The female condom was approved by the FDA in 1993 and has slowly grown in popularity. A variation of the male condom, the female condom has many of the same attributes and advantages.  

What You Need to Know About Emergency Contraception 

What Is It?

The female condom is a latex pouch, similar to its male counterpart, that is inserted into the vagina. The female condom has flexible rubber rings at each end—one end holds the condom in the vagina, and the other stays outside the vagina during sex.

How Does it Work?

Like male condoms, female condoms prevent pregnancy by containing semen and preventing sperm from entering the vagina during intercourse. Female condoms also protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

How Do I Use It?

Female condoms are inserted directly into the vagina before intercourse, similar to a tampon. The inner ring should be pushed as far as it will go (up against the cervix) and the outer ring should remain outside the vagina. Read the instructions before using the female condom, and make sure the condom isn’t twisted or torn as it is being inserted.

Lubricant and/or spermicide can be used with the female condom to improve comfort and effectiveness.  During intercourse, the penis will enter the condom without making any direct contact with the vagina. After intercourse, twist the outer ring of the condom, and pull it out of the vagina very gently, being careful not to spill any semen. While the female condom can be inserted up to eight hours before intercourse, the condom should be removed immediately following ejaculation and should not be reused. Also, never use a male condom in addition to a female condom, as the friction could cause both birth control methods to break and fail. 

Effectiveness

Like the male condom, the female condom is very effective when used correctly and consistently. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says female condoms are 79 to 95 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, only slightly less effective than male condoms. 

Benefits

The female condom has many of the same benefits as the male condom, including convenience, affordability, STD protection, and lack of side effects. Female condoms are slightly more expensive, averaging $3, but they can easily be found at most drugstores, supermarkets, or healthcare centers. One potential benefit of the female condom compared to the male version is that women can take independent, more active responsibility in preventing pregnancy. Because female condoms can be inserted up to eight hours before intercourse, women can also prepare for intercourse in advance.

Disadvantages

While female condoms are simple to use, some women find them irritating to insert and bothersome during sex. Practice and experience with the female condom usually eases concerns. Like the male condom, the female condom must be used properly and consistently in order to be effective