Female Condoms

What is a female condom and how does it work?

The FC2 female condom is a soft, loose-fitting nitrile sheath inserted into the vagina prior to intercourse, and held in place with two flexible polyurethane rings. One of the rings lies inside at the closed end of the sheath and serves as an insertion mechanism and internal anchor. The other ring forms the external edge of the sheath and remains outside the vagina after insertion. The labia and the base of the penis are covered during intercourse.

When should female condoms be used?

Female condoms are an alternative to male condoms that allows women to control use of a barrier method to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

FC2 condoms can also be used for anal sex in men or women.

How effective are female condoms?

When used correctly and consistently, female condoms are quite effective in preventing sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy. However, the typical effectiveness of FC2 condoms is lower because people do not always use them correctly and they do not use them every time they have intercourse. Female condoms are slightly less effective than male condoms, but they can be inserted by women before sexual activity. This increased control may allow individuals who are comfortable with their use to find female condoms a more reliable approach for preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

In order to maximize the effectiveness of female condoms in preventing sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy:

  • Discuss condom use with your partner before you get physically involved
  • Be sure you know how to use a female condom correctly
  • Practice inserting a female condom, so you can do it easily and correctly when you need to
  • Use a new condom every time you have sex

How do you use a female condom?

  • Open the package carefully, tearing at the notch. Do not use your teeth, scissors, or anything else to open the package; doing so might tear or destroy the condom.
  • While holding the sheath at the closed end, grasp the flexible inner ring and squeeze it with the thumb and second or middle finger so it becomes long and narrow.
  • Choose a comfortable position for insertion--one leg up, squatting, or lying down
  • Gently insert the inner ring to back of vagina; it will begin to unfold itself.
  • Keeping outer ring outside vagina, push inner ring to back of vagina, and make sure that the sheath is not twisted. The female condom is now in place for intercourse.
  • When ready for intercourse, guide the penis to the inner ring, making sure it's in the sheath and not beside it and the vaginal wall.

What are the advantages of the female condom?

  • Insertion is controlled by the woman (or the receptive male partner, when used for anal sex)
  • The female condom can be inserted up to 8 hours prior to initiating intercourse
  • The female condom covers more of the genitals of both the man and the woman, decreasing skin-to-skin transmission of sexually transmitted infections
  • Use creates an opportunity for users to become comfortable with their own body

What are the disadvantages of the female condom?

  • Female condoms are less readily available and cost more than male condoms
  • Some find female condoms to be difficult to insert and messy to use
  • Somewhat less effective than male condoms in preventing pregnancy and protecting from sexually transmitted infections

Where can I get female condoms?

Female condoms are not provided by Wellness & Prevention Services. However, they can be purchased at local drugstores or online stores.

Page content reviewed: 06/04/18 fwg