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Female Condoms: Effectiveness and Benefits

Medically Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on August 05, 2020

Contraception comes in many forms. A female condom is one type of barrier method that prevents pregnancy and can keep you safe from sexually transmitted diseases.

Also called an “internal condom,” a female condom is a thin tube made of nitrile rubber or human-made latex that you put into your vagina and take out after sex.

How Female Condoms Work

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.

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 STDs because neither of you come in contact with the other’s sexual fluids.

After sex, you carefully pull the condom out of you while making sure to keep the semen inside of it. You should only use a female condom once and throw it away in the trash when you’re done.

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 STDs. You should make sure:

  • The package isn’t damaged before you use the condom
  • The condom isn’t expired
  • You use the condom the entire time you have sex
  • The condom doesn’t tear
  • Your partner’s penis stays in 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

Benefits

One of the biggest advantages of female condoms is that you can buy them without a prescription or a visit to your doctor for an exam.

Female condoms also make life easier by allowing you to prepare for sex. You can put one in up to 8 hours in advance. Your partner may also have a more comfortable experience since female condoms can fit a range of penis sizes. You may also enjoy extra stimulation to your clitoris from the outer ring. Plus, you can use any kind of lubricant with it.

Other benefits include:

  • Works instantly
  • Your partner doesn’t need to remove their penis as soon as they ejaculate
  • Good for people who are allergic to latex
  • An erect penis isn’t needed to keep it in place
  • Has little to no side effects
  • OK for anal sex

Drawbacks

Female condoms do have disadvantages. One of the main downsides is that they have a fail rate of 21% compared to a 13% failure rate for male condoms. But the higher fail rate could be because people don’t use female condoms regularly for consistent protection. Female condoms are also harder to find in stores and can be more expensive.

Couples sometimes don’t like to see the outer ring and find the condom to be noisy during sex. Other possible negatives for women include:

  • Uncomfortable putting in the condom
  • Bad reaction to it that causes pain and an itchy or burning feeling
  • Discomfort while using the condom
  • Potential urinary tract infection (UTI) if the condom stays in too long

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

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: “Female Condom.”

Avert: “Female Condoms – How to Use a Female (Internal) Condom.”

FDA: “FC2 Package Insert/Instructions Leaflet.”

CDC: “Female Condom Use: The Right Way To Use A Female Condom,” “Contraception: Birth Control Methods.”

UpToDate: “Female condoms.”

Mayo Clinic: “Female condom,” “Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).”

Bedsider: “Internal Condom.”

MedScape: “What are disadvantages of female condoms for contraception?”

Cleveland Clinic: “Female Condom.”

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