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A condom is a method of birth control and a form of protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). A person can place an internal condom in their vagina or anus to create a barrier between them and their partner during sexual activity.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved one internal condom, the FC2, in the United States. The FC2 is an internal condom that is latex-free and available on prescription.
This article explains what an internal condom is, how it works, and where to buy the FC2. It also suggests some alternative birth control methods.
It is possible to insert the internal condom several hours before sexual activity or immediately before it. As with a male condom, these products are suitable for one use only, so people should not reuse them.
Internal condoms are a barrier method to prevent unintended pregnancy and STIs. These products protect against pregnancy by stopping semen from reaching an unfertilized egg.
A person will need to insert the condom before sexual activity so that the penis does not come into contact with their vagina or anus.
Unlike male condoms, internal condoms come in one size. People should ensure that the internal condom does not become twisted or displaced during sex.
However, condoms cannot guarantee protection against all STIs. People who believe that they or a partner may have an STI should get a test.
Placing an internal condom is similar to inserting a tampon. Males can also use these condoms if they insert them into the anus.
A person should follow certain steps when using an internal condom. These include:
- opening the package carefully to avoid tearing the condom and then removing it from the packet
- holding the condom at the closed end, squeezing the sides of the inner ring with the thumb and forefinger, and inserting the condom into the vagina
- pushing the inner ring as far up into the vagina as it will go
- ensuring that the thin outer ring remains outside the vagina
- making sure that their partner inserts their penis into the opening of the internal condom
- pinching the outer ring to ensure that no semen comes out when removing the condom
A person should stop sexual activity if they feel the outer ring slip into the vagina. They should also stop if they feel the penis slip between the condom and the vaginal or anal walls.
Please note that the writer has not tested this product. All information is research-based.
The company says that a person can put the condom in place either a few hours or immediately before sex. The company also has a video on its website to show a person how to insert the condom.
The FC2 is 100% latex-free. The company makes the sheath and outer ring out of nitrile, and the inner ring is polyurethane. A silicone-based lubricant covers the inside and outside, but people can also use oil- or water-based lubricants if they wish.
This internal condom is free of hormones and provides:
- pleasure for both the user and sexual partner
- dual protection from pregnancy and STIs
- similar effectiveness to male condoms
People can purchase the FC2 from the company’s website, a pharmacy, or a family planning and health clinic. A doctor can write a prescription for this product, and the company states that most insurance providers will cover the costs.
If a person does not use their insurance to buy this product, they can expect to pay $2–3 per condom. The FC2 is available to buy as a single item or in multipacks.
There are several alternatives to the internal condom. People may wish to use one of various methods to protect against pregnancy or STIs.
Planned Parenthood, an advocacy group, lists some alternative options for female birth control. Some of these options include:
- Implant: The implant is a small, thin rod that sits under the skin in the upper arm. It releases hormones into the body, stopping a person from becoming pregnant for 5 years. It is more than 99% effective.
- IUD: IUD stands for intrauterine device. It is a small plastic device that a healthcare professional will position in the uterus. It changes how sperm cells move so that they cannot reach an egg, and pregnancy cannot happen. IUDs are 99% effective, but doctors can remove them at any time.
- Diaphragm: This is a small, flexible cup made of silicone that is most effective when a person puts spermicide into it before inserting it into the vagina. With correct use, the diaphragm — which blocks sperm from penetrating the cervix — is 94% effective. With typical use, it is 88% effective.
- Birth control shot: This is a hormone that a doctor or nurse will administer by injection every 3 months. If a person sticks to this schedule, the birth control shot is 99% effective.
- Vaginal ring: This small ring fits into the vagina and releases hormones constantly, which prevents pregnancy. The ring may also help prevent acne, breast cysts, and ovarian cancer.
- Birth control pill: A person takes this pill daily, and the hormones that it releases prevent ovulation. As a result, there are no eggs for sperm to fertilize.
However, these methods of birth control do not protect against STIs. Male condoms, or condoms that go over the penis, are up to 98% effective in preventing STIs, as well as unintentional pregnancy.
Below are some questions that people commonly ask about female condoms.
How effective are female condoms?
If a person uses an internal condom perfectly, it will be 95% effective in protecting against pregnancy and STIs. However, the typical use of this product, which takes into account the risk of incorrect insertion or a penis sliding between the condom and the vaginal or anal walls, gives a 79% protection rate.
Can people use a female and male condom at the same time?
People should not use male and female condoms at the same time. The friction between the condoms may cause one or both of them to break or slip out of place.
Why use a female condom?
There are many reasons why a person may want to use an internal condom. Some people may choose to use an internal condom if their sexual partner does not want to use a male condom. Others may use an internal condom to have further control over their birth control.
Will a female condom be noisy during sex?
Internal condoms should not be noisy during sex. However, if a person is aware of a noise, they could add extra lubricant, which may decrease the sound.
Female condoms, also known as internal condoms, protect against pregnancy and STIs. These products have similar effectiveness against unintentional pregnancy and STIs as male condoms.
The only internal condom with FDA approval is the FC2. The FC2 is available online, in most pharmacies (with a prescription), and in many family planning and health clinics.