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Is the female condom as effective as men's condoms?

The information provided herein does not constitute an expert or medical advice, nor intended to replace such advice.

Sexual Health

Female condoms, also known as internal condoms, are contraceptive methods which are very similar to their male counterparts. However, female condoms aren’t quite as common or popular as male condoms, but does that have anything to do with their effectiveness? 

Keep reading to find out whether the female condom is as effective as men’s condoms. 

Is the female condom effective?

The female condom can be a very effective contraceptive method, but their exact efficacy will largely depend on how you use them. According to the NHS, female condoms can be up to 95 percent effective in protecting against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections if used correctly — which is also referred to as “perfect use”.

This means that you would need to use a female condom correctly every single time you have sex in order to expect this percentage of effectiveness. Their effectiveness is practically the same as male condoms, which are 98 percent effective when used correctly everytime you have sex.

Wearing a female condom correctly means that you need to make sure to put your internal condom in before there is any genital contact with your partner and keep it on from start to finish, according to Planned Parenthood. Remember that pre-seminal fluid (colloquially known as “precum”) can contain viable sperm cells that can lead to pregnancy if you’re not wearing a condom. It’s also important to remember that you can get an STI from intimate skin-to-skin contact, even without penetration or ejaculation. 

In reality, most people don’t use condoms perfectly each time they have sex. That’s why the real life effectiveness of female condoms is approximately 79 percent. That means that for every 100 people who use female condoms as their primary contraceptive method, around 21 will get pregnant every year. You can increase this rate by combining the female condom with other contraceptive methods, such as the birth control pill.

The female condom has another great benefit: it’s the only female-initiated method of contraception meant to protect you against sexually transmitted infections. That’s because while hormonal birth control can protect you from unwanted pregnancies, you need a barrier method to stay safe against STIs. Male and female condoms are the only birth control methods that can do this, which is important for women who lead an active sexual life and want to have more control over their own reproductive health. 

How do female condoms work?

Female condoms are thin pouches which are usually made of nitrile or polyurethane, and they’re meant to be inserted inside the vagina before sex. Female condoms also have flexible rings at both ends which help keep them in place. The outer ring is meant to stay outside of your vagina and cover your external genitals, which can reduce the risk of contracting an STI from skin-to-skin contact.

The pouch will collect semen and other fluids during sex so that they don’t come into direct contact with your genitals. As MedlinePlus reminds us, you shouldn’t wear both a male and female condom at the same time, since the friction between both condoms can lead to tearing.

How to use a female condom

Putting on a female condom is very simple, but you need to make sure you follow all the steps correctly so you can stay safe during sex. According to the CDC, these are the steps you should follow when inserting a female condom:

  • Make sure to use a new, unopened condom everytime you have sex.
  • Carefully open and remove the condom from the package to prevent tearing.
  • Put the condom in before any genital contact occurs. You can put a female condom in up to 8 hours before having sex for greater peace of mind.
  • Find a comfortable position to insert the condom. Comfortable positions include squatting, lying down, or standing up with one leg on a chair.
  • The thick inner ring of the female condom should be placed inside the vagina.
  • Squeeze the sides of the inner ring together and insert it into your vagina. This is similar to how you would insert a tampon.
  • Using your fingers, push the inner ring as far up as it will go, trying to make sure that it’s resting against your pelvis.
  • Once the condom is in place, it will expand naturally and you probably won’t be able to feel it.
  • Check that the condom isn’t twisted so that your partner’s penis will be able to go inside it once it’s time for sex.
  • Leave the outer ring hanging outside of your vagina and covering your vulva.
  • Stop intercourse if you feel your partner’s penis slipping between the condom and your vagina, if the outer ring is pushed into the vagina, or if the condom slips out of place.

As always, it’s very important to practice safe sex so you can protect yourself and your partner(s) from sexually transmitted infections. Along with using condoms everytime you have sex, you should also get tested for STIs regularly. Fortunately, STI testing is easier than ever thanks to at-home testing. You can learn more about at-home STD testing at STDWatch.com now.


Female condoms - nhs.uk

How effective are internal condoms? - plannedparenthood.org

Internal (sometimes called Female) Condom Use - cdc.gov

Female condoms - medlineplus.gov





Dr. Andrea Pinto Lopez

Dr. Andrea Pinto Lopez

Mar 25, 2022

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