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    Everything you need to know about female condoms

    Updated 30 January 2023 |
    Published 17 January 2019
    Fact Checked
    Dr. Jenna Beckham
    Medically reviewed by Dr. Jenna Beckham, Obstetrician, gynecologist, and complex family planning specialist, WakeMed Health and Hospitals, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, North Carolina, US
    Flo Fact-Checking Standards

    Every piece of content at Flo Health adheres to the highest editorial standards for language, style, and medical accuracy. To learn what we do to deliver the best health and lifestyle insights to you, check out our content review principles.

    Because condoms aren’t just for penises, you know. 

    Many people will have their own story about their health teacher rolling a condom over a penis-shaped appendage during sex education class. It might have been your first introduction to birth control. But did you know that condoms aren’t only used by people with a penis? The female condom is a lesser-known barrier method that works in exactly the same way as the male condom and can be inserted in the vagina or anus during penetrative sex. 

    As condoms are the only form of contraception that can protect you and your partner from sexually transmitted infections (STIs), they’re a really handy way you can practice safe sex. While they might be referred to as “female” condoms, internal condoms can be used by anyone

    But if you aren’t familiar with internal condoms, fear not. Here, a Flo expert outlines everything you need to know, including what female condoms look like, where you can buy them, and most importantly, how to wear one. 

    What are female condoms?

    Female condoms go by a few names, including internal condoms and femidoms. Put simply, they’re condoms you can use inside your vagina or anus to protect yourself from unplanned pregnancies and STIs. You can use them if you have penetrative sex with either a penis or a sex toy. 

    Despite being very effective, they’re not as popular as male or external condoms. So if you’ve never heard of or used an internal condom, then you’re not the only one. Dr. Jennifer Boyle, an obstetrician and gynecologist (OB-GYN), at Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts, US, suggests this might be because they don’t have the reputation that external (or male) condoms do. 

    “An easy answer is that female condoms just haven’t been around for as long, given that they first came to market in the 1990s,” says Dr. Boyle. “An interesting historical tidbit, however, is that the first reported use of condoms in ancient times actually used female condoms and not external ones.” You can take that slice of trivia to your next pub quiz. 

    And what do they look like? 

    If you’ve never encountered a female condom, you might not even be sure what to look out for. Female condoms look fairly similar to their male counterparts. They’re shaped like a tube with two flexible rings at each end. One end is closed off, and this is the end you insert into your vagina. The other end remains open (so you can insert a toy or penis). You can think of it as a second lining to your vagina. 

    They’re usually made of a soft, thin plastic called polyurethane, a type of rubber called nitrile, or latex. If you have any allergies to materials, like latex or rubber, it’s a really good idea to read the back of the condom packet before using them. 

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    Female condoms vs. male condoms: What’s the difference? 

    Once inserted, female condoms work in the same way that male condoms do. The only difference is that you insert the barrier protection in