The Birth Control Option You're (Probably) Not Using

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Update: This story was originally published on April 21.
By Kendall McKenzie
Uh, FEMALE condom?
That’s a pretty cis-centric name.
I know, right? We agree: The name isn’t super inclusive, or even accurate. While the female condom is designed to be worn in the vagina, not all folks with vaginas identify as female. Also, female condoms can actually be used inside the anus as well (if the inner ring is removed), so they’re useful for all bodies.
Thus, some people choose to call them “internal condoms,” “receptive condoms,” or “innies” (female condom) and “outies” (male condoms). However, others dislike those names too. We at Planned Parenthood use the brand name “FC2 Female Condom” (female condom for short) because that’s the only kind that’s FDA approved to prevent pregnancy and STDs. But, if you have suggestions for alternative names that are gender non-specific, let us know!
What’s the difference between the traditional “male” condom and the FC2 Female Condom?
Just by looking at them, there are some obvious differences in shape and design. Traditional condoms fit snuggly and completely over the penis, while female condoms are roomier and use an “inner ring” at the closed end to hold themselves in place against the vaginal walls. The FC2 Female Condom is made of nitrile, a type of synthetic rubber, while the majority of traditional condoms are made of latex (or sometimes polyurethane or polyisoprene).
What are the benefits of female condoms?
Condoms, including female condoms, are the only method of birth control that can prevent both sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. The FC2 Female Condom is latex-free, so it’s great for folks with latex allergies, and can be used with any type of lubricant (even oil, unlike latex condoms).
The outer rim can offer additional clitoral or labia stimulation, while the inner ring may give penises the feel-goods, too. And, female condoms can be inserted before foreplay and don’t need to be removed right after ejaculation, keeping your sex party all action, no interruptions.
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The female condom is worn inside a vagina (or anus) instead of fitting onto a penis, so it’s a great option for those very, very few whose penis size makes using traditional condoms uncomfortable or difficult. Along similar lines, female condoms are useful for people with erectile issues (trouble getting and/or keeping an erection). While a penis must be hard the whole time it’s wearing a traditional condom so the condom doesn’t slip or fall off, female condoms give boners the freedom to come and go without affecting your level of protection. And, because there’s more room, penises of all shapes, sizes, and stiffness-levels may find female condoms more pleasurable.
Finally, there’s that whole “taking charge of your sexual health vagina empowerment” thing — lots of people feel like taking the initiative to protect themselves and their partners by using female condoms gives them a sense of control and self-esteem.
What are the drawbacks?
Availability and price are major ones: They cost around $2-3 each, and female condoms are harder to track down than traditional condoms (although that’s changing). Online retailers and select drug stores now carry female condoms, and some Planned Parenthood health centers have them. Female condoms are slightly less effective at preventing pregnancy than traditional condoms, but as long as you’re using them correctly (just like all birth control methods), they’re very effective. People who use a diaphragm or cervical cap for additional pregnancy protection can’t use a female condom, because the female condom’s inner ring needs to fit in the same place. Folks who are on the vaginal ring (NuvaRing) should remove it before using a female condom, but don’t leave your NuvaRing out for longer than three hours.
How do I use it?
You or your partner can insert a female condom, which is a fun way to make condom use a sexy part of foreplay. Grab the female condom, squeeze the inner-ring at the closed end of the condom, and insert it into your vagina (similar to the way you’d put in a tampon). Put your finger inside the condom and make sure the inner ring is pushed all the way up to your cervix, while the outer ring should hang about an inch out of the vagina.
You/your partner should guide the penis into the condom to make sure the penis doesn’t miss the condom or push it inside the vagina — if this happens, you can remove and reinsert the condom as long as your partner hasn’t ejaculated yet. Feel free to add additional lubrication inside and outside the condom. After ejaculation, twist the outer ring of the condom and gently pull it out of the vagina.
Plannedparenthood.org and the FC2 Female Condom website have more detailed instructions for using female condoms, including this video.
-Kendall at Planned Parenthood

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