, a way to keep sperm and other bodily fluids from mixing during sexual intercourse.

Condoms are typically used to prevent pregnancy and transmission of STDs or HIV. It is important to note that contraceptives (like the pill or an IUD) can prevent pregnancy, but they do not protect against STDs or HIV. Similarly, PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis) can prevent HIV transmission when used correctly, but will not protect you from other STDs your partner may have. In these cases, it is recommended to use a barrier method along with a contraceptive or PrEP routine to be sure you are taking measures to keep yourself sexually healthy.

Below are some common forms of barrier methods that can help protect you and your partner.

External Condom – These condoms are usually worn by those with a penis to keep sperm from getting into a partner’s body. These condoms can only be used once

Internal Condom – Internal condoms are typically used by being placed inside the vagina. These condoms keep sperm from entering the body and can be inserted up to eight hours before sexual intercourse.

Diaphragm – A diaphragm or cervical cap is a barrier method that is placed inside the vagina (typically with a spermicide) to cover the cervix and block sperm. Diaphragms come in various sizes, so you can always ask your doctor about proper fitting.

Spermicide – Spermicides come in several forms, including foam, gel, cream, film, suppository, or tablet. They are meant to kill sperm and are usually placed in the vagina no more than one hour before intercourse. Spermicide can be used along with external condoms and diaphragms.

Important Dos and Don’ts for Condom Usage


  • Check the expiration date on the package. If expired, get a new package of condoms.
  • Check the package for any damage or defects.
  • Use latex or polyurethane (plastic) condoms. These types of condoms work best to prevent pregnancy and STD/HIV transmission.
  • Use water- or silicon-based lubricants. Other based lubricants can cause friction and lead to breakage.



  • Do not use 2 condoms together! Using either 2 external or 1 internal and 1 external can lead to friction and breakage.
  • Do not use condoms made of animal skin (or “natural”) condoms. These can help prevent pregnancy, but will not work as well as latex or polyurethane condoms at preventing STDs or HIV.
  • Do not keep condoms in a hot place, like a car. If you carry a condom in your wallet or purse, be sure to replace it with a new one regularly.
  • Do not use oil-based lubricants (such as petroleum jelly, lotion, mineral oil, or vegetable oil). These can make a condom more likely to rip or tear.
  • Do not reuse condoms.
  • Do not use condoms that are torn or outdated.

Are you in need of condoms? Our clinics have a variety of FREE condoms including latex or non-latex, internal or external condoms, multiple sizes, and even various flavors and designs! You can contact our clinics at 570-829-2700 to talk to staff today about picking up condoms.

Concerned about your sexual health? Our clinics can offer screening, testing, and in many cases, treatment for STDs and HIV. You can make your clinic appointment today by calling 570-829-2700 or by using our online appointment scheduler!

[1] https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/barrier+methods