What is a female condom and how does it work?
A female condom, also called a femidom or an internal condom, is a barrier method of contraception. It works by preventing sperm from reaching an egg. It is worn inside the vagina and creates a lining which stops the penis coming into contact with the body. They are an alternative to male condoms which are worn externally over a penis.
The term female refers to biological sex but we know that people who do not identify as female may use this form of contraception too.
They also give protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). There's no research to show how effective they are for preventing STIs in anal sex 1.
How to use a female condom
Check the expiry date on the packet, don’t use one that’s out of date. Always put it in before the penis touches the vagina or genital area.
Sexwise recommend lying down, squatting or standing with a leg raised to insert the condom.
Pinch the inner ring between your thumb and middle finger. Use your free hand to part the labia (lips/skin around the vagina) and insert the inner ring as far as you can. Make sure the outer ring is outside the vagina.
Once your partner has come (ejaculated) they should remove their penis. Twist the outer ring of the condom to keep any semen inside and gently pull it out. Put the condom in a bin – don't flush it down the toilet 2.
Female condom effectiveness?
A female condom is 95% effective when used correctly – this means 5 in 100 people will become pregnant in a year while using this method of contraceptive 3. With typical use, the effectiveness falls to 79%, meaning 21 in 100 people are likely to get pregnant in a year 4. Typical use means that sometimes it might not be used correctly – for example, it falls out, breaks or is not put in or taken out in the right way.
Do female condoms protects against STIs?
Female condoms protect against most STIs. STIs which are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact such as herpes and genital warts could still be passed on to the areas of skin that aren’t covered by the condom
Can it break or fall out?
They can occasionally slip out. If this happens, you’ll need to use a new condom.
Femidoms can also break or split, if this happens and you want to continue having sex you should use a new condom.
If either of these things happen you might need emergency contraception. It’s also a good idea to take an STI test in a few weeks’ time.
Advantages and disadvantages of using female condoms
- A female condom can be inserted any time before sex so for some this can mean less of an interruption than putting on a male condom.
- When the penis goes into the vagina you’ll need to make sure it’s gone into the condom and not between the condom and the vagina.
- The condom is loose fitting so you may feel it moving around during sex but this doesn’t mean it’s not in place.
- A lot of female condom options are made from non-Latex materials so are suitable for people who are allergic or sensitive to latex.
- It can make sex noisy, but using extra lubricant (lube) can help.
Where can I get free female condoms?
Female condoms are less widely available for free than male condoms but you can get them at some sexual health clinics, contraception clinics and some GP surgeries. You can also buy them from pharmacies and some supermarkets, they are a little more expensive than male condoms.
Other contraception options
You might prefer to use a form of contraception that you don’t have to remember to use every time you have sex. Long-acting reversible contraception options are fitted or administered once and then will be effective for between 3 months and 10 years. You can choose from at the intrauterine device, intrauterine system, the contraceptive implant and the contraceptive injection.
Hormonal contraceptives need to be taken or replaced more frequently. These include combined contraceptive pills, the progestogen-only pill (POP), the contraceptive patch and the vaginal ring contraceptive.
Reviewed by our clinical team: December 2020 (next review date: April 2022)
1. Source: Aidsmap Female condoms for anal sex | aidsmap
2. Source: Sexwise How to use condoms | Sexwise
3. Source: Sexwise Condoms (internal) - Contraception - Sexwise
4. Source: Sexwise Condoms (internal) - Contraception - Sexwise