Although female condoms are not as common or well-known as their male equivalents, they offer many compelling benefits to sexually active women. As a birth control device, a female condom acts as a barrier to prevent sperm from entering the uterus. And unlike other contraceptive methods for women, female condoms can also help prevent exposure to certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
How Female Condoms Work
The female condom includes a relatively loose-fitting sheath made of polyurethane. A flexible ring is encapsulated by the material on the closed end, and another ring is attached to the opposite end and remains open. The inner ring on the closed end is inserted deep into the vagina, covering the cervix. The outer ring stays outside the vagina and helps the condom remain in place. It’s easy to remove the condom by pulling gently on the outer ring. The material is pre-lubricated, and extra lubrication is included in the package.
Female Condom Advantages and Disadvantages
Like any contraceptive product, female condoms have benefits and drawbacks.
- Protection against STIs
- Allows women to participate in safer sex choices
- Can be inserted up to eight hours prior to sex
- Eliminates some problems associated with male condoms, including partial erection usage and uncomfortable fit
- No prescription required
- A suitable alternative for those with latex sensitivity
- Requires skill to install
- More expensive than male condoms
- Some users complain of odd “rustling” sounds during sex
- May create performance difficulties since the outer ring has to stay outside the vagina during intercourse
One of the greatest strengths of the female condom is that it allows women to take control of their sexual safety, without needing to rely on a partner’s condom usage for safer sex.
Sexually Transmitted Infection Protection
In addition to serving as a contraceptive, female condoms can be very effective at preventing the transmission of certain STIs, including the HIV virus. When properly applied, female condoms help isolate the fluids associated with HIV transmission. Other STIs that may be prevented with female condom use include Human Papillomavirus (HPV), genital warts, genital herpes, gonorrhea and chlamydia.