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A female condom is a type of contraceptive device used to prevent pregnancy and reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections. Female condoms may also be referred to as internal condoms.
Female condoms are thin pouches generally made from either polyurethane or nitrile with flexible rings at each end. They are inserted into the vagina, for vaginal sex, or the anus, for anal sex. Like male condoms, they create a barrier which impedes the sperm’s journey to the egg. The ring at the closed end holds the pouch in place, while the ring at the open end stays outside the vaginal or anal opening.
Birth control is rarely a sexy subject, but many couples find surprising benefits to female condoms. Inserting them can become part of foreplay. The external ring may also provide extra stimulation for the woman if it rubs against the clitoris. Some couples believe the female condoms let more warmth through to enhance sex. They can also be inserted up to eight hours before having sex, so couples need not wait until the heat of the moment.
Female condoms are readily available at family planning clinics, drugstores, and some supermarkets. At a cost of around $4 each, they are more expensive than many contraceptives. However, they have the benefit of protecting against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. When used correctly, female condoms prevent pregnancy in 95% of cases. If they are not used correctly, they will prevent pregnancy in 79% of cases. While female condoms reduce the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, they are not thought to be as effective in stopping the spread of infections as male condoms. Unlike male condoms, female condoms will also stay in place if the man loses his erection.
Female condoms can also be used without side effects. They do not affect a woman’s natural hormones, as the pill does. They can be used by people with latex allergies, unlike many male condoms. However, some people may find female condoms irritate their genitalia, or that they reduce the sensations of sexual intercourse. Using them in conjunction with an oil- or water-based lubricant can enhance these sensations.
Female condoms should generally not be reused, although a new concertina style design can be washed in the dishwasher for repeated use.