A female condom is a flexible pouch inserted into the vagina or anus before sex. Their role is to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
During intercourse, these thin silicone-coated polyurethane or nitrile sheaths collect ejaculated semen.
The female condom differs in appearance from the male condom. Female condoms are pouches with a soft, flexible ring on each end.
The ring on the closed end is inserted into the vagina and holds the condom in place. The open-ended ring remains outside of the vagina during sex.
When used for anal intercourse, the condom is inserted into the anus instead of the vagina. Female condoms have yet to receive official approval for use in anal intercourse, however.
Female condoms are flexible pouches that can be inserted into the vagina or anus before sex.
While a female condom can be inserted up to 8 hours before intercourse, users should only use the condom once. Users should remove female condoms immediately following sexual intercourse.1,2,4
For a female condom to be effective in preventing pregnancy, it must be used correctly. Female condoms are 95 percent effective in preventing pregnancy when used correctly, with a 5 percent failure rate.1,2
When female condoms are not always used correctly, their effectiveness in preventing pregnancy drops to 79 percent, with a 21 percent failure rate.1-4
Although female condoms offer some protection from sexually transmitted infection, more extensive research is needed in this area.
Male and female condoms should not be used at the same time due to the risk of breakage or tearing.2,3,4
Fast facts on female condoms
Here are some key points about female condoms. More detail and supporting information can be found in the main article.
- Each year, around 21 in every 100 women who use female condoms become pregnant
- If used correctly, however, female condoms have a failure rate of 5 percent
- Female condoms do not usually contain latex
- Female condoms protect a wider area of the body than male condoms
- Female condoms are not as effective at preventing pregnancy than male condoms
- Each female condom can only be used once
- Female condoms can usually be purchased over the counter at pharmacies
- Users do not need to have an office visit with a healthcare provider before using female condoms.
Advantages and disadvantages of female condom use
As with any form of birth control, female condoms have both advantages and disadvantages to their use.
Advantages of female condom use:
- Safe, simple and convenient
- Can be used during menstrual periods
- Can be used with spermicide
- Can be inserted up to 8 hours in advance or inserted as part of sexual foreplay
- Can be used in the presence of a latex allergy
- Can be used with oil-, silicone-, and water-based lubricants
- Will not affect a woman's hormones
- Provides additional protection of the labia, perineum, and base of the penis from the human papillomavirus (HPV) and herpes
- External ring may enhance clitoral stimulation in some women
- Does not require a male erection to keep the condom in place.
Birth control methods
Condoms are just one form of contraception available to females.
Other forms include the diaphragm, the contraceptive pill and implants.
Potential disadvantages of female condom use:
- Vaginal, vulvar, anal, or penile irritation
- Allergic reaction
- Vaginal discomfort
- May slip into the vagina or anus during intercourse
- Not officially approved for anal intercourse
- Sexual sensation reduction and possible noise with sex
- Less discreet than other forms of contraception
- Has a lower efficacy rate than other non-barrier methods
- Each female condom can only be used once
- More expensive than male condoms
- More research is needed on exact performance in protecting against sexually transmitted diseases
- Requires learning how to use properly.
Buying female condoms
Female condoms can be purchased over the counter and online. Female condoms typically range in price between $2-4 per condom.1,2
Instructions and use of female condoms
For instructions on use and insertion, see the package insert of the purchased female condom.
If you have any questions about using of female condoms and if it is the right birth control choice for you, speak with your healthcare provider.