How to Use an Internal Condom

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The internal condom—also called "female" condoms—has several advantages over the external condom. First of all, it is controlled by the person with a vagina. So even if the partner with a penis (insertive) is reluctant to use external condoms, it affords the partner with a vagina (receptive) greater control over their sexual health and reproductive choices.

But there are other benefits of internal condoms that may make them attractive for both partners.

Woman holding internal condom
Keith Brofsky / Getty Images


The internal 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 sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Among the many advantages of the internal condom:

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

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

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

Barriers to Use

The consumer uptake of the internal 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 internal condoms, 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 internal condoms, including how to use them properly, increases uptake even in low-income communities where condom usage is generally low. Even so, the cost of an internal condom can place them well out of reach of some consumers.

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

How to Use an Internal Condom

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

  1. Check the expiration date on the internal condom. If 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 internal condom while opening. 
  3. Rub the pouch of the internal condom to make certain that the lubricant is well distributed around the inside of the condom.
  4. Unroll the internal 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 internal 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 internal condom into your vagina as far as possible.
  10. Put your index or middle finger into the internal 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 internal 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 internal condom isn't twisted inside the vagina. You can usually feel if there is any twisting by inserting a finger inside the internal 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 internal condom gently to close it off. This seals in any ejaculated semen. Gently pull the internal condom from the body and immediately discard it in a garbage can. Do not flush the internal condom.

Avoiding Mistakes

Using the internal 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 internal condom. If the penis approaches from the wrong angle and catches the edge of the condom, it can push the internal condom inside or allow the penis to slip between the condom and vaginal wall. Both defeat the purpose of the condom.

Another thing to avoid is using an internal condom with an external condom ("double-bagging"). The friction between the condoms can cause one or both of them to tear.

Internal condoms should never be reused.

A Word From Verywell

The fact that internal 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 STIs such as HIV, they offer protection even if your partner is unwilling to use external condoms. For this reason alone, internal condoms may be well worth the investment.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Rodriguez K, Ventura-DiPersia C, LeVasseur MT, Kelvin EA. Inconsistencies on U.S. Departments of Health websites regarding anal use of the female condom. AIDS Behav. 2015 Jul;19(7):1141-9. doi:10.1007/s10461-014-0933-6

  3. Federal Register. Obstetrical and gynecological devices; reclassification of single-use female condom, to be renamed single-use internal condom.

  4. Weeks MR. Zhan W, Li J, Hilario H, Abbott M, Medina Z. Female condom use and adoption among men and women in a general low-income urban U.S. population. AIDS Behav. 2015;19(9):1642-1654. doi:10.1007/s10461-015-1052-8

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How to use a female condom.

  6. Beksinska M, Smit J, Greener R, Piaggio G, Joanis C. The female condom learning curve: patterns of female condom failure over 20 uses. Contraception. 2015;91(1):85-90. doi:10.1016/j.contraception.2014.09.011

  7. Munoz K, Davtyan M, Brown B. Revisiting the condom riddle: Solutions and implications. Electronic J Hum Sex. 2014;17.

By Elizabeth Boskey, PhD
Elizabeth Boskey, PhD, MPH, CHES, is a social worker, adjunct lecturer, and expert writer in the field of sexually transmitted diseases.