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Female Condom

What are female condoms?

Female condoms have many of the same attributes and advantages as male condoms. They help prevent pregnancy by stopping sperm from entering your vagina during intercourse. They also protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis.

Female condoms are latex pouches that you insert into your vagina. They have flexible rubber rings at each end. One end holds the condom in your vagina like an anchor and the other end stays outside of your vagina during sex.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the only FDA-approved female condoms are the FC1 and the FC2. The FC1, made from plastic, is no longer produced. The FC2 is made of synthetic rubber called nitrile and is the only available female condom that is FDA approved.

How do you use a female condom?

It’s important to read the instructions before using a female condom. Carefully follow the directions to insert it properly. To use a female condom, insert it into your vagina before intercourse. The inner ring of the condom should be pushed into your vagina as far as it will go, up against your cervix. The outer ring should remain outside of your vagina. Take care not to tear or twist the condom while you insert it.

During intercourse, your partner’s penis should enter the condom without making any direct contact with your vagina. After intercourse, twist the outer ring of the condom and gently pull it out of your vagina. Be careful not to spill any semen while you remove it. You can insert your female condom up to eight hours before intercourse, but you should remove it immediately following ejaculation.

You can use lubricant or spermicide to improve the comfort and effectiveness of your female condom. Never ever use it with a male condom. The friction between both condoms can cause them to tear and fail. Never reuse a female condom.

How effective are female condoms?

Like male condoms, female condoms are very effective when used correctly and consistently. Research on the rate of successful use of barrier methods of contraception, fall into two categories: perfect use or typical use. In reality, few people use the female condom perfectly every time.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the failure rate for typical use of female condoms is 21 percent. That means that for every 100 women who use female condoms as their sole means of birth control, there are 21 accidental pregnancies per year. That makes female condoms only slightly less effective than male condoms. They have a use failure rate of 18 percent. 

When used correctly, female condoms can also help stop the spread of STIs.

What are the benefits of using female condoms?

Female condoms offer many of the same benefits as male condoms. Some of their unique benefits include:

  • convenience
  • affordability
  • lack of side effects
  • protection against unintentional pregnancy and STIs
  • a male erection is not required for use
  • does not contain latex
  • increased sexual arousal

Female condoms are slightly more expensive than male condoms. They cost an average of $3 each. You can find them at most drugstores, supermarkets, and healthcare centers.

One potential benefit of the female condom is it allows women to take more active and independent responsibility for preventing pregnancy and the spread of STIs. When you use female condoms, you don’t need to rely on your male partners to provide and wear their own condoms. You can insert a female condom up to eight hours before intercourse, so it also allow you to prepare for intercourse ahead of time.

What are the drawbacks of using female condoms?

Female condoms are simple to use. Still, some women find them bothersome or uncomfortable to insert and wear during sex. With a little practice and experience, you will likely find them easier and more comfortable to use. Like male condoms, you need to use them properly and consistently to prevent unintentional pregnancy and the spread of STIs.

The takeaway

Female condoms offer an affordable, convenient, and effective way to lower your risk of unintentional pregnancy. When used properly, they also protect against the spread of STIs. You can find them at most drugstores. Follow the package directions to properly insert and remove them.


Content licensed from:

Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Published on: Sep 18, 2014
Medically reviewed on: Sep 07, 2016: Kimberly Dishman, MSN, WHNP-BC, RNC-OB

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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