Family Health Guide

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Birth Control: Condom

You might balk at using a condom - you're married after all. But when used correctly it's a reliable and easy-to-use non-hormonal method. Plus, there's one for each of you. The male condom is a thin latex, polyurethane (plastic) or animal membrane sheath that fits over a man's penis to collect sperm and keep it from entering the uterus. When used typically with some errors, the male condom is 97% effective at preventing pregnancy; the female condom 79%.

So what is a female condom? It's a thin plastic pouch that lines the vagina and is held in place by a closed inner ring at the cervix, plus there's an outer ring at the opening of the vagina to create a barrier between the uterus and sperm. It can be inserted up to 8 hours before sex. This is probably the least "sexy" birth control option and is not widely used, but it is an option.

Both types of condoms reduce the spread of STDs and are more effective against unwanted pregnancies when used with a spermicide that immobilizes and kills sperm.

And if you're thinking that two is better than one, it's not. Never use a male and female condom together as they are both more likely to break from friction. Rare but possible side effects include a latex allergy and an itchy, burning or stinging reaction to spermicide.