Editor's note: This form of birth control was introduced in 2002 and its production was discontinued in 2008.
If you are considering investing in a method of birth control, you may be overwhelmed by the wide variety of products that are now available to women. From the female condom to the birth control pill, this huge variety of options can often make it difficult to select the right protection for you. Recently, many women have been looking to Lea's Shield for protection against unplanned pregnancies. Introduced in 2002, Lea's Shield can be very effective against pregnancy when used correctly. Reusable and hormone-free, it has been a popular choice for women since its introduction.
What is Lea's Shield?
Lea's Shield is a vaginal barrier contraceptive that is made of medical grade silicone. It is a cup-shaped device that is inserted into the vagina in order to prevent sperm from entering the cervix. Designed to be reusable, Lea's Shield is completely washable and lasts for a period of about six months. Lea's shield is available by prescription from your health care provider.
How Does Lea's Shield Work?
Lea's shield acts as a barrier to sperm. The shield completely covers your entire cervix and part of your upper vagina, preventing any sperm from entering your uterus and fertilizing an egg. Unlike the cervical cap and diaphragm, Lea's Shield is held in place by your vaginal walls. Made with an airflow valve, the shield allows air that is trapped between your cervix and the device to escape. This creates a seal between the shield and your vagina, ensuring that the device stays in place during intercourse.
Lea's Shield is a type of contraception designed for use with spermicide. Spermicide should be placed around the ring of the shield before insertion. This helps to kill any sperm that may be present in the shield. When used without spermicide, Lea's Shield is much less effective.
How Do You Use Lea's Shield?
Lea's Shield is inserted much like a tampon. You simply squeeze the shield and push it into your vagina, as far as it will comfortably go. When inserted properly, you should not be able to feel the shield inside of your vagina. The shield has a flexible ring, which can be used to help with removal.
You can insert Lea's Shield anytime prior to intercourse: just place spermicide around the ring of the shield and push it into place. Lea's Shield should remain in place for at least eight hours after intercourse. However, you can leave the shield in place for up to 40 hours after insertion. If the shield is left in place for more than eight hours, though, make sure to place additional spermicide in your vagina when having intercourse.
After you have removed Lea's Shield, take the time to wash and dry the device properly. The shield can be washed in warm, soapy water and left to air dry on a clean towel. Any water-based cleanser can be used with the shield. After it has dried, be sure to place the shield inside its protective case so that it doesn't become dirty or damaged.
Who Can Use Lea's Shield?
Any woman who is interested in controlling pregnancy can use Lea's Shield. You may choose Lea's Shield if you:
- can't use hormonal birth control methods
- are nursing
- want a backup method if you have forgotten to take your birth control pill
- find diaphragms or cervical caps uncomfortable
How Effective is Lea's Shield?
Lea's Shield is generally as effective as other barrier birth control options. When used correctly and consistently, the shield has a failure rate of about 12% per year. When used with spermicide the failure rate drops to about 8% per year.
Advantages of Using Lea's Shield
There are certain advantages to using Lea's Shield:
- One Size Fits All: Lea's Shield does not have to be fitted by your health care provider. The shield is designed to fit any woman.
- Doesn't Affect Your Period: Unlike hormonal methods of birth control, Lea's Shield does not affect your menstrual cycle.
- Longevity: Lea's Shield is reusable and usually lasts up to six months.
- Inexpensive: Lea's Shield is among the most inexpensive forms of birth control, costing about $65 per shield.
- Few Side Effects: Unlike other forms of birth control, Lea's Shield is associated with very few birth control side effects.
Disadvantages of Using Lea's Shield
Unfortunately, there are some disadvantages to using Lea's Shield:
- Failure Rate: When compared to hormonal methods of birth control, Lea's Shield has a high failure rate.
- Use of Spermicide: The use of spermicide can make oral sex unpleasant for some partners. Additionally, continued use of spermicide can disrupt the vaginal lining, increasing your chances for contracting an STD.
- Doesn't Protect Against STDs: Though Lea's Shield may reduce your risk of developing some STDs, like gonorrhea and chlamydia, the device does not offer any protection against herpes, HPV, or HIV. Condoms should always be used with Lea's Shield.
- May Increase Chances of Infection: Lea's Shield has been shown to increase the chances of toxic shock syndrome, bladder infections, and vaginal infections.