Using Female Condoms

Julie Kirk
Reviewed by Terri Forehand RN
Affectionate young couple in their bed

Females condoms (or internal condoms) are another birth control option for women. It is a barrier form of birth control that helps prevent pregnancy and protects against sexually transmitted diseases.

What Are Female Condoms?

In comparison, the female condom is larger and looks quite a bit different from the male condom. Female condoms are made of non-latex, nitrile, which is a synthetic rubber. There is a minimal risk of side effects and an allergic reaction to the female condom is rare. The female condom is basically a thin, soft, lubricated, loose-fitting pouch with a flexible ring on each end. The smaller ring on the closed end of the condom will be inserted into the vagina up to your cervix. The larger ring on the open end of the condom will remain outside your vagina.

How Female Condoms Work

Female condoms are a barrier form of birth control which blocks the sperm from entering the uterus, therefore preventing the sperm from reaching and fertilizing an egg. When the female condom is used correctly, it is 95% effective and with normal use it is about 79% effective. While female condoms are highly effective at protecting against the transmission of STDs including HIV, it not considered as effective as a male condom. The female condom has also been recently FDA approved for both vaginal and anal intercourse.

How to Use Female Condoms

The following are step-by-step instructions on how to use the female condom:

  1. First, you should always check the expiration date and also see if there any signs of damage to the package.
  2. Carefully open the package.
  3. The smaller inner ring will go inside the vagina. The larger ring will remain outside.
  4. If additional lubricant (oil, silicone or water-based lubricants are fine) or spermicide is needed, you should apply it now.
  5. You will get into a comfortable position for the condom insertion. You can lie down, sit, squat or put one leg up on a chair.
  6. You will squeeze the smaller ring that is at the closed end of the condom and insert it into the vagina like a tampon. Make sure the condom is past your pubic bone. Place your index finger inside the condom and push it up towards your cervix as far up as it can go.
  7. Do not allow the condom to twist.
  8. The larger outer ring should extend outside of the vagina about one inch past the labia.
  9. You should guide the penis into the female condom. Make sure that during sex, the penis doesn't push the outer ring inside the vagina or the condom does not slip to the side.
  10. After sex you will remove the condom immediately. Twist the outer ring so that the semen is trapped inside the condom. Gently remove the condom and throw it in the trash. (Never dispose of it in the toilet.)

Precautions

These are not for everyone for several reasons. You can insert the female condom up to eight hours prior to having sex, but it must be removed immediately after sex. Never use female and male condoms together which can cause one or both of them to break. Keep in mind that female condoms are not reusable. They are strictly one-time use only. You may find it hard to get an appropriate fit that does not slip, so make sure you understand the directions before use. Note they can also be messy to remove, and some people may find they can inhibit sexual responses.

Where to Buy Female Condoms

Female condoms are typically sold in three or twelve packs and are readily available over-the-counter at most drug stores, online and at family planning clinics. There is no doctor prescription or special fitting required. They are relatively inexpensive but tend to be more expensive than male condoms.

What Do Female Condoms Look Like?

This is what a typical female condom looks like:

Female condom

Deciding if the Female Condom Is Right for You

You may want to consult with your health care provider to see if using the female condom as a form of birth control is a good fit for you. However, if the condom doesn't feel or fit right or you aren't comfortable with how the condom is inserted, the female condom may not be the best option for you. You will also need to keep in mind that if the condom tears or there is a semen spill when you remove it, you may need to use a back-up form of emergency contraception as well.

Using Female Condoms