By Sarah Robson
Female condoms remain a "novelty" contraceptive choice in the eyes of many and more needs to be done to make them affordable, Family Planning says.
MPs are considering a petition calling for the government to provide subsidised access to female condoms which, at the moment, cost around $5 each.
It's that cost that's believed to be the biggest barrier to increased use.
With a prescription, you can get around 144 male condoms for the same price, while a box of 12 male condoms from a pharmacy or supermarket will cost around $15.
Family Planning health promotion director Frances Bird says female condoms are a good option for women who prefer to use non-hormonal contraception, or are allergic to latex.
They also provide protection against sexually transmitted infections, and give women greater control and autonomy over their contraceptive choices.
"By providing greater, more affordable choices, we believe that female condoms can help to reduce inequities in health outcomes," Ms Bird told MPs on parliament's health select committee on Wednesday.
"If female condoms were as readily available and as inexpensive as male condoms, then women would have a different option in terms of immediate and reversible contraception."
Ms Bird is also pitching for an information and education campaign to go alongside any moves to make female condoms cheaper.
She says it's also important to properly evaluate any rollout of cheaper female condoms to inform future funding decisions.
In response to a question from National MP Jacqui Dean, Ms Bird says there's some awareness about the availability of female condoms, but not enough.
"There's still a novelty factor for most people, but I think there's a long way to go for raising general awareness for the wider public," she said.
There is only one type of female condom available in New Zealand, FC2.