The female condom or “internal condom” looks kind of like a tube sock. It’s not super sexy looking BUT it does protect against unwanted pregnancy and STIs which most other forms of birth control don’t. It puts control into the female partner’s hands. And, what’s more, there’s data that sex with a female condom can actually be more pleasurable! Intrigued?? Read on for more info!
Female condoms provider barrier protection, just like male condoms – they prevent semen from getting into the reproductive tract which prevents pregnancy and STIs.
They are only slightly less effective than male condoms – about 95% with perfect use, about 80% with typically use. Meaning if 100 women have sex for a year – 5 to 21 of them will get pregnant.
Female condoms were first described in ancient Greece and were made out of a goat’s bladder. They were also described in the early 1900s as a method for collecting animal semen for breeding. I’m really selling this, I know. Totally makes you want to try one I’m sure.
But the female condom as it is now, was developed and patented in 1994 in the US by a Danish inventor, Lasse Hessel who was a family medicine physician.
It is remarkable in that it’s the first medical device to put the control in prevention of pregnancy AND STIs into the hands of the female partner. But unfortunately, it’s use never became very widespread – less than 0.1% of women in the US (according to data from the Guttmacher institute).
The Surprising Facts
Here are some surprising facts that may make you want to reconsider this as an option!
- Female condoms can actually be placed up to 8 hours before sex! If you find stopping to have your partner put on condom kills the mood – the female condom solves this problem.
- It’s made out of polyurethane or nitrile, not latex – so if you have a latex allergy or sensitivity and struggle to find male condoms that don’t cause irritation, this may be a great option. They can also be used with all types of lubricants.
- Consider it foreplay. Placing a female condom can be a bit tricky but once you get the hang of it, your partner may actually find it a bit of a turn-on. There are two rings connected by a thin tube of material. The inner ring is folded and inserted as far into the vagina as you can get it – ideally up to the cervix. The outer ring stays outside and partially covers the vulva.
- Small studies have shown couples have more sexual pleasure with a female condom compared to the male condom. The idea is that the outer portion of the condom can give more clitoral stimulation.
- While not well studied for anal sex, they have been reported for use in this area. There is promise that this could be another way to prevent STIs.
If you’re interested in this but want more info on how to actually use it? Turn to Bedsider.org for some great illustrations!
And for more great info on other contraceptive options, turn to these articles on IUDs, Implants, birth control patch, progesterone only pills, depo provera and the morning after pill.
Dr. Quimby is the co-founder of FemEd – a female health education platform that educates females of all ages about their bodies.
She is also a former professor at USC Keck school of Medicine where she led the OBGYN clerkship. She is passionate about education and empowering her patients and her students through knowledge and shared decision making.
She is currently a full time OBGYN at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles.
Dr. Quimby has received accolades for teaching and leadership. She has been named Top Doctor by both Pasadena and Los Angeles Magazines. She is a regular speaker throughout the community giving talks to both the public and other physicians. She has contributed to LAist, SELF, and several other news media sources.
Her special interests include: preconception counseling and improving sexual health
When she’s not educating the public on all things female health she can be found traveling with her 2 young daughters and ever supportive husband.
[…] patient of mine wanted to explore some non-hormonal contraceptive options. We were discussing condoms, the Copper IUD, spermicide, lactic acid suppository (Phexxi), and then she […]