Since You Asked – Biweekly Q & A
Do you have a question you’ve been dying to ask, but didn’t know who to turn to? Well, now you do. The National Women’s Health Network has established a biweekly Q & A column where you can ask questions on a variety of topics. Those topics include contraception, abortion, sexual health, menopause & menopause hormone therapy, osteoporosis, obesity, and some aspects of heart disease. Each week we will feature a new question. See this week’s question below.
To view past questions, check out our Since You Asked Archives.
What we are able to provide:
- A feminist perspective on current issues in women’s health
- Evidence-based research on the risks and benefits of certain drugs and procedures
- Information on available treatment options
What we are not able to provide:
- Medical advice
- Physician referrals
- Financial assistance in paying for health care
- Information on general health topics
Please note: Questions submitted will not be answered personally, and not all questions submitted will be answered. If your question is selected, you will be notified via email. Before you submit your question, search our website to see if you find the answer to your question. Your answer might be found in a fact sheet, newsletter article or on one of our advocacy pages. NWHN can provide you with accessible and accurate health information; however, we are not medically licensed professionals and thus cannot provide medical diagnostic or treatment advice.
Biweekly Column – Let’s talk about female barrier methods this Valentine’s Day!
Internal condoms (also known as female condoms) are soft plastic pouches that you can insert into your vagina or anus to protect against pregnancy and STIs. Like external condoms—also called male condoms—they create a barrier that prevents ejaculation (cum) from entering the vagina or anus. When worn correctly, they offer the same protection as a regular condom. They are also a good choice if you or your partner are allergic to latex. You can find internal condoms online and in stores for around $20.00 for a 12 pack, or at family planning centers.
How to use an internal condom:
- If you can use a tampon, you can use an internal condom so get into your most comfortable, tampon-inserting position: squatting, one leg up on a chair, whatever works best for you.
- Direct the closed end of the condom towards your body with the open end away from your body.
- With your fingers, squeeze the ring on the closed end and slide it in your vagina, similar to how you would insert a tampon.
- Push the ring in as far as it will go, until it touches your cervix.
- Pull your fingers out, making sure that the condom is not twisted. (The outer ring of the condom should hang about an inch outside of your vagina.)
- Get busy!
You may feel the condom move during sex. That is ok! Just make sure that your partner’s penis isn’t going outside of the condom. If that does happen, you can adjust the internal condom. If ejaculation does go into the vagina, look for emergency contraception such as Plan B, which can be found at drugstores, pharmacies or family planning clinics.
How to remove an internal condom:
- Twist the outer ring to keep the semen in the condom and gently pull it out.
- Throw it away in the trash, do not flush them down the toilet.
- Just like regular condoms, internal condoms are not reusable! You must use a new one every time you have sex.
For internal condoms to be most effective, you need to use them correctly every time you have sex. And remember, doubling up on condoms makes them less effective. Do not use a regular condom with an internal condom as this will cause one or both of them to break. Just pick one!
Internal condoms are great because it’s a method that the receptive partner can control. If your partner does not want to wear a condom, you can! If you find regular condoms disruptive, internal condoms can be inserted before hand, so you are already protected when you are ready to go. Alternatively, inserting an internal condom can also be a part of foreplay. Internal condoms are a great option for safer sex and we encourage you to learn about them and their history of empowering receptive partners to take charge of their sexual health.
Diaphragms are shallow, dome shaped silicone cups that you add a little bit of spermicide to before inserting into your vagina. When used perfectly, they are 94% effective, but let’s be real, no one is perfect, so realistically, they are about 88% effective. Diaphragms come in different sizes so you need to visit your medical provider to get fitted for one. They will write you a prescription which you can fill at a pharmacy. You do not need a prescription for the spermicide, which is sold over the counter at pharmacies. It must be used in tandem with a diaphragm. Most insurance plans cover diaphragms so you can get one for free or at a reduced price. If you are uninsured, they can cost up to $95. Spermicides are usually $5.00 – $15.00.
How to use a diaphragm:
- Put about a teaspoon of spermicide in the cup and spread a little on the rim as well.
- Pinch the sides of the diaphragm to fold it in half. To get a better grip, pinch with your thumb and middle finger and place your index finger in the middle of the fold.
- Push the diaphragm into your vagina as far as it will go so that the cup covers your cervix and the rim can tuck behind your pubic bone.
- Get it on!
How to remove a diaphragm:
- Wait 6 hours from the last time you have sex. If you have sex again in that time frame, just add more spermicide first! The clock starts after the last time you have sex.
- Hook your finger over the top of the rim and gently pull down and out.
- Wash it with warm water and soap and store in a dry place out of direct sunlight.
Diaphragms are a great, reusable form of protection against unwanted pregnancy. With proper care, your diaphragm will last for several years. You need to keep it clean, stored properly, and don’t use any powders or oil based lubricants such as vaseline on it. Lastly, check for leaks periodically by filling it with water. If your diaphragm has a leak, you need to get a new one and use an alternate method of birth control in the meantime.
Like internal condoms, a diaphragm is a method of contraception that you can control yourself. You can insert it well before sex so you don’t have to think about it later, but you should not leave it in your body for more than 24 hours. To prevent STIs you can use a regular condom with a diaphragm. Lastly, your diaphragm is yours and yours alone, so do not share them!
We hope you have a safe, satisfying Valentine’s Day!
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