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Health Matters Fact Sheets

Female Condom

(Updated December 2009; also available in Spanish)

What is the female condom?

The female condom is a plastic tube with a flexible ring at each end to help it stay in place in the vagina. It is coated inside and outside with a lubricant.

How effective is the female condom?

If always used correctly, 5 out of 100 women will get pregnant each year using female condoms. If female condoms are not always used correctly, 21 out of 100 women will get pregnant each year.

How does it work?

The female condom keeps sperm from entering the vagina.

Important things to remember when using the female condom:

  • The ring at the closed end is inserted into your vagina. This holds the tube in place against the cervix.
  • The ring at the open end stays outside of your vagina during sex. The penis enters the vagina through the open end of the female condom.
  • The female condom can be put in up to 8 hours before sex.
  • After sex, you should take the condom out right away and throw it out. Each female condom can only be used one time.
  • Female condoms can also be used for anal sex.
  • Don’t use female condoms and male condoms together because they can stick to each other and cause tearing.
  • If the condom rips or falls out of your vagina, you should take emergency contraception as soon as possible within five days.

What are the benefits of using the female condom?

  • The female condom is safe, simple, and convenient.
  • Anyone can buy female condoms in a store without a prescription.
  • You can insert it ahead of time or as part of sex play.
  • The female condom is the only birth control method controlled by the woman that also protects against most sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

What are the downsides of using the female condom?

  • You must use the female condom each time you have sex.
  • The female condom is less effective at preventing pregnancy than some other birth control methods.
  • Both partners will be able to see and feel the female condom and must be in agreement about using this method.
  • The female condom can cause irritation of the vagina, vulva, penis, or anus.
  • The female condom is more expensive than a male condom (about 4 times).
  • The female condom can make sex noisy, but adding extra lubricant can help.

Where can I get the female condom?

You can buy the female condom at drugstores, in some supermarkets, online, and at family planning clinics.

Where can I get more information?

For more information on the female condom, talk to your health care provider.

Compare the female condom to other birth control options using ARHP’s Method Match at www.arhp.org/MethodMatch.