What is it? A soft nitrile pouch inserted into the vagina before intercourse.
How do you use it? Insert right before or up to 6 hours before intercourse. Use with lots of lubricant inside the condom. Open end stays outside the vagina.
Effectiveness: approximately 79% effective in typical use (but can be more effective if used correctly and consistently).
Price: $1.50-$2 per condom
Other information: A female, or internal condom, is a soft, loose-fitting nitrile pouch that is inserted into the vagina before intercourse.. Condoms protect against STIs including Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and HIV. Other contraceptive methods do not prevent STIs.
Internal or “female” condoms, are soft, loose-fitting nitrile plastic pouches that are inserted into the vagina before intercourse. They prevent both pregnancy and STIs when used vaginally and can also be used for anal sex to provide protection against STIs. If used perfectly, internal/female condoms are 95% effective when used perfectly and 79% in actual use. This means that on average 21 people out of 100 get pregnant when using them as their only form of birth control for a year. This is usually due to user error. This means they are slightly less effective external/male condoms, which can be up to 98% effective at preventing pregnancy, but in actual use are 82% (18 people out of 100 get pregnant in a year).
Condoms need to be used every time and from the very beginning of intercourse to most effectively prevent pregnancy. If you are only using condoms sometimes or on certain days of a your cycle or if you start having intercourse and then using a condom before ejaculation then you will be at higher risk of pregnancy. If you need strong protection or if you or your partner is not willing to use condoms every time you have sex then condoms on their own may not be the right choice for you.
Comparing male and female condoms
- External/male condoms are the most commonly used and as such aare easier to get/more affordable.
- External/male condoms are more effective at preventing pregnancy, while internal/female condoms provide more protection against STIs.
- Regular sized external/male condoms will fit most people, but if condoms are breaking or slipping off regularly then you may need larger or smaller sized condoms. With internal/female condoms on the other hand, its larger size and the fact that it is fitted into the vagina rather than onto the penis, only one size is necessary.
- Most external/male condoms are made of latex and some people have latex allergies or sensitivities. There are external/male condoms made with different materials that you can try, but all internal female condoms are non-latex (they are made of nitrile) so you don’t have to worry about whether they will trigger an allergy or sensitivity.
- With internal/female condoms, women or receptive partners can have more control over condom use. They can even sometimes be used without a partner knowing, if negotiating condom use is difficult. And they can be put in up to 6 hours before intercourse, so can be in place even if you think you might be having sex.
- Internal/female condoms transfer heat better which for some people can increase sensation and they are less likely to break. However, they can also sometimes make noise during intercourse.
Before using a condom
- Consider are condoms all you need? Although on their own condoms have a relatively high failure rate, condoms are an excellent method to use in combination with something else.
- Get familiar with condoms ahead of time. It is best if the first time you see, touch or use a condom is before rather than during sex. Take a condom out of its package, get used to it, and try putting it in at a time when you are not planning to have sex. The more comfortable you are with condoms, the better chance you will be able to use them successfully.
- Condoms are most effective when both partners are familiar with them and how they are used.
- Communicate with your partner about birth control and condoms before, during and after sex. It is best to make sure you are on the same page about condom use and the amount of risk you are comfortable with ahead of time. It is also important that both of you know that a condom is being used and if it has broken or slipped off so that you can take extra precautions if needed (see the section about “if a condom breaks or slips off” for more information).
- Store condoms somewhere cool and dry. Heat and sunlight can damage condoms.
- Always check the expiry date before using a condom. If the expiry date has passed do not use the condom.
- Check the package for any tears or holes. If there are any, discard it and use another one.
- Open the package and remove it gently. Using teeth or long nails can tear a condom.
- Look at the condom to make sure there is no discolouration or flakiness. If there is, throw it away.
- Have more than one condom handy – you need to use a new condom for each new act of sexual intercourse and the first one may break or get put on the wrong way.
Using a female/internal condom:
- Insert the condom before intercourse begins – it can be inserted up to 6 hours before, but most people insert it between 2 to 20 minutes before.
- Squeeze the loose inner ring together and insert the closed end of the condom high in the vagina.
- The outside ring of the condom then lies against the outer lips of the vagina, providing additional protection against STIs.
- Hold the outside ring when the penis is first inserted to ensure it goes inside the condom (not along the side) and to prevent the condom from being pushed into the vagina.
- If the condom makes noise during sex try changing positions or adding lubricant inside the condom.
Removing and discarding a female/internal condom:
- After intercourse is finished and before standing up, squeeze and twist the outer ring to keep fluids inside and pull the condom out gently. Be careful not to spill semen near the vagina when you are removing the condom.
- Throw the condom away in the garbage. Do not flush it down the toilet.
If a condom breaks or slips out:
- Discard condom (see above). Use a new condom if you are going to continue having intercourse.
- Emergency Pills: Back up with an emergency pill like Plan B or Ella. Plan B and other progestin emergency pills like Norlevo or Next Choice are about 50% effective and are available at pharmacies without a prescription. You can buy them in advance to have at home. They can be taken up to 5 days after sex, but the sooner you take them the more likely they are to work. Ella is available by prescription. It is more effective overall (about 60%) and does not lose effectiveness as quickly over time. Emergency pills cost $15-$50 per use.
- Copper IUD: : a Copper IUD is the most effective form of emergency birth control – it is over 99% effective at preventing a pregnancy if inserted any time within 7 days after unprotected sex. If you leave the IUD in, it will continue to provide very effective (over 99%) protection. If you do not like it or want to get pregnant, you can have it taken out any time after your next period.
- Reassess: if a condom breaks or is used improperly, it can be a good time to think about whether you want to do something differently with regards to birth control. Is there something you could do to make condoms work better for you? Are condoms the right method for you in your current circumstances? Do you need a more effective method of contraception or something to use in combination with condoms?
Questions? Contact the Sex Sense Line at 604-731-7308 (1-800-739-7367) or www.sexsense.org