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Female Condoms at a Glance
- A pouch inserted into the vagina to prevent pregnancy
- Reduces the risk of sexually transmitted infection
- Can be used for vaginal and anal intercourse
- Safe, effective, and convenient
- Easy to get
- Cost about $4 each
Are Female Condoms Right for Me?
There are two main kinds of condoms — female condoms and latex condoms. Here are some of the most common questions we hear women ask about female condoms.
What Are Female Condoms?
The female condom is a pouch that is used during intercourse to prevent pregnancy and reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. It has flexible rings at each end. Just before vaginal intercourse, it is inserted deep into the vagina. The ring at the closed end holds the pouch in the vagina. The ring at the open end stays outside the vaginal opening during intercourse. And during anal intercourse, it is inserted into the anus.
How Do Female Condoms Work?
Female condoms work to prevent pregnancy by covering the inside of the vagina. They collect pre-cum and semen when a man ejaculates. This keeps sperm from entering the vagina. Pregnancy cannot happen if sperm cannot join with an egg.
By covering the inside of the vagina or anus and keeping semen and pre-cum out, condoms reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections.
How Effective Are Female Condoms?
Effectiveness is a common concern when choosing a birth control method.
Like all birth control methods, the female condom is more effective when you use it correctly.
- If women always use the female condom correctly, 5 out of 100 will become pregnant each year.
- If women don't always use the female condom correctly, 21 out of 100 will become pregnant each year.
Effectiveness is also a concern when it comes to safer sex. The female condom also reduces the risk of many sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
How Safe Are Female Condoms?
Almost everyone can use female condoms safely. In fact, female condoms can be used by just about any woman who can use a tampon. They are also safe to use during anal sex.
What Are the Benefits of Female Condoms?
Using a female condom is safe, simple, and convenient. Women and men like female condoms because female condoms
- allow women to share responsibility for preventing infection
- are easy to get — can be purchased in drugstores and some supermarkets
- can be inserted by a partner as part of sex play
- can be used by people who are allergic to latex
- can be used with oil-based as well as water-based lubricants
- do not have an effect on a woman's natural hormones
- do not require a prescription
- may enhance sex play — the external ring may stimulate the clitoris during vaginal intercourse
- stay in place whether or not a man maintains his erection
What Are the Disadvantages of Female Condoms?
Most people can use female condoms with no problems for themselves or their partners.
Some women and men may not like the female condom because it may
- cause irritation of the vagina, vulva, penis, or anus
- slip into the vagina during vaginal intercourse, or into the anus during anal intercourse
- reduce feeling during intercourse
How Do I Use Female Condoms?
With a little practice, female condoms are very easy to use.
To insert the female condom
- Put spermicide or lubricant on the outside of the closed end.
- Find a comfortable position. You can stand with one foot on a chair, sit on the edge of a chair, lie down, or squat.
- Squeeze together the sides of the inner ring at the closed end of the condom and insert it into the vagina like a tampon.
- Push the inner ring into the vagina as far as it can go — until it reaches the cervix.
- Pull out your finger and let the outer ring hang about an inch outside the vagina.
If you want to use the female condom for anal intercourse, follow above instructions for inserting it into the anus.
During vaginal intercourse, it is normal for the female condom to move side to side. Stop intercourse if the penis slips between the condom and the walls of the vagina or if the outer ring is pushed into the vagina. As long as your partner has not yet ejaculated, you can gently remove the condom from the vagina, add extra spermicide or lubricant, and insert it once again.
If your partner has ejaculated outside the female condom into your vagina, you may want to consider using emergency contraception (morning after pill). Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy if started up to five days after unprotected intercourse. The sooner you start it, the better it will work.
To remove the female condom
- Squeeze and twist the outer ring to keep semen inside the pouch.
- Gently pull it out of the vagina or anus.
- Throw it away. Do not flush it down the toilet.
Do not reuse the female condom.
You can also learn how to insert a female condom by watching this brief video.
How Do I Get Female Condoms? How Much Do Female Condoms Cost?
The female condom is available at your local Planned Parenthood health center, other family planning clinics, drugstores, online, and in some supermarkets.
Nationwide and online, a female condom costs about $2-4. But costs vary from community to community.
Find Dr. Cullins' Answers to Common Sexual Health Questions
Q&A with Dr. Cullins