How to Use the Female Condom

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The female condom (a.k.a. "fem-dom") has several advantages over the male condom. First of all, it is controlled by the female partner. So even if the male (insertive) partner is reluctant to condoms, it affords the female (receptive) partner greater control over their sexual health and reproductive choices.

But there other benefits of female condoms that may them attractive for both partners.

Woman holding female condom, Close-up of hands, (Close-up)
Keith Brofsky / Getty Images

Advantages

The female condom was first approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993. It was regarded as a novel and effective addition to the tools commonly used to prevent pregnancy and the transmission of STDs.

Among the many advantages of the female condom:

  • Female condoms cover more surface area. This provides greater protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like human papillomavirus (HPV) and genital herpes that are spread through skin-to-skin contact.
  • Female condoms can be inserted during foreplay or even up to 8 hours before sex. This reduces last-minute fumbling (or the last-minute decision to forego condoms).
  • Female condoms don't require an erect penis to work. It is a great option for insertive partners with erectile dysfunction.
  • Female condoms are often more comfortable for uncircumcised men who often do not like to have their foreskin squeezed by the male condom. 
  • It is safe to use oil-based lubricants with female condoms. Unlike latex condoms, female condoms are made from a soft nitrile (non-latex) polymer and are not damaged by oil-based lubricants.
  • Because female condoms are made from nitrile, they are safe to use for people with latex allergies.

Many health experts have endorsed the use of the female condom for anal sex, especially for men who have sex with men (MSM) who are at an increased risk of HIV.

On September 27, 2018, the single-use female condom was officially renamed the single-use internal condom by the FDA.

Barriers to Use

The consumer uptake of the female condom has not been as robust as some public health experts had hoped for. Arguably its biggest disadvantage is that it is different.

Unfamiliarity with fem-doms, combined with their general lack of availability, can make people reluctant to try them out. They also can represent a shift in the sexual dynamics of a relationship that can also make some people uncomfortable.

Despite resistance from consumers, studies have shown that greater awareness about fem-doms, including how to use them properly, increases uptake even in low-income communities where condom usage is generally low. Even so, the cost of a female condom can place them well out of reach of some consumers.

Depending on the brand you use, a female condom can cost anywhere from $3 to $10 each. Compare this to a standard 12-pack of Trojan male condoms that retail for $8, and you can see why uptake remains challenging.

How to Use a Fem-Dom

It can be a bit intimidating to figure out how to use the female condom the first time. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you through the process:

  1. Check the expiration date on the condom. It is expired, discard it.
  2. Open the package by tearing along one edge. There is usually a notch in one of the upper corners to make this easier. Tearing along the edge reduces the risk of damaging the condom while opening. 
  3. Rub the pouch of the condom to make certain that the lubricant is well distributed around the inside of the condom.
  4. Unroll the condom and find the ring on the closed end. This is known as the inner ring because it goes inside you. The outer ring stays on the outside of your body. 
  5. You can also add more lubrication to the inside or outside of the condom if you'd like.
  6. Find a comfortable position to facilitate insertion, such as squatting, sitting on the toilet, lying down, or standing with one leg raised.
  7. Squeeze the ring on the closed end with your thumb and middle finger. This will make the ring long and narrow and easier to insert.
  8. Use the fingers of your other hand to spread the lips of your vagina.
  9. Insert the closed end of the condom into your vagina as far as possible.
  10. Put your index or middle finger into the condom, pushing the ring as far into your vagina as it will go. It should be pushed all the way up to your cervix, above your pubic bone.
  11. Once the condom is in place, you shouldn't feel it anymore. The ring at the open end should remain around 1 inch outside of the vagina. The open ring should rest comfortably on the labia.
  12. Make certain that the condom isn't twisted inside the vagina. You can usually feel if there is any twisting by inserting a finger inside the condom. 

During intercourse, guide the penis toward the center of the outer open ring. If the outer ring slips into the vagina during intercourse, take a break, remove it, and replace it with a new one.

After intercourse, twist the outside end of the condom gently to close it off. This seals in any ejaculated semen. Gently pull the condom from the body and immediately discard it in a garbage can. Do not flush the female condom.

Avoiding Mistakes

Using the female condom requires the cooperation of both partners. Taking your time and practicing when first starting out makes things easier.

During intercourse, it is important for the insertive partner to place the penis into the center of the condom. If the penis approaches from the wrong angle and catches the edge of the condom, it can push the condom inside or allow the penis to slip between the condom and vaginal wall. Both defeat the purpose of the fem-dom.

Another thing to avoid is using the female condom with a male condom (referred to as "double-bagging"). The friction between the two condoms can cause one or both of them to tear.

Female condoms should never be reused.

A Word From Verywell

The fact that female condoms are not popular should not deter you from using them. Irrespective of their cost, they work.

For receptive partners at high risk of exposure to STDs such as HIV, they offer protection even if your partner is unwilling to use condoms. For this reason alone, fem may be well worth the investment.

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Article Sources
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