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The Female Condom

Find out all you need to know about the female condom

The female condom

The female (internal) condom is a thin plastic and loose-fitting sheath that is places into and around the entrance of the vagina. Condoms are the only contraceptive method which protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The condom works by acting as a barrier to stop sperm from travelling through the vagina to the uterus (womb) during sex, and preventing the sperm and egg from meeting. It only needs to be used when having sex.

Video - The Female Condom

Would you like to find out everything you need to know about the female condom? We've created this short explainer video, filled with information about the female condom:

  • What it is
  • How to use it
  • How effective it is in protecting against pregnancy
  • Advantages
  • Disadvantages
MSI UK nurse holding condoms and a contraception information leaflet

Effectiveness of the female condom 

The female condom works reasonably well at preventing pregnancy but its ability to stop a pregnancy largely depends it being used properly every time a couple has sex. This means it must be worn from the start to the finish of the sex act and a new one must be used for every sex act.

With typical use 21 out of 100 users will become pregnant.

Never use any oil-based lubricant with a condom as it will make it more likely to break during sex (silicone or water-based lube is fine).

How do I use a female condom?

Check that the condom has not gone past its expiry date or been damaged

  • There are several types of female condoms available in the market. Generally they come with an inner and outer ring.
  • The inner ring is squeezed together and inserted into the vagina while in a squatting or lying position with your legs spread.
  • The longest finger should then be used to push the ring as far into the vagina as possible. Some of the condom will hang out and be visible outside of the vagina.
  • Before sex, hold the edges of the condom against the outside of your vagina when the penis enters to make sure the condom does not get pushed inside during the sex act.
  • Also, make sure that the penis is inside the condom and not between the condom and the vaginal wall.
  • After sex, pull the condom out carefully to avoid anything spilling out. Tie the end of the condom and dispose of it in a rubbish bin, not in a toilet (as it may cause blockage).

The only contraceptive method that protects against STIs

 

Condoms (male and female) are the only contraceptive method which protect against sexually transmitted infections. To ensure protection from both pregnancy and infection, we recommend "dual protection". This means using a male or female condom in addition to the contraceptive method of your choice to prevent pregnancy.

Do you know about LARC contraceptive methods?

If you really don’t want to get pregnant, say for the next year at least, it’s worth thinking about a LARC method: LARC stands for long acting reversible contraception, such as the implant, coil and injection. Once these methods are fitted you can forget about them!

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Female Condom

As with all contraceptive methods, there are a range of advantages and disadvantages when it comes to using the female condom.

Advantages of the Female Condom

  • It can be used at any time.
  • You only need to use condoms when you have sex.
  • Female condoms can be used for vaginal or anal sex and they help to protect against most sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
  • A female condom can be put on up to 8 hours before sex and thus does not have to affect spontaneity of sex. Also, because the female condom lines the inside of the vagina, the penis does not have to be withdrawn immediately after ejaculation.
  • In general female condoms do not cause an irritation to the vagina. Most female condoms are made from a substance called polyurethane, which is non-latex and therefore is safe for those who suffer from a latex allergy.
  • Condoms can be used straight after childbirth, abortion or miscarriage.

Disadvantages of the Female Condom

  • Female condoms may require some practice to use correctly.
  • Condoms have to be used correctly every single time you have sex to be effective.
  • Female condoms can sometimes get pushed into the vagina during sex or come out.
  • If the condom breaks, tears, falls off or gets pushed into the vagina during sex, then you may need to go to a doctor or pharmacy to use emergency contraception as soon as possible afterwards to prevent pregnancy (and you may be at risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection).
  • Condoms will create a different sexual sensation than sex without a condom.

Where can I get female condoms?

In the UK, you can get condoms for free from sexual health clinics, some GP surgeries and some young people's services.

You can buy condoms from pharmacies, supermarkets, some websites, vending machines in some public toilets and some petrol stations.

At MSI UK, we primarily offer contraception services as part of your abortion care. We also recently launched new contraception-only clinics in a number of areas, meaning you can access LARC (Long-Acting Reversible Contraception, such as the IUD, the IUS, the implant and the injection) with us without having had a termination of pregnancy. Follow the link to find out more: MSI UK Contraception Clinics

Try our Digital Contraception Counsellor "Choice"

It’s important to know more about different contraceptive options so that we can support you as best we can. Our digital counsellor "Choice" helps you find the best contraceptive options for you. Fill out a questionnaire about your lifestyle, preferences, needs and medical history, and you'll see a list of the most appropriate contraception options for you.