Female Condoms (Internal Condoms)

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on February 02, 2024
11 min read

Contraception comes in many forms. A female condom is one type of barrier method of birth control that prevents pregnancy and can help keep you safe from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It’s also called a “femidom” or “internal condom” because it’s used inside the vagina.

A female condom is a thin tube made of nitrile rubber or lab-made latex that you put into your vagina and take out after sex. The rubbery material forms a physical barrier that sperm cannot cross. The barrier prevents sperm from reaching an egg. If the sperm doesn’t reach the egg, you don’t get pregnant. 

Anyone with a vagina can use it this way. You also can put it in your anus for anal sex. 

Internal condom vs. external condom

When most people think of condoms, they picture an external condom (also known as a “male condom”). It's a rubbery pouch that goes on the outside of a penis, like a glove on a hand. 

Internal condoms are worn inside the vagina. They also can go inside the anus. 

Internal and external condoms look a little alike, but internal condoms come in only one size. Also, internal condoms are much wider.

The condom keeps sperm out of your uterus (your womb), which prevents you from getting pregnant. Plus, the condom protects you and your partner from STIs because neither of you comes in contact with the other’s sexual fluids.

As the female condom is a barrier method of birth control,  it acts as a physical barrier (like how an umbrella blocks rain) to block sperm from entering the uterus. It prevents sexual fluids, which can carry sperm or germs, from spreading between partners.

If you use a female condom, your partner doesn’t need to wear a male condom. If you use two condoms at the same time, they could rip.

If the condom breaks or you don’t use it correctly, you aren’t protected from pregnancy or STIs. You should make sure:

  • The package isn’t damaged before you use the condom.
  • The condom hasn't expired.
  • You use the condom the entire time you have sex.
  • The condom doesn’t tear.
  • Your partner’s penis stays inside the condom and doesn’t slip outside of it.
  • The condom doesn’t come out during sex.
  • The outer part of the condom doesn’t go inside your vagina.

Female condoms have a rim on each end. You place the end with a closed rim as far as you can inside your vagina and let the open end cover the front of your vagina. When you have sex, your partner’s penis enters your vagina through the condom tube.

For an internal condom to work, it’s important that you use it the right way every time. You have to put it in before sex, any skin-to-skin genital contact, or touching a shared sex toy to your vagina or anus.

Here are the steps:

  1. Keep unopened condoms in a cool, dry place. Most condoms don’t work if they’re exposed to too much heat (for example, if you leave them in a hot car).
  2. Examine the package. Make sure it isn’t broken, damaged, or expired. Open the package carefully so you don’t rip the condom with your jewelry, teeth, or even your fingernails.
  3. Add lube. This is a liquid or jelly-like substance that helps stop the condom from slipping or getting ripped. It also prevents rubbing so that sex is more enjoyable. Internal condoms come pre-lubricated, but some people like to add more. Use a water-, oil-, or silicone-based lube (if you’re using a sex toy, check its instructions first; certain lubes can damage some toys and raise your risk for STIs).
  4. Find a comfortable position. You can put the condom in while lying down, sitting on the edge of a chair, or standing with one foot on a chair.
  5. Put in the condom. Find the thick inner ring on the closed end of the condom. This ring helps you to put and keep the condom in place. Squeeze the ring’s two sides together (making a figure-eight shape). Place the inner ring in your vagina (or anus) just like you would a tampon. Push it as far as you can until it reaches the cervix. The condom will naturally expand to fill the space, even if you don’t feel anything happening. When you remove your finger, the open end should hang out by about an inch, covering the outer vaginal opening. Check that the material isn’t twisted.
  6. Have sex. Start by guiding your partner’s penis into the condom. It’s normal for the condom to move a little during sex. Use the condom the entire time you have sex. If you switch to a new form of sex (for example, anal to oral), use a new condom.

Stop sex if:

  • The condom tears
  • The condom falls out
  • The outer ring of the condom gets pushed inside the vagina
  • The penis slips outside the condom

If any of these things happen, remove the old condom and insert a new one. See below for information on emergency contraception.

  1. Remove the condom. Carefully twist the outer ring to avoid spilling the semen inside the condom. Gently pull it out before you stand up.
  2. Throw it out. Don’t flush it down the toilet, as this could cause a clog. Toss it in the trash instead. Never reuse a condom.


If the condom slips, breaks, or falls out:

  • Don’t douche. Rinsing the area could cause inflammation and raise your risk for STIs.
  • Take emergency contraception. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about getting emergency contraception (also known as the “morning after” pill). Take it as soon as possible, within 5 days (120 hours), preferably 4 days. Another option is to get a nonhormonal copper IUD within 5 days (120 hours).
  • Get tested for STIs. You can get this done at a doctor’s office or sexual health clinic. Even if you haven’t had unprotected sex, try to get this check-up at least once a year.
  • Ask about postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) for HIV. If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV, talk to your doctor about this antiviral medication. Taking it within 72 hours of unprotected sex could help prevent the infection from taking root.

Female condoms are great at preventing pregnancy and STIs. They’re effective for vaginal, oral, and anal sex, as well as for sharing sex toys and some skin-to-skin contact. But for them to work, you have to use them the right way every time you have sex.

When it comes to preventing pregnancy, female condoms work almost as well as male condoms.

  • For couples who use them correctly, female condoms are about 95% effective. This means that for every 100 people with a vagina who use them, five will get pregnant. Meanwhile, for people whose partners always use male condoms correctly, two out of every 100 will get pregnant.
  • For couples that don’t always use female condoms the right way, they’re about 79% effective. This means for every 100 people with a vagina who use them, 21 will get pregnant. In comparison, for people whose partners don’t always use male condoms correctly, 18 out of every 100 will get pregnant.

Condoms are not as effective as some other birth control methods. For example, out of every 100 people who use an IUD, contraceptive injections, or the pill, less than nine will get pregnant.

To maximize the condom’s effectiveness, make sure you use it correctly. You also can pair it with certain other contraceptives, like the pill or an IUD. But don’t pair it with another condom—this could cause one or both of the condoms to tear.

Internal condoms also help lower your risk for STIs, including HIV. STIs can spread through semen (cum), pre-cum, or certain parts of the skin. Internal condoms prevent these and other fluids from spreading between partners. By covering your vagina, an internal condom can help prevent contact with infectious liquids or tissues.

Female condoms have several benefits, as they:

  • Can help prevent pregnancy and STIs. Female condoms lower your (and your partner’s) risk for pregnancy and STIs. Typically, they are 79% effective at preventing pregnancy. Plus, the outer ring covers a wider area than the external condom does, providing extra protection from STIs.
  • Keep control in your hands. Using a female condom gives you more control over contraceptive decision-making.
  • Don’t affect your hormones. Female condoms don’t contain hormones, whichmeans fewer side effects.
  • Can be latex-free. The FC2 condom, which is the only FDA-approved female condom, doesn’t contain natural rubber latex. This is good for people who are allergic to latex.
  • Come in one size. You don’t need to worry about choosing the right size or needing to be fitted. And because the condom is wide, it can fit a range of penis sizes.
  • Aren’t permanent. Some birth control methods aren't reversible. With female condoms, you can choose when you do or don't want to use them, and they don’t need to be worn all the time, just when you have sex.
  • Have flexible timing. You can use female condoms during your period, while pregnant or breastfeeding, or after having a baby, miscarriage, or abortion.
  • Let you prep beforehand. The FC2 condom can be inserted up to 2 hours in advance, but other versions can be inserted 8 hours ahead of time. If you plan on having sex and don’t want to forget contraception in the heat of the moment, this is a great option.
  • Are convenient. Female condoms have a long shelf life. Unlike most condoms, FC2 condoms aren’t affected by heat or humidity.
  • Can be combined with other contraceptive methods. You can use female condoms while using an IUD or the pill. Some people add spermicide, but studies haven’t shown whether this makes it more effective. Female condoms can’t be used with diaphragms, cervical caps, sponges, or the NuvaRing. Most importantly, don’t pair it up with a male condom, as it could cause the condoms to break.
  • Work for anal and oral sex, too. Female condoms can be used for vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Use a new condom every time you switch to a new form of sex.
  • Can make sex more comfortable and pleasurable. The outer ring can stimulate your clitoris, and some people find more sexual pleasure from female condoms than from male ones. They tend to be more comfortable for partners who have a large penis. Also, you can use it even if your partner doesn’t have an erection, and they don’t need to remove their penis immediately after ejaculating. One small study found that internal condoms provide more comfort for people assigned male at birth (AMAB) who are uncircumcised.

Female condoms do have disadvantages. Compared to male condoms, they have a higher failure rate, are harder to find in stores, and can be more expensive. Other drawbacks of female condoms include the following:

  • They are less effective than other types of birth control. For every 100 people with a vagina who use a female condom, 21 typically get pregnant. In comparison, 15 would get pregnant if their partner used a male condom.
  • They are harder to find than external condoms. Many health clinics and stores only have male condoms. 
  • They cost more than external condoms. Internal condoms can cost five times as much as external condoms.
  • They are less discreet than other forms of contraception. Female condoms are bigger than male condoms, so it’s not as easy to fit them in a small pocket or wallet.
  • They can be difficult or uncomfortable to put in. One study found that half of women found them challenging to insert. In addition, some people don’t like to touch their genital area.
  • They can cause irritation. Some people feel discomfort or pain when putting in the condom or having sex.
  • They can make sex less pleasurable. People are generally aware of the condom’s presence during sex. For some, it lowers sexual sensation.
  • They can slip out of place. Female condoms move around during sex and can slip into the vagina or anus.
  • They may be noisy during sex. Female condoms tend to make squeaking sounds when they move. Some people find these sounds distracting.

A female condom might not be right for you if you’re allergic to lab-made latex, nitrile, or polyurethane or if you think it might not work properly for you.

If you have health insurance and your health care provider prescribes female condoms, you should be able to get them for free. Insurance plans are required to cover all FDA-approved methods of contraception. 

If you use Medicaid, check to see if your state covers female condoms. States are required to provide family planning services and supplies, but they have some flexibility about exactly what they offer. 

The FDA doesn’t require prescriptions to get female condoms. But Veru, the company that makes FC2, the only female condom authorized by the FDA, limits access to them by requiring prescriptions for purchase in the U.S. Telemedicine is an option for getting a prescription; you may not need an in-person appointment with your doctor. You also can get a prescription directly through the FC2 website.

Other places that might carry female condoms in the U.S. include health clinics and some nonprofit organizations. The CDC’s National Prevention Information Network has an easy-to-use widget that helps find free or low-cost condoms near your zip code. Before you go, call the organization to check if they have female condoms, as they’re less common than male condoms. 

You can find female condoms being sold online. However, FC2’s maker notes that their product is not sold on e-commerce sites or in sex shops.

Price of female condoms

Without insurance, female condoms can cost up to five times as much as male condoms. Female condoms usually cost $2.50 to $5.00 each, whereas male condoms usually cost a dollar or less.

Female or internal condoms are a great way to prevent pregnancy and protect yourself from STIs. They are a barrier method, which means that they stop sperm from reaching the uterus. Like other forms of contraception, female condoms have many pros and cons. Talk with your doctor to identify which method is best for you.

Do female condoms feel better for guys? It depends on the size of the penis and the couple’s preferences. Some partners prefer female condoms because they are more comfortable (not as tight on the penis) and allow better sexual sensation than male condoms. Others don’t like its large size and feel less sexual pleasure than with male condoms.

Do female condoms stay in? It’s normal for the condom to move around a little while you have sex, but it should never slip or fall out. Partners also must be careful to not push the condom into your vagina.

How do female condoms stay in place? The inner ring, which goes inside the vagina, anchors the condom in place. But you still need to be careful that it doesn’t slip, fall out, or get pushed into your vagina during sex.

Why do female condoms cost so much? Female condoms cost more than male condoms. The reason could be that they are less popular and not as widely used.