- Of 100 women who use this method each year, about 21 may become pregnant.
What is the female condom?
The female condom is a thin, soft, loose-fitting pouch (or sheath) with a flexible, soft ring on each end. One end of the female condom fits inside of the vagina to keep it in place, and the other end stays outside of the vagina. It is made from a synthetic, non-latex rubber called nitrile. It is pre-lubricated with a silicone lubricant. Female condoms are also sometimes called “insertive” condoms or “universal” condoms.
The female condom helps prevent unintended pregnancy by blocking the man’s sperm after ejaculation, which prevents sperm from meeting and fertilizing an egg. It also acts as a barrier to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV, but more research is needed. Female condoms are not considered as effective as male condoms in protecting against STDs.
How do I use it?
- Insert the female condom up to eight hours before you have sex.
- Squeeze the inner ring of the condom. Put the inner ring and pouch inside the vagina.
- After sex, twist the outer ring and carefully pull gently to remove the condom.
- Use a new female condom each time you have sex. Do not use a female and male condom at the same time, as this may cause both condoms to break or tear. Using two condoms DOES NOT increase protection. In fact, it can decrease your protection due to likely breaks or tears in the condoms.
- Because the female condom is non-latex, you can use any kind of lubricant, including silicone, oil-soluble, or water-soluble lubricants.
How effective is it?
Of 100 women who use this method each year, about 21 may become pregnant.
How do I get it?
Female condoms are available over the counter at drug stores, family planning clinics, and many grocery stores. Alternatively, this form of contraception is covered by most health insurance plans when prescribed by a healthcare provider.
Advantages of the female condom
- Female condoms are available over the counter.
- Female condoms are covered by most health insurance plans when prescribed by a healthcare provider.
- They are safe and effective to use.
- You can insert a female condom up to eight hours before you are ready to have sex.
- Unlike with latex condoms, female condoms can be used with any kind of lubricant—silicone, oil, or water-based.
- They provide protection against STDs during vaginal sex.
- They do not require immediate withdrawal of the penis after ejaculation.
- They are not tight or constricting for a larger penis.
- People who experience irritation with male condoms may not have the same reaction with female condoms.
- They are latex-free and safe for people with a latex allergy.
- More scientific data are needed about the use of female condoms for preventing HIV and other STDs when used for anal sex.
Drawbacks of the female condom
- Some people experience irritation and allergic reaction with female condoms, even though they do not contain latex.
- They can be more expensive than male condoms.
- They have not been officially approved for anal sex.
- Female Condoms
- Providing Quality Family Planning Services: Recommendations of CDC and the U.S. Office of Population Affairs
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2015
- Types of birth control
- Unintended Pregnancy
- United States Medical Eligibility Criteria (US MEC) for Contraceptive Use, 2016
- United States Selected Practice Recommendations (US SPR) for Contraceptive Use, 2016
Did You Know? (Condoms)
Did You Know?
Condoms protect against STDs, but are most effective at preventing pregnancy when used with another birth control method, like birth control pills, patch, shot or an intrauterine device (IUD), contraceptive implant, or vaginal ring.
Content last reviewed on May 6, 2019