Everything you need to know about the female condom

Everything (and more) that you need to know about this often overlooked form of contraception

Whatever boys can do, girls can do better, right?

The female condom is something that definitely doesn’t get enough airtime, and lives its life in the shadow of its older, more popular cousin: the male condom.

But as a simple, easy, and no-fuss form of contraception, we can’t understand why it’s not talked about more.

Of course, the primary purpose of contraception is to protect against pregnancy, but condoms bring that extra oomph by also helping to protect against STI’s – which is great, because let’s be real – absolutely no one has time for them.

What is the female condom?

Female condoms (also known as internal condoms) are made up of a strong plastic called polyurethane.

They and are soft, loose-fitting pouches, designed with rings at either end. One ring is inserted into the vagina to hold the condom in place, and once inserted becomes immediately effective. The trusty condom is the only type of contraception that when used correctly stops pregnancy and protects against STI’s.

female condom blue

How does the female condom work?

The female condom is worn inside the vagina and should be inserted before or during intercourse, working  by stopping sperm meeting the egg. If used correctly, the condom is 95% effective, however it’s important to ensure that the penis is inside the condom during intercourse, otherwise there is a chance that sperm could get into the vagina.

Just for your convenience, female condoms come pre-lubricated, but if you want to use your own, check the packet to check which ones are suitable.

How to use a female condom

Start by sitting, squatting or lying in a comfortable position. To use, carefully open the packet, making sure not to tear or rip the condom with any jewellery or long nails, and definitely don’t go opening it with your teeth!

Squeeze the smaller ring at the closest end of the condom and place it inside your vagina. Use your fingers to push the inner ring as far back into your vagina as you can, then with your fingers inside the condom, open the large ring at the open end of the condom. It should be outside of the opening of the vagina.

This one might sound obvious, but remember it’s something that needs to be changed each time.

How do I remove a female condom?

After sex, remove the female condom by gently pulling it out- twisting the large ring stops any leakage. The product is purposely designed to be loose fitting and is normal for it to move around slightly during sex, so no need to worry if you think it’s moved. It’s important to remember not to throw them down the toilet – be considerate of the poor turtles and put them in the bin!

female condom vs male condom

Female condom VS male condom

Both forms of condoms are similar in how they work, and we’d suggest trying both to see which one you prefer. However DO NOT try doubling up and using them together, as this will not protect you, and can even cause the condoms break. Some things to consider when choosing:

  • Unlike female condoms, male condoms must be put on just before intercourse when the penis is erect, and cannot be put on prior to this, so might kill the moment a bit
  • Most male condoms are made from latex, which some people can be allergic to, whereas female condoms are made from Nitrile, which is a hypoallergenic so doesn’t irritate skin
  • As female condoms are slightly bigger, they can often be more comfortable for both parties

Pros and cons of the female condom

Pros

  • Non hormonal contraception
  • No effect on weight gain
  • No effect on periods
  • No loss of sex drive
  • Protects against STI’s
  • Only needs to be used during sex

Cons

  • Can slip out
  • Can split or tear
  • Penis can insert outside of the condom by mistake
  • Have an expiry date
  • Can get stuck in the vagina (but often easy to remove)
  • Can be affected by storage, e.g don’t store it anywhere too hot or too cold

Who should use female condoms?

Female condoms can be used by most people, and can also use them immediately after having a baby, miscarriage or abortion. Other potential users include:

  • Women wanting to protect against both pregnancy and STI’s
  • Women wanting immediate protection
  • Women sensitive to natural rubber latex

Who shouldn’t use it?

  • Women not comfortable inserting contraception themselves
  • Women that don’t want to insert contraception each time before intercourse
  • Women allergic to polyurethane or synthetic latex
  • Women that have vaginal abnormalities that interfere with the fit, placement or retention of the female condom

Where can I get a female condom?

When purchasing the female condom, you might find they’re slightly harder to get hold of than the traditional male condom. In the UK, they are sometimes stocked in contraception clinics, sexual health clinics and GP surgeries for free, however are not available in every contraception and sexual health clinic. When purchasing your female condoms, it’s important to know to only buy condoms that have the CE mark or the BSI Kite mark on the packet. This means they have been tested to high safety standards.

If you’re looking for protection against STI’s then we couldn’t recommend it more, but if you’re someone that doesn’t want to kill the mood, or are fearful of inserting it yourself, then maybe you need to keep shopping for that perfect contraception for you!

Not sure if the female condom is right for you? Check out our guides to additional contraceptives available including the Natural Cycles app and combined pill

This guide was brought to you by The Lowdown. We are the world’s first contraception review platform, providing real-life experiences from thousands of reviews collected from our community of men and women.

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