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Birth control options: female condoms

Condoms are the best way to protect you and your partner against sexually transmitted infections when having intercourse. When a woman also uses a spermicide, condoms are 98 per cent effective at preventing pregnancy if used correctly.

Traditionally, male condoms were the only condoms available. More recently, female condoms have been developed, which are worn inside the vagina during intercourse.

A female condom is a polyurethane pouch used to line the vagina and prevent sperm from being released into the vagina. It can also be used to protect the anus from disease during anal sex. The female condom has a plastic ring on each end. A soft flexible ring is used to hold the condom in place on the cervix; another ring on the outside of the body holds the condom open. A female condom protects against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Female condoms are between 79 and 95 per cent effective, depending on how they are used.

How to use a female condom

A female condom can be inserted up to eight hours before sex, but a new condom should be used before each sex act. Do not use it in combination with the male condom, it makes both condoms more likely to tear. To insert the condom:

  1. Squeeze the ring on the closed end with one hand, with the other hand open the vagina or anus
  2. Insert the inner ring and the pouch of the condom into the vagina or anus
  3. With your index finger gently push the inner ring and pouch as far as it will go, about an inch of the condom stays outside the body. Be cautious not to tear the condom with a ring or fingernail.

During sex, check to make sure the outer ring is staying outside the body and that the penis has not slipped underneath it. When sex is complete, gently remove the condom while holding the base.


  • protects against sexually transmitted infections as well as pregnancy
  • you don’t need a prescription
  • it can be inserted up to eight hours before intercourse so sex can be spontaneous
  • you only use it when you need to
  • people with latex allergies can use these condoms
  • condom doesn’t feel tight or restrictive for the male partner
  • less likely to break than a male condom
  • the man does not have to withdraw immediately after ejaculation
  • useful for women whose male partners are unwilling to wear a condom
  • it does not cause any hormonal changes in your body


  • more expensive than male condoms and less available
  • you must plan ahead before you have sex
  • hangs outside of the vagina and may appear unappealing
  • moves around during sex and may be noisy
  • some women are uncomfortable about inserting it into their vagina or anus

This information is provided by Women’s College Hospital and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: Oct. 29, 2014

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