The female condom is a thin polyurethane pouch with rings at either end, which help keep it in place inside the vagina.
How does it work?
The female condom 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 wearing a condom ejaculates, his semen is held inside the condom.
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.
How effective is it?
When used correctly, the female condom is 95 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy.
What are the advantages?
The condom is the only form of contraception which protects against pregnancy and the transmission of most STIs, including HIV.
Condoms are also something you can use spontaneously, and you only need them when you are going to have sex. Also female condoms can be put in before you are going to have sex, and so using one won’t interrupt things.
What are the downsides?
The female condom is may not always be available free at GP surgeries and clinics, and aren’t as widely available in the shops. They are also 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 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 some sexual health, family planning and young person’s clinics. They are also available at large chemists and supermarkets to buy, and cost from around £5 for a pack of three.
If you'd like to know more about condoms, including tips for their use, condom options, and instructions on how to use them visit our condom pages.