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What is a female condom and how does it work?

A female condom–also known as an internal or receptive condom—is a pouch made of nitrile that is worn internally—inside of the vagina during vaginal sex or inside of the anus during anal sex.

When worn inside the vagina, a female condom can prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It has a ring on each end, one open and one closed, and is connected by a condom-shaped tube. The closed ring is inserted into the vagina and fits around the cervix, which is the opening of the uterus. The other ring stays just outside the vaginal opening. This is where the penis is inserted during vaginal intercourse.

To insert this condom anally, someone would remove the closed ring from the condom, place the condom over the erect penis and insert the penis inside the anus during anal sex. The other ring stays just outside the anal opening.

Female condoms can only be used once. Never use a female condom and male condom together. They could rub together and rip, and you’ll end up with no protection.

When used perfectly, a female condom prevents pregnancy about 95 percent of the time. The typical use rate is a lot lower—79 percent—because people don’t always use them correctly.

Just like condoms, female condoms only prevent the transmission of STDs that are passed through body fluids—HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis. Some STDs, like herpes and HPV, are spread through skin-to-skin contact. A female condom may not cover areas of the skin that are infected, such as the scrotum, labia or even the inside of the thigh. So condoms –both male and female—may not protect against these kinds of infections.

The good news is that there are few side effects from female condoms. Some say they slip or are uncomfortable during sex, especially if the rings rub or pull against the penis or the vagina. Some, though, say the female condom stimulates the clitoris, which can increase pleasure during intercourse.

Female condoms are sold in drugstores and supermarkets without a prescription. They cost about three dollars each.

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