Female condoms, made of polyurethane, are worn inside the vagina, covering the cervix. One end of the condom remains outside the vagina. This provides greater coverage of genital skin than provided by male condoms. Therefore, female condoms offer slightly greater protection against bacterial and viral infections.
Female condoms are coated inside and out with a non-spermicidal, silicone-based lubricant, so additional lubricants are not needed. Female condoms are as effective in preventing pregnancy as the cervical cap, sponge or diaphragm.
However, properly positioning the female condom takes practice. Pregnancy is possible whenever sexual intercourse takes place without a condom.
- With careful use, female condoms are 80 percent to 90 percent effective in preventing pregnancy.
- Use of a female condom does not interrupt or alter fertility.
- Female condoms, which do not require a prescription, have a dual benefit because they also help decrease the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). In particular, they help reduce exposure to chlamydia, gonorrhea, human papilloma virus and HIV.
- Side effects are rare, because female condoms are not made of latex or coated with any spermicidal (sperm-killing) chemicals.
- Female condoms can be inserted up to eight hours before intercourse, allowing greater spontaneity.
- Female condoms need to be applied properly and at the right time — that is, before each act of sexual intercourse, even if repeated within a short time.
- The female condom may be awkward to use at first, and slippage may be a problem. With practice, you will find it easier to use, making it a more reliable method of birth control.
- Female condoms should not be used at the same time as male condoms because they can cause each other to dislodge or slip off.