Female condoms line the vagina and protect against pregnancy by stopping sperm contained in semen, coming in to contact with the vagina. As condoms stop sexual fluids being transferred between partners they are also the only method of contraception that protects against STIs.

Female condoms have lubrication on them, but some people like to use additional lubrication. Because female condoms are made from polyurethane, you can use any lubrication with them including: body oils, creams, lotions or petroleum jelly (unlike latex condoms as these substances destroy the latex).

How do you use a female condom (femidom)?

  • Take the female condom out of the packet, taking care not to tear the condom – do not open the packet with your teeth.
  • Squeeze the smaller ring at the closed end of the condom and insert it into the vagina.
  • Make sure that the large ring at the open end of the female condom covers the area around the vaginal opening.
  • Make sure the penis enters into the female condom, not between the condom and the side of the vagina.
  • Remove the female condom immediately after sex by gently pulling it out – you can twist the large ring to prevent semen leaking out.
    Throw the condom away in a bin, not down the toilet.

Can anything make female condoms (femidoms) less effective?

Sperm can sometimes get into the vagina during sex, even when using a female condom. This may happen if:

  • the penis touches the area around the vagina before a condom is put in
  • the female condom gets pushed too far into the vagina
  • the man’s penis enters the vagina outside the female condom by mistake
  • the condom gets damaged by sharp fingernails or jewellery

Although female condoms (when used correctly) offer reliable protection against pregnancy, using an additional method of contraception will protect you against pregnancy if the female condom fails. If a female condom slips or fails, you can use emergency contraception to help to prevent pregnancy. This is for emergencies only, and shouldn’t be used as a regular form of contraception.

Advantages & Disadvantages

The Advantages

  • By preventing the exchange of bodily fluids (semen and vaginal fluid), female condoms help to protect against many STIs, including HIV.
  • When used correctly and consistently, condoms are a reliable method of preventing pregnancy.
  • You only need to use them when you have sex – they do not need advance preparation and are suitable for unplanned sex.
  • In most cases, there are no medical side effects from using condoms.
  • Female condoms can be inserted up to eight hours before sex, encouraging women to share the responsibility for using condoms with their partner.

The Disadvantages

  • Some couples find that putting a condom in can interrupt sex – to get around this, try making using a condom part of Foreplay or insert the female condom in advance.
  • Condoms are very strong, but may split or tear if not used properly.
  • Female condoms are not as widely available as male condoms and are more expensive to buy.

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