The main points
- The female condom is an effective method of contraception that is under the woman’s control.
- It can only be used once. If used more than once, it is not as effective in preventing an unintended pregnancy or giving protection from sexually transmissible infections (STIs).
- Like all barrier methods, the effectiveness of the female condom depends on whether it is used the right way every time you have sex.
The female condom is a barrier method of contraception that fits all women and suits all ages. It offers women and men an alternative to the male condom. Studies have shown that, if used the right way, the female condom is effective in preventing an unintended pregnancy and giving protection from sexually transmissible infections (STIs).
The female condom is available from Family Planning Victoria’s clinics, some pharmacies and other sexual health clinics.
The female condom is a prelubricated polyurethane pouch that fits loosely inside the vagina. It has a soft removable ring at one end to help put it in and keep it in place. At the other end, it has a large flexible ring that stays on the outside, covering the opening of the vagina (vulva) and giving added protection.
It can be put in several hours before having sex, but can only be used once. If used more than once, it is not as effective in preventing an unintended pregnancy or giving protection from STIs. Getting used to putting in and using the female condom may take some practice.
Advantages of the female condom
An advantage of the female condom is that it is under the woman’s control. It is 95 per cent effective if used the right way, but allowing for mistakes, such as the condom moving out of place or not being used every time you have sex, the method is only around 79 per cent effective.
Other advantages include:
- It lessens the risk of STIs.
- It can be put in up to eight hours before having sex.
- It is soft and flexible, so it does not hurt to put it in or take it out.
- It is made from polyurethane (not latex), which conducts heat, so sex can be more enjoyable.
- It is strong and odourless, and can be used with any type of lubricant (water or oil-based).
- It can be used when the woman has her period.
- The male does not have to have a full erection.
- After ejaculating, the male does not need to withdraw straight away.
Disadvantages of the female condom
Problems that may be associated with the female condom include:
- It tends to hang loosely from the vagina.
- It makes a rustling sound during sex.
- It can be pushed up into the vagina.
- The penis may go around the condom (between the condom and the wall of the vagina) rather than inside.
- When the penis goes inside, the condom may slip or bunch up (using more lubricant can help).
An alternative to the male condom
Research has shown general satisfaction with the female condom. Around 50 per cent of women and men are happy with the method, with most finding it acceptable, easy to use and comfortable. Less than 50 per cent of couples found it more acceptable than male condoms.
Some men like the female condom because it is not constricting and does not fit tightly around the penis. Some men who cannot maintain an erection when putting on a male condom also prefer this method.
Other types of contraception
There are many contraceptive options available in Australia. When you are choosing the method that is right for you, it is important to weigh the pros against the cons for each option, and to think about how it meets your current and future needs. The method you choose will depend on your general health, lifestyle and relationships. It can help to talk about your options with a doctor or reproductive health nurse.
Protect against STIs
It is important to practise safer sex, as well as to prevent an unintended pregnancy. The female condom is a barrier method that lessens the risk of STIs for both women and their partners.
Other barrier methods include male condoms and dams (a thin piece of latex placed over the anal or vulval area during oral sex). Male condoms can be used for oral, vaginal and anal sex with other contraceptive methods to help stop infections from spreading.
Where to get more information, support or advice
- Contact your local doctor (GP)
- Contact Family Planning Victoria’s clinics
- Visit Better Health Channel
- Visit Melbourne Sexual Health Centre
- Visit The Alfred Education and Resource Centre
- Visit Ballarat Community Health
- Visit Bendigo Community Health Services
- Visit Kardinia Health Reproductive and Sexual Health Clinic
- Visit Gateway Health Sexual Health Clinics
- Contact community health centres