The female condom (also known as a 'femidom') is a thin polyurethane pouch with rings at either end, which help keep it in place inside the vagina.
How does the femidom work?
The female condom (femidom) works by providing a barrier between the vagina and the penis, preventing semen from the man from getting inside the woman. This prevents pregnancy and the transmission of most sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. When the man ejaculates, his semen is held inside the female condom, rather than spilling out into the vagina.
Using a female condom also protects the wearer from most STIs their partners may have, because it stops most STIs, including HIV, from coming into contact with her vagina. The only exception would be STIs that pass from skin-to-skin contact, e.g., genital warts.
How effective is it?
When used correctly, the female condom is 95% effective in preventing pregnancy.
Advantages of female condoms:
- the condom is the only form of contraception which protects against pregnancy and the transmission of most STIs, including HIV
- they can be used spontaneously
- you only need them when you are going to have sex
- the female condom can be put in before you are going to have sex, and so using one won’t interrupt things
- they're latex free and therefore suitable for all women, including those known to be allergic or sensitive to latex
- they enable women to take control over condom use.
Disadvantages of female condoms:
- they may not always be available free at GP surgeries and clinics
- they aren’t as widely available in shops
- they are more expensive than male condoms.
Things to bear in mind:
It may take a little practice to perfect the art of putting the condom inside the vagina, and so the female condom may not be suitable for women who don’t feel comfortable touching their genitals.
When having sex it is important to check that the man’s penis is inside the condom, and not slipping down the side between the condom and the walls of the vagina.
Where can I get it from and how much does it cost?
Female condoms are available free at sexual health and young person’s clinics.
They are also available to buy at large chemists and supermarkets, and cost from around £5 for a pack of three.
More information on femidoms:
Read more about condoms, including tips for their use, condom options, and illustrated instructions on how to use them.