Contraception Barrier Methods Female Condom

The female condom is a pouch–about 6.5 inches long–with a ring at each end. The smaller ring, at the closed end, is inserted into the vagina. At the open end, the larger ring of a female condom, stays outside, partially covering the labia. Female condom use prevents pregnancy by serving as a barrier that prevents sperm from entering the vagina upon ejaculation.

Female Condom - Birth Control

Benefits and Risks of Female Condom Use

Like the male condom, the female condom offers protection from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and unplanned pregnancies. You don’t need a prescription or doctor’s visit to get a female condom. They are widely available and they boast few side effects. Since a female condom isn’t made from latex, you can use it safely with all lubricants.

However, there are some drawbacks to female condom use. Some women find it difficult to insert the female condom correctly. It may shift or slip into the vagina during sex, increasing the risk of pregnancy. Some find that the female condom is noisy during sex and the outer ring uncomfortable. Others, however, find that the outer ring of the female condom stimulates the clitoris.

The Male vs. the Female Condom

Unlike the male condom, the female condom doesn’t depend on a willing partner or an erect penis, and it may be inserted for up to eight hours before sex. Female condom use may offer greater protection from STDs than the male condom, because it covers part of the labia. A female condom can also be good for those with latex allergies. Unfortunately, female condoms cost more than their male counterparts.

The Effectiveness of Female Condom Use

According to the National Women’s Health Information Center, 20 pregnancies are expected for every 100 women with female condom use, translating to an 80 percent success rate.

Proper Female Condom Use

The female condom should be carefully inserted unto the vagina like a tampon, without twisting. The outer ring remains about one inch outside the labia. During sex, the penis should stay within the boundaries of the female condom. After sex, close the pouch and remove it cautiously.

Use a female condom only once per sexual encounter, and not for anal sex. Don’t use one that seems brittle, has visible tears or has expired. Experts recommend using another form of birth control as a backup when you first use a female condom, in case of improper female condom use. Also, never use one at the same time as a male condom.

Types of the Female Condom

The female condom was originally made of polyurethane. New ones made of nitrile were recently introduced, and are more affordable than the previous version. In the United States, you can find a female condom under the brand name “Reality,” with different names around the world.

Is a Female Condom Right for Me?

With relatively few side effects, female condom use is quite effective for many. But they’re not a good choice if:

  • You’re allergic to polyurethane or synthetic latex
  • Your vaginal structure interferes with the female condom fit
  • You’re at high risk for pregnancy.

Resources

American Pregnancy Staff. (2005). Preventing pregnancy: The female condom. Retrieved February 8, 2010, from the American Pregnancy Web site: http://www.americanpregnancy.org/preventingpregnancy/femalecondom.html.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.) The female condom. Retrieved February 8, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/female-condom.

Planned Parenthood Staff. (2010). The female condom. Retrieved February 8, 2010, from the Planned Parenthood Web site: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control/female-condom-4223.htm.

Women’s Health Staff. (2009). Birth control methods: FAQ. Retrieved February 8, 2010, from the Women’s Health Web site: http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/birth-control-methods.cfm.