What Are Female Condoms?

Condoms for men and women look different, but both work in the same way: by creating a barrier that blocks semen and other fluids. Female condoms fit inside the vagina to prevent pregnancy and STDs. You can use one to lower the risk of STDs during anal sex, too. But don’t use one when your partner is using a male condom. They can stick together and pull out of place or tear.

What is a female condom?

A female condom is a long plastic pouch, usually made of polyurethane, that goes inside your body during sex. Flexible rings at both ends hold it in place. The condom lines the walls of the vagina and collects semen and other fluids.

Why not use a “regular” condom?

The birth control you use is a personal choice. But some women and couples might prefer female condoms over the ones that a man wears because:

  • You can put one in up to 8 hours before sex, so you don’t have to interrupt the mood.
  • Women can choose to use them if their partners don’t want to wear a condom.
  • They aren’t made of latex, which irritates some people’s skin.
  • They stay in place if your partner loses his erection.

Why don't some people use female condoms?

Some of the common complaints about male condoms can hold true for the female version, too. Some reasons people may not like them:

  • Like condoms, they can slip out of place during sex.
  • They can irritate your or your partner’s skin.
  • They might make the sensation of sex less intense. If this is a problem for you, try to make putting in the condom part of sex play.
  • They are slightly less effective at preventing pregnancy and STDs than male condoms.

Do they work?

Female condoms work almost as well as male condoms as long as you use them correctly. In a year, 5 out of 100 women who use them the right way every time will get pregnant. Compare that to 2 out of 100 women whose partners always use male condoms correctly. For couples that don’t always use it the right way, about 21 out of 100 women will get pregnant every year. For male condom users, that number is 18. Female condoms won’t eliminate your risk of getting an STD, but they do greatly cut your chances.

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How do you use them?

The way you insert a female condom is similar to how you put in a tampon. It may seem a little tricky at first, but all you need is a little practice. Here’s how you do it:

  • Use a new condom every time you have sex.
  • Be careful not to tear it when you open the package.
  • Put the condom in before there is any contact between the penis and vagina or anus.
  • Put lubricant on the closed end of the condom.
  • Find the most comfortable position to put it in. You may prefer to lie down, squat, or stand with one leg on a chair.
  • Squeeze the ring on the closed end of the condom together and insert it in your vagina as far as it will go, just like a tampon. For anal sex, put it as far as it will go into your bottom.
  • Let go of the ring so that it opens and stays in place.
  • Let the ring on the other end hang about an inch outside your vagina or bottom.

During sex, it’s normal for you to feel the condom move around. Just watch out for these problems:

  • Make sure your partner’s penis goes into the condom and doesn’t slip in between the plastic and your body.
  • Make sure the outer ring doesn’t slip inside. If it does and your partner hasn’t ejaculated, you can remove the condom and reinsert it.
  • If the outer ring goes inside you after your partner has ejaculated, or if he does it between the condom and your vagina, think about using emergency contraception.

Remove the condom right after sex. Twist the open end closed so that the semen stays inside and gently pull it out.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on August 24, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Teens Health: “Condom.”

Planned Parenthood: “Female condom.”

National (UK) Health Service: “Female condoms.”

New York State Health Department: “FAQ about condoms.”

Medline Plus: "Female condoms."

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