If you can’t use hormonal contraceptives (like the Pill or hormonal IUDs) and are looking for alternatives, maybe you’ve wondered about the female condom. But you might be wondering if they’re really effective at preventing pregnancy. And should you double-up and use male condoms at the same time?
Female condoms — also known as internal condoms — aren’t widely known by a lot of people. But it remains a viable option for some women. Finding the right birth control method for you can be a challenge. In this blog, Alan Patterson, MD explains the facts about female condoms.
What are female condoms?
Female condoms are also sometimes called internal condoms. They’re nitrile pouches (like soft plastic) that go inside your vagina. They cover the entire inside of your vagina, which blocks sperm from reaching the egg.
A female condom has a flexible ring at each end. At one end, the inner ring fits snugly around your cervix to stay in place. The other ring remains outside your vagina. With perfect use, the female condom has an effectiveness rate against pregnancy of 95 percent. With typical use, which allows for some imperfection, the effectiveness rate is about 79 percent.
Preventing STIs with female condoms
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) — also known as sexually transmitted diseases — are a big deal. Many of them cause no symptoms at all, which can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.
Like the male condom, female condoms can help prevent STIs, including HIV. As a bonus, some people report that using female condoms increases pleasure for both partners.
Mixing male and female condoms
Male condoms are effective against STIs and pregnancy and so are female condoms. But what you shouldn’t do is use both at the same time.
Using male and female condoms at the same time can actually undo the benefits of both. Doing so creates friction, which makes both less effective.
Things to know about female condoms
If you’ve never seen a female condom before, you may be surprised the first time you see one. Here are some basics:
It’s bigger than you may expect
Internal female condoms are much bigger than male condoms. If you’re not expecting it, you may be a bit surprised! But it will fit inside your vagina, which expands to be a much bigger size than you may realize.
They’re for a single use only
You can’t reuse female condoms, not even once. Female condoms are designed for a single use only, just like with male condoms.
They can expire
You should always check the expiration dates on female condoms before you use them, just as you should with male condoms. Female condoms can degrade over time, making them less effective.
Condoms have to be stored carefully
Both male and female condoms have to be stored carefully, away from heat and light. Heat and light can break down the materials inside condoms (even on a tiny, microscopic level), which can make them less effective.
Make sure it’s inserted correctly
You have to make sure the female condom is inserted correctly before you begin any genital contact. Planned Parenthood has diagrams to demonstrate proper insertion and removal of a female condom.
If you aren’t happy with your contraceptive method, you’re less likely to use it correctly every time. Contact Dr. Alan Patterson to review your contraceptive method or make an appointment online.