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Female Condoms

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Female Condoms

Overview

What is a female condom?

A female condom is a tube of soft plastic with a closed end. Each end has a ring or rim. The ring at the closed end is inserted deep into the vagina over the cervix to hold the tube in place. The ring at the open end remains outside the opening of the vagina.

Condoms can be used to prevent pregnancy or to help protect against sexually transmitted diseases. You must use a new condom each time you have intercourse.

Condoms prevent pregnancy by keeping sperm and eggs apart. The condom holds the sperm so the sperm can't get into the vagina.

How do you buy and store them?

  • Female condoms may be available for free at family planning clinics. You can buy them without a prescription at drugstores, online, and in some grocery stores.
  • Store the condoms at room temperature. Check the expiration date on the package before using one.

How well do they work?

When female condoms are used exactly as directed, 5 women out of 100 have an unplanned pregnancy. When they are not used exactly as directed, 21 women out of 100 have an unplanned pregnancy. This may be caused by not using the condom every time with intercourse or by not following the directions for use.

The female condom provides some protection of the genital area around the opening to the vagina during intercourse. And it may reduce the risk of getting or transmitting diseases such as genital herpes or genital warts.footnote 1, footnote 2

How do you use a female condom?

  • Use a new condom each time you have intercourse. You can insert it up to 8 hours before intercourse.
  • These condoms have lubricant on the inside. Spread it by rubbing the sides of the condom together. You can also add lubricant.
  • Find a comfortable position to insert the condom. Some women stand with one foot on a chair. Other women sit on the edge of a chair or lie down.
  • Insert one finger into the condom. With your other hand, squeeze together the closed end of the condom and place that end into your vagina. Use the finger inside the condom to push the closed end as far into the vagina as it will go.
  • The open end of the condom will hang about an inch outside your vagina.
  • During intercourse, the penis should be inside the condom.
  • After ejaculation, remove the condom right away.
    • Twist the open outside ring to close off the condom and hold the semen inside before the condom is removed.
    • Pull the condom out before you stand up.

What else do you need to know?

  • Don't use a female condom with a male condom.
  • If you think sperm may have leaked into the vagina during intercourse, you can use emergency contraception to help prevent pregnancy. The most effective emergency contraception is an IUD (inserted by a doctor). You can also get emergency contraceptive pills. You can get them with a prescription from your doctor or without a prescription at most drugstores.
  • You may put spermicide or lubricant on the outside of the closed end of the condom.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of female condoms?

Here are some advantages of the female condom.

  • It doesn't affect your ability to get pregnant in the future.
  • It's used only while you're having sex.
  • It's safe to use if you're breastfeeding.
  • It's safe to use if you have a medical condition that limits your choices of other birth control methods.
  • It's available in drugstores without a prescription.
  • It provides some protection against STIs.
  • It keeps semen from touching the vagina. Some people are allergic to semen.

Here are some disadvantages of the female condom.

  • Female condoms are a barrier method of birth control. Failure rates for barrier methods are higher than for most other methods of birth control.
  • Female condoms can be harder to use than male condoms.
  • Some people are embarrassed to use this method or feel it interrupts foreplay or intercourse.
  • You must use it every time you have sex.
  • Condoms may decrease sexual sensation.

References

Citations

  1. Minnis AM, Padian NS (2005). Effectiveness of female controlled barrier methods in preventing sexually transmitted infections and HIV: Current evidence and future research directions. Sexually Transmitted Infections, 81(3): 193–200.
  2. Wiyeh AB, et al. (2020). Effectiveness of the female condom in preventing HIV and sexually transmitted infections: A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Public Health, 20: 319.

Credits

Current as of: April 19, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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