About female condoms
Female condoms are a form of barrier contraception. This means that they protect against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). When used correctly and consistently, condoms are a reliable method of preventing pregnancy – thought to be around 95% effective.
Female condoms are made from thin, soft plastic. Female condoms are worn inside the vagina to prevent sperm getting to the womb.
A condom can only be used once – this includes if you put it on the wrong way by mistake. If you have sex again, use another condom. Using two condoms increases the chances of them splitting or tearing. So never reuse one, or use two together.
How it works
Female condoms act as a barrier. They are designed to prevent the exchange of bodily fluids, such as semen and vaginal fluid. This means that they protect you against both pregnancy and a range of STIs, which make them a good choice all-round.
How to use it
Here’s our best tips to make sure you are correctly using your female condoms:
- Make sure the condom is good quality, with a British BSI kite mark, or European CE mark. Also check that it hasn’t expired, and the pack isn’t damaged
- Open the packet carefully. Teeth, long nails, jewellery and piercings can damage condoms
- Squeeze the smaller ring at the closed end of the condom and insert it into the vagina
- Check the vagina opening is covered with the large ring at the open end of condom
- Make sure the penis enters directly 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
Who can use it
Most women can safely use female condoms. However, it may not be the most suitable method of contraception for women who do not feel comfortable touching their vagina and surrounding areas.
There are many advantages to using female condoms:
- Female condoms can help protect against both STIs and pregnancy
- You don’t need any advance preparation other than to make sure you have quality condoms available when you need them
- In most cases, there are no medical side effects
- Female condoms can be inserted up to eight hours before sex
It’s also worth bearing in mind that:
- Some couples find that putting a condom in can interrupt sex. To get around this, try making using a condom as a part of foreplay, or put in 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
Where to get it
Everyone can get condoms for free, even if they are under 16. They are available from:
- Sexual health services like those run by Virgin Care
- Community contraception clinics
- Genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics
- Some GP surgeries
- Some young people’s services
You can also buy male and female condoms from:
- Mail-order catalogues
- Vending machines in some public toilets
- Some petrol stations
If you buy condoms online, make sure you buy them from a legitimate retailer. Always choose condoms that carry the European CE mark or British BSI Kitemark as a sign of quality.
- The Family Planning Association’s has lots of information about male and female condoms, how to use them and frequently asked questions
- NHS Choices has lots of information about contraception with specific pages on the female condoms
- Brook has lots of information and advice on contraception written for people under 25, including female condoms