What are they?
Female condoms are made from polyurethane. When used correctly during vaginal sex, they help to protect against pregnancy
and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Condoms (male or female) are the only contraception that protect against pregnancy and STIs.
How do they work?
The female condom is worn inside the vagina to stop sperm getting to the womb. It needs to be placed in the vagina before there's any contact between the vagina and penis. To use a female condom:
- Take the female condom out of the packet, taking care not to tear the condom.
- Squeeze the smaller ring at the closed end of the condom and insert it into the vagina.
- Make sure that the large ring at the open end of the female condom covers the area around the vaginal opening.
- Make sure the penis enters into the female condom, not between the condom and the side of the vagina.
- Remove the female condom immediately after sex by gently pulling it out. You can twist the large ring to prevent semen leaking out. Throw the condom away in a bin, not down the toilet.
Store female condoms in places that aren't too hot or cold, and away from sharp or rough surfaces that could tear them or wear them away.
How effective are female condoms?
If used correctly and consistently, female condoms are 95% effective. This means that five out of 100 women using female condoms as contraception will become pregnant in a year.
Always buy condoms that have the CE mark on the packet. This means that they've been tested to the high European safety standards. Condoms that don't have the CE mark won't meet these standards, so don't use them.
By preventing the exchange of bodily fluids, female condoms help to protect against many STIs, including HIV
Whatever your age, even if you're under 16, you can get free condoms from community contraceptive clinics, sexual health and genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics, some young people's services, and some GP surgeries. You can also buy condoms in pharmacies and supermarkets.
What else should I know?
Female condoms can get pushed too far into the vagina, but it's easy to remove them yourself.
Although female condoms (when used correctly) offer reliable protection against pregnancy, you need to use another method of contraception as well. This is to protect you against an unintended pregnancy if the condom splits or comes off.
Although female condoms (when used correctly) offer reliable protection against pregnancy, using an additonal method of contraception will protect you against pregnancy if the female condom fails.
If a female condom slips or fails, you can use emergency contraception to help to prevent pregnancy. This is for emergencies only, and shouldn't be used as a regular form of contraception.
If you've been at risk of unintended pregnancy, you're also at risk of catching an STI, so have a check-up at:
- a GP surgery,
- local sexual health clinic and genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic (Find sexual health services), or
- young person's service (call 0800 567123).