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Internal/Female Condoms Explained

In this post, we’re going to take a look at the less well-known internal condom, also known as the female condom. We’ll cover how internal condoms work, how effective they are, where you can get hold of them, and much more. Read on to learn all about internal condoms….

What are internal condoms?

Internal condoms, or female condoms, are a type of barrier birth control method. They are made from soft natural or synthetic latex and, unlike external or male condoms which are worn on the penis, internal condoms are worn inside the vagina or anus. 

Although more commonly used, the term female condom isn’t as accurate as internal condom, because they can also be worn inside the anus by either sex. However, to prevent pregnancy they must be worn inside the vagina - hence why they are often called female condoms.

How do internal condoms work? 

All barrier methods work in the same way: by physically stopping sperm cells and egg cells from meeting. This means they must be inserted into the vagina before the penis and vagina come into contact, as semen can still be released before ejaculation. Female condoms can also offer protection from sexually transmitted infections.

Always check the product packaging and make sure you read the instructions to understand how to use internal condoms. You can also check out this guide on the right way to use a female condom from the CDC to find out more.

How effective are female condoms?

When it comes to effectiveness, female condoms are 95% effective with perfect use and 79% effective with typical use. This means on average 21 women over a year of use will get pregnant using the female condom. Perfect use includes storing female condoms as per instructions, using them correctly, and using them every time you have sex.

Where to buy female condoms

You might be able to get female condoms for free from your doctor or sexual health clinic. You can also buy female condoms online and over-the-counter in some pharmacies. Typically these internal condoms aren’t as easy to get hold of as the more common external or male condoms

Female condoms vs male condoms 

When it comes to the numbers, female condoms are technically a less effective birth control method than the more commonly used male condoms. However, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

A large part of whether a birth control method works for you comes down to whether or not you are comfortable using the method. Using a more effective method is only effective if you actually do consistently use that method - and remember, different methods work better for different people.

An advantage of internal condoms is the power it gives the user. If you are inserting the condom yourself you are in control of how and when it’s used, whether during anal or vaginal intercourse. 

Internal condoms definitely aren’t for everyone - but we think it’s great that a barrier birth control method exists that can be used inside the vagina. After all, when it comes to birth control we believe a choice of options is best for everyone. If you’re thinking about switching birth control methods, it’s a good idea to talk through all your options with a healthcare professional. 

If you’re a user of female condoms you may find yourself asking ‘why is it so hard to get hold of female condoms?’ Female condoms are often more difficult to find than male condoms. Therefore, it’s important to be prepared, and make sure you’re stocked up if you plan on using them. Unfortunately, another disadvantage is that they also tend to be more expensive than male condoms.

Using female condoms with Natural Cycles

Natural Cycles is the world’s first FDA cleared birth control app. The app works with a basal thermometer, learning the pattern of your unique cycle so you know exactly when you’re fertile. (That’s right - you can’t get pregnant every day!) You can then use this knowledge to prevent pregnancy on your terms, all while getting to know your cycle and body better.

At Natural Cycles we want you to be protected on your fertile days in a way that works for you. We recommend the use of condoms during the fertile window - although some people may prefer to abstain from intercourse altogether. It’s perfectly fine to use internal, external condoms or another barrier method of protection that works for you alongside the Natural Cycles app - just make sure you’re aware of the method’s effectiveness and how they are intended to be used.

Changing the landscape of reproductive health

Thanks for reading up on the internal condom - we hope you learned something new about this lesser talked about contraceptive. Here at Natural Cycles, we’re committed to increasing knowledge when it comes to birth control and reproductive health more widely. 

The Natural Cycles app can be used to plan or prevent pregnancy - but it also offers so much more. Not only can you learn lots about your unique cycle by tracking symptoms such as pain, sex drive, and mood changes, but you’ll also receive handy notifications including PMS alerts and self-breast check reminders. Why not find out if Natural Cycles could work for you today?

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Written By

Jennifer Gray

Jennifer Gray is an award-winning writer with more than five years’ experience covering reproductive topics ranging from birth control to planning pregnancy. She is passionate about providing women with accurate information grounded in science they can use to take charge of their own health - while also dispelling myths that exist within the field of women’s health. She holds a Master of Science from the University of Edinburgh and currently lives in Ireland.

Jack in a suit and tie holding a microphone and giving a presentation.

Scientifically Reviewed

Jack Pearson

Dr. Jack Pearson is a previously HCPC registered Embryologist with a PhD in reproductive medicine. Prior to joining Natural Cycles leading Medical Affairs, he worked for more than 10 years in a clinical setting working at some of the busiest fertility clinics in the UK. Today he spends most of his time working with experts at the world’s leading institutions to carry out important research with the vision to further the field of female health. He earned his PhD from the University of Sheffield specializing in Sperm Metabolism and currently lives in London.

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