FEMALE CONDOM

A female condom—aka, an internal or receptive condom—is a pouch that’s inserted into the vagina.

EFFECTIVENESS
Not quite as effective as a male condom; more effective with spermicide.
SIDE-EFFECTS
Usually none, but it can cause a little irritation to your or your guy’s parts.
COST
Depending on where you get them, $0–$5 each.
WHERE TO GET THEM
Can find them online and in some drugstores and supermarkets.
ADDITIONAL BENEFITS
Hormone-free, helps protect against STIs.
OTHER NOTES
You MUST use a female condom every time you have sex.

A female condom—aka, an internal or receptive condom—is a pouch that’s inserted into the vagina. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world (it looks a bit like a floppy, clear, elephant trunk), but it does give women more control than a male condom and can help protect them from STIs. Female condoms work the same way that male condoms do except they are worn on the inside of the vagina, instead of sticking one on a penis. They keep the guy’s sperm inside the condom so it doesn’t actually touch the vagina. They can also be inserted into the anus during anal intercourse.

Don’t double up!

It’s not safe to use a female condom and a male condom together. They create bad friction and could cause one or both condoms to break.

Your partner refuses to wear a condom.

If your male partner won’t wear a condom, but you still want protection against STIs, the female condom is the way to go.

Female condoms take effort and commitment.

You have to make sure to use them correctly, every time, no matter what, for them to be effective.

No prescription necessary.

If you can’t, or don’t want to, visit a health care provider, you can always purchase a female condom—though they can be a lot harder to find than male condoms.

Cool for people with latex allergies.

Unlike most male condoms, female condoms are made of polyurethane (plastic) or nitrile (a synthetic rubber), so you can use them even if you’re allergic to latex.

 

Female condoms are pretty easy to use, but they take a bit of practice and getting used to them. And remember, if you rely on female condoms for birth control, you have to use one EVERY SINGLE TIME.

How to insert it

  1. Put some spermicide or lubricant on the outside of the closed end.
  2. Get comfy, like you’re going to put in a tampon.
  3. Squeeze the sides of the closed-end ring together and insert it like a tampon.
  4. Push the ring as far into your vagina as it’ll go, all the way to your cervix.
  5. Pull out your finger and let the outer ring hang about an inch outside your vagina. It’ll look a little funny.

You may need to guide the penis inside the female condom. That’s normal. If the penis slips out of the condom and into the vagina, gently remove the condom and reinsert it. But if your partner ejaculates outside of the female condom and into your vagina by accident, you may want to consider emergency contraception.

How to remove it

  1. Squeeze the outer ring and twist it closed like a baggie, so semen doesn’t spill out.
  2. Pull the condom out gently.
  3. Throw it away in a trash can, preferably one that’s out of reach of children and pets. Don’t flush it down the toilet! That’s bad for your plumbing.

This warning is worth repeating: You might think using a male condom along with a female condom doubles your protection. Not true. It makes both condoms more likely to rip. So don’t do it.

 

Female condoms are hard to find at everyday pharmacies and drugstores, but they’re available online for sure, and for a consistent price—usually somewhere in the range of $2–4 per condom. They’re not quite as cheap as the male condom, but if cost isn’t the only factor you’re considering, they can be a great option for preventing pregnancies and STIs. Local health departments and clinics sometimes have them for free.

Female condoms can help protect you from most STIs, including HIV.

There are positive and negative things to say about each and every birth control method. And everyone’s different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friends experience.

The Positive

  • No prescription necessary
  • Can be used even if you’re allergic to latex
  • Is pre-lubricated but can also be used with additional oil-based or water-based lube
  • Stays in place even if the man loses his erection
  • Helps protect you from STIs

The Negative

  • Can cause irritation
  • Some people may be sensitive to certain brands of lubricant. If so, try another brand
  • A male condom cannot be used at the same time, as that makes both more likely to rip. So don’t do it!
  • Hard to remember to use if you’re using drugs or alcohol

Don’t take our word for it. Check out the videos to hear women and men talk about their experiences with the female condom.

Lindsay, 20, female condom

Anastasia, 21, female condom

Sean, 33, female condom

 

Expert dirt: “Another way to help prevent STIs during vaginal or anal sex.”