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Female Condom

Effectiveness: 79 to 95 percent; effectiveness is reduced if it slips or tears (5-21 pregnancies per 100 women each year).

What is it? A soft, loose lubricated latex-free nitrile pouch that fits inside your vagina and has flexible rings at each end to hold it in place. It lines the vagina, covering the cervix and the vaginal walls, and shields the outside of the vagina. It is coated inside and out with a non-spermicidal silicone-based lubricant.

How does it work? The pouch catches the semen and keeps sperm from reaching the egg. The barrier also reduces your risk of STDs. It can be inserted up to 8 hours before sex. To use, insert the smaller ring deep in your vagina, pushing it back to the cervix. The larger ring stays outside over the vulva. You can use additional or water-based lubricants with the condom, either on the inside or outside or on the penis.

STD protection: Yes, it protects against most STDs though no birth control method protects provides guaranteed protection.

Benefits: Female condoms are the only female-controlled protection against
HIV and other STDs. They will not affect your natural hormones. Can be used for vaginal or anal sex. They are easily available. They can be used if you have latex allergy and can be used with oil-based or water-based lubricants. With practice, they can be easy to use. Most males report no reduction in sensation, and the outer ring may help stimulate your clitoris. It is not necessary for your partner to maintain an erection while using the female condom.

Disadvantages: Outer ring may cause soreness for you or your partner. They may reduce your feeling during sex and may occasionally slip into the vagina or anus. They are bulky and may be awkward to use until you get used to them. They make noise during movement, but extra lubricant can help reduce it.

Availability: Readily available at drugstores.

Cost: About $4 each.*

Notes: Condoms are effective if they don't slip or tear so use lubricants to make them less likely to tear and to increase pleasure.

* The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to cover with no co-pay any FDA-approved contraceptive method prescribed by your doctor, including barrier methods, hormonal methods, implanted methods, emergency contraception, female sterilization and patient education and counseling. These estimated costs apply to women who do not have insurance coverage or who work for a "religious employer," who may be exempt from providing contraceptive coverage. For details about what your insurance covers, contact your benefits coordinator or health insurance provider.

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