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aThe basics
   

Female condoms (FCs) help prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV.  They are a great safer sex option that can be used by both women and men for vaginal and anal sex.  In terms of effectiveness, female and male condoms are equally effective, when used consistently and correctly.  FCs are unique because they are the only barrier method that can be initiated by the receptive partner, which helps women and men take control of their own health.   

Just like male condoms, FCs are shaped like an open-ended tube.  The main difference is that female condoms have two rings, instead of just one.  There’s a removable inner ring and an attached outer ring.  The inner ring must be kept in during vaginal sex, but for anal sex, keeping it in is a matter of taste.  The outer ring helps protect against STIs that are spread by skin-to-skin contact, like herpes, because it covers more surface area around the vaginal or anal opening, depending on what type of sex you’re having. 

Another bonus is that the FC is made out of a synthetic rubber called nitrile, which is hypo-allergenic.  This makes FCs a great option for people with latex allergies.  Nitrile can also be used with any kind of lubricant.  This is different from male latex condoms, which can only be used with water-based lubricant.

The picture on the left is of the first generation female condom (FC1) and the picture on the right is of the second generation female condom (FC2).  The FC1 was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993.  It is no longer in production, because in March 2009, the FDA approved the FC2, the new and improved edition!

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