HOW does a female condom WORK? The female condom lines the vagina to prevent sperm from going into the uterus and possibly fertilizing an egg and causing pregnancy. Spermicides, chemicals that kill sperm, certain bacteria and some viruses, should be applied in the vagina before the condom is used. When used in this way, female condoms give extra protection against pregnancy and STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases). You can buy a spermicide in a drug store or a supermarket without a doctor's prescription. Make sure the spermicide you buy can be used with a female condom. Not all of them can.
Certain other creams and jellies are only used for extra lubrication (to make the walls of the vagina more slippery). Lubricants do not prevent pregnancy or STDs /HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). In fact, some lubricants such as baby oil, hand lotions, Crisco, Vaseline, etc., can actually dissolve the material a female condom is made from! If you use a lubricant, make sure its label says it's safe to be used with a female condom.
HOW IS a female condom USED? A soft, loose plastic pouch is inserted into the vagina. The plastic pouch extends outside the vagina to cover the outer lips (the labia). Each condom is used only once then discarded.
Benefits to using a female condom: Using a female condom causes no major health concerns. No doctor's examination is required. Female condoms don't cost very much and can be bought in any drugstore without a doctor's prescription. Most women insert a female condom up to 20 minutes before intercourse (so sex does not need to be interrupted). Female condoms can protect against STDs/HIV.
Concerns connected to using a female condom: Female condoms can be difficult to insert. The condom's outer ring can be pushed into the vagina during intercourse, or the penis can slip in between the condom and the wall of the vagina. If either of these happen, there is no protection against pregnancy or STDs. Female condoms can cause minor irritation or discomfort. They can also break if they are not stored and used properly. Female condoms are most effective when used with a spermicide.
Effectiveness: This depends on how carefully partners use it. Using a female condom along with spermicidal foam is 98%-99% effective (that means 1-2 times out of 100 there will be an unwanted pregnancy). The high number results from using it exactly according to directions every single time. Without foam, the effectiveness rate is much lower -- as many as 1 in 5 times can result in an unwanted pregnancy.
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last updated November 19, 2005
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