The male condom is one of the most popular and widely used forms of contraception worldwide. But *ahem*, were you aware that a female condom also exists? Overshadowed by their overachieving male equivalent, female condoms are rarely spoken about, let alone used frequently in sexual situations. So, it’s time to widen your contraception knowledge and fine out everything you need to know about the female condom. Who knows; it could become your go-to contraception of choice moving forward.

What is a female condom?

Sometimes called an internal condom or universal condom, the female condom is a form of barrier birth control. In terms of appearance, it’s a thin pouch with a flexible ring attached to each end, kind of like a double ended male condom. One end of the female condom is inserted into the vagina, and the other end stays outside the vagina. And just like a male condom, the female condom helps to prevent pregnancy by blocking the sperm from entering the vagina. Female condoms also provide protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), like HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis.

What is the female condom made from?

Female condoms are made from a synthetic, non-latex rubber called nitrile. Generally, they’re available pre-lubricated with a silicone-based lubricant, however it’s recommended to use extra lube when getting frisky.

How effective is the female condom?

When used perfectly every single time you have sex, female condoms are 95% effective. Since we’re all humans who know not every sexual situation will play out perfectly, the real-life efficacy of female condoms sits at about 79%. That means 21 out of 100 people who use female condoms as their go-to contraception will fall pregnant each year.

What are the benefits of using a female condom?

Other than the obvious protection against unintended pregnancy, benefits of using a female condom include:

  • Protection against STIs
  • Increased sexual pleasure due to the design of the female condom allowing extra clitoral stimulation via the external ring and extra penis stimulation thanks to the internal ring
  • Latex-free design, which is great for people who suffer from allergies
  • Longer shelf life of up to 5 years
  • Can be worn with oil-based and water-based lubricants without altering the efficacy
  • Ability to insert the condom up to 2 hours before penetrative sex, allowing you to prepare for sex in advance

How do you use a female condom?

Before using a female condom always read the instructions in the box. Never use a female condom and a male condom at the same time. As a general guide:

  • Open the female condom packet carefully without using teeth or fingernails that could tear the condom
  • To make it easier to insert the female condom, consider applying extra lubricant
  • Insert the female condom by squeezing the inner ring and placing inside the vagina like a tampon
  • Using your index finger, push the condom as far into the vagina as it will safely go
  • During sex, guide the penis into the condom, making sure it doesn’t glide into the space between the vagina and outer condom
  • After sex, carefully remove the condom by twisting the outer ring and pulling gently
  • Dispose of condom in the rubbish bin, not down the toilet