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Female Condoms

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Updated December 17, 2009

Female Condoms

Female Condom

Photo © 2009 Dawn Stacey

Female Condom Definition:

The female condom is a reversible barrier method of birth control. It is a pre-lubricated pouch, made from either plastic polyurethane or nitrile (a synthetic latex), that is thin, soft, odorless, and stronger than latex. The “FC” is worn by the female inside of her vagina during sex, and by lining the vagina, it acts as a barrier to sperm and many sexually transmitted diseases. The female condom has flexible rings at each end. The ring at the closed end holds the pouch in the vagina. The ring at the open end lies outside the vagina.

Also Known As :

FC (original female condom); FC2 (second generation of female condoms); Reality Female Condom; fc Female Condom

How It Works:

The female condom keeps semen from entering the vagina. It collects sperm before, during, and after ejaculation. The inner ring at the closed end is used to insert the female condom as well as to hold it in place inside the vagina; this ring slides into place behind the pubic bone. The outer ring at the open end is soft and remains on the outside of the vagina during intercourse. It covers the area around the opening of the vagina (the vulva).

Advantages of Female Condoms:

  • Once learned, insertion is easy

  • Do not require a prescription

  • They conduct heat, so sexual intercourse can feel very sensitive and natural

  • Easy to obtain

  • Usually do not cause allergic reactions, so are a good alternative for people with latex allergies

  • Have no effect on a woman’s natural hormones

  • Do not become damaged in high temperatures or humidity, so female condoms do not require special storage conditions
  • Allow women to share responsibility for preventing infection

  • Loosely line the vagina, so they are not tight or constricting

  • Can be inserted by a partner as part of sex play

  • Can be inserted before intercourse

  • They stay in place whether or not a man maintains his erection

  • Are not dependent on a male erection, so they do not interrupt sexual spontaneity

  • Can be used with any type of lubricant (oil-based or water-based)

  • Do not need to be removed immediately after ejaculation

  • May enhance sex play as the external ring may stimulate the clitoris

Disadvantages:

Although most people have no problems using this method, some report the following drawbacks:

  • The FC may slip into the vagina during intercourse
  • It may move around
  • Feeling and sensation can be reduced
  • The inner ring may irritate the penis
  • The outer ring may irritate the vulva
  • Vaginal irritation may occur
  • Some women find it to be uncomfortable
  • It may be noisy
  • The FC may not be appropriate for women who are not comfortable touching their genitals
  • Since the outer ring is visible outside the vagina, some women may feel self-conscious

Where To Buy and Costs:

The female condom is available without a prescription and can be purchased in drugstores, some supermarkets, and at family planning centers. It is easy to obtain and is available in only one size. Although prices vary from community to community, the typical cost is usually between $2.50 to $5.00 per female condom.

Who Can Use:

Just about any woman who can use a tampon can also use a female condom. If a woman is not at ease touching her genitals or has other problems with insertion, this may not be the best option.

Things To Be Aware Of:

  • Most female condoms are already lubricated when purchased and may come with an extra bottle of lubricant. The pre-lubricant is non-spermicidal and silicone-based. It is intended to make insertion easier and intercourse smoother. If more lubrication is needed, you can use any lubricant on the inside of the female condom or on the penis.

  • You can also use spermicides with this method

  • A woman may need to guide the male's penis into the female condom, so that it does not accidentally enter the vagina

  • Each female condom should only be used one time

  • A male condom should NEVER be used at the same time as a female condom

Effectiveness:

Female condoms are 79 to 95 percent effective. This means that with typical use, about 21 out of every 100 women whose use female condoms will become pregnant during the first year. With perfect use, five will become pregnant.

To be most effective, the female condom should be inserted before the penis comes into contact with, or enters, the vagina. It should be gently removed while making sure that the semen stays inside of the pouch.

STD Protection: The female condom reduces the risk of many sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. It functions as an extensive barrier that can protect the vagina, cervix and external genitalia.

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Guide Review: Fc Female Condom

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