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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.

This article explains what an internal condom is, how it works, who can use it, and where to buy the FC2. It also explores other internal condoms and suggests some alternative birth control methods. Finally, it answers some of the most frequently asked questions about internal condoms.

“Perfect” vs. typical birth control use

This article talks about perfect and typical use of birth control. Perfect use describes how effective a form of birth control is if people use it exactly as the instructions recommend every they have sex. Typical use describes how effective a form of birth control is if a person sometimes uses it per the instructions but may also use it irregularly or imperfectly.

Even with perfect use, contraception is not 100% effective. People should discuss birth control options with a healthcare professional to find the right option for them.

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A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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The “female” or internal use condom is similar to the more common “male” or external condoms available at nearly any pharmacy and online. Despite offering similar benefits, including STI and pregnancy prevention, the internal condom is not widely available.

For several years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classified the internal condom as a class III device under the name of “female condom.” This designation required manufacturers to go through additional steps such as preapproval before selling the internal condom.

The higher regulatory status may help explain why the FDA has only approved two internal condoms since 1993. The two approved condoms include the FC1 and the FC2, which replaced the FC1.

In addition, the company that produces the FC2 made its internal condom available with prescriptions only. The company stated this was to help people take advantage of the Affordable Care Act’s birth control coverage.

However, some organizations, such as WORLD, expressed concerns over costs for the uninsured and ease of access to internal condoms.

Finally, some speculate that the name “female condom” may have limited people’s willingness to purchase internal condoms. For example, the National Women’s Health Network (NWHN) noted that the gendered name may have discouraged some individuals from purchasing them.

As of 2018, the FDA renamed the female condom the internal condom. They also changed it from a class III device to class II, the same designation that the external condom has had for decades.

A person places an internal condom inside the vagina or anus. This barrier method protects against unintended pregnancy and STIs. These products protect against pregnancy by stopping semen from reaching an unfertilized egg.

It is possible to insert the internal condom up to 8 hours before sexual activity or immediately before it so that the penis does not come into contact with the vagina or anus. As with an external condom, these products are suitable for one use only, so people should not reuse them.

Unlike external condoms, internal condoms come in one size. People should ensure that the internal condom does not become twisted or displaced during sex.

A 2015 study notes that internal condoms are 95% effective against unintentional pregnancy with perfect use. This effectiveness decreases to 79% with typical use. External condoms, on the other hand, are 98% effective against pregnancy with perfect use and 85% effective with typical use.

In a 2020 study, researchers noted that the simultaneous use of external and internal condoms might provide the best protection against HIV and other STIs. However, they noted that additional studies are needed. Additionally, organizations such as the NWHN do not recommend people use the two types of condoms together.

Condoms cannot guarantee protection against all STIs. People who believe that they or a partner may have an STI should get a test.

The internal condom may be a good option for any sexually active people looking to prevent pregnancy or the transmission of STIs. Research suggests that internal condoms are 95% effective at preventing pregnancy under ideal circumstances and typically have proved to be about 79% effective.

Placing an internal condom is similar to inserting a tampon. People can also insert them into the anus.

A person should follow certain steps when using an internal condom. These include:

  1. Opening the package carefully to avoid tearing the condom, then removing it from the packet.
  2. 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.
  3. Pushing the inner ring as far up into the vagina as it will go.
  4. Ensuring that the thin outer ring remains outside the vagina.
  5. Making sure that their partner inserts their penis into the opening of the internal condom.
  6. Pinching the outer ring to ensure that no semen comes out when removing the condom.

People 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 of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

The FC2 is the only FDA-approved brand of internal condom in the United States.

The company says that a person can put a 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 a 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 external 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.

The FDA has not approved the products below, and people should consider trying the FC2 instead of alternative products. A person may wish to consult a doctor before purchasing or using the internal condoms below.

Ormelle Female Condoms

Ormelle sells female or internal condoms through online retailers. They are available without a prescription and can ship to most places across the U.S.

Though this product is not FDA-approved, the company states that it tests its condoms electronically.

It also notes that the condoms help enhance the pleasure of both partners when using them.

Finally, like the F2, a person can insert a condom several hours before sexual intercourse.

This product is available starting from $16.95 for a pack of six.

So Sexy Female Condoms

So Sexy offers an internal condom for purchase online. A person can insert a condom up to 8 hours before sexual intercourse.

The company claims the condoms do not contain latex, making them safe for people with latex allergies to use. The condoms also have a spermicidal lubricant for possible added protection.

Furthermore, So Sexy claims that the outer ring of their condoms covers more skin outside of the vulva than an external condom.

However, the company does not describe its testing process, and the product is not FDA-approved.

This product is available for $33.95 for a pack of 10.

There are several alternatives to the internal condom that people can use to protect against pregnancy or STIs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some alternative options for birth control 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 3 years. It is more than 99% effective.
  • Intrauterine device (IUD): An IUD 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. According to Planned Parenthood, the diaphragm, which blocks sperm from penetrating the cervix, is 94% effective with correct use. 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, preventing 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.
  • Spermicide: Often used in combination with other methods, this foam or cream kills sperm cells before they have a chance to fertilize an egg.

Learn more about birth control methods here.

However, these methods of birth control do not protect against STIs. External condoms, or condoms that go over the penis, are up to 98% effective in preventing unintentional pregnancy and highly effective against STIs.

Learn more about the differences between external and internal condoms here.

Below are some of the most common questions and answers about internal condoms.

How effective are internal condoms?

According to research, if a person uses an internal condom perfectly, it will be 95% effective in protecting against pregnancy. 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 walls, provides a 79% protection rate.

Can people use an internal and external condom at the same time?

People should not use internal and external condoms at the same time. The friction between the condoms may cause one or both of them to break or slip out of place.

While recent studies have shown that dual use may help better prevent STIs, researchers concluded that further, well-conducted studies are necessary.

Why use an internal 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 an external condom. Others may use an internal condom to manage their birth control further.

Will an internal 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.

Are internal condoms more effective than external condoms?

When used correctly, both external and internal condoms have very high success rates of 98% and 95%, respectively, in preventing pregnancy.

However, in real-world applications, their effectiveness rates drop to 85% and 79%, respectively, accounting for user error and other factors.

What do internal condoms feel like?

A person should feel similar sensations when using an internal condom as when not using a condom. Some may find it provides additional lubrication. A person should speak with their partner if they find they do not like the sensation and discuss other safe alternatives.

Internal condoms, also known as female condoms, protect against pregnancy and STIs. These products have similar effectiveness against unintentional pregnancy and STIs as external or male condoms.

The only internal condom with FDA approval is the FC2. The FC2 is available online, with a prescription in most pharmacies, and from many family planning and health clinics.