The internal condom, popularly known as the Female Condom, has been around for 20 years. Created to provide an alternative to the externally worn condom, it has more advantages than you might think. It allows women to have more control when it comes to contraception and preventing STD/STIs. It also offers some advantages over a male condom due to its innovative shape and material. Surprisingly, it’s not as commonly used as one would think. Let’s look into the history and development of the internal condom and take a close look at exactly how it works. Hopefully this will inspire you to try one if you never have before. If you’re already a female condom fan, perhaps you’ll learn a little bit more about it.
Up until the 1980’s the male condom ruled the realm when it came to preventing pregnancy and STD/STIs. By the mid eighties there was much concern about the transmission of STD/STIs, especially HIV. It started with a desire for an alternative condom that would give women more control, giving them the option to take the lead, thus increasing the use of barriers overall. Danish inventor Lasse Hessel developed the first female condom and after rigorous field testing it was given FDA approval in 1993. They were made of polyurethane and went under brand names like Femy, Reality and Femidom. The Female Health Company officially formed and the female condom sold as the FC1.
A Late Bloomer
The FC1 was immediately promoted worldwide and was well received nearly everywhere but in the US, where it was thought of as a novelty. Cost may also have been a factor in its lack of popularity. It was more expensive than a condom but also lacking in awareness and education. Most women didn’t know how the darned thing worked and didn’t bother looking into it. The Female Health Company realized that polyurethane made their product more expensive to produce. In 2003 the FC1 was redesigned to make it less expensive to produce while still remaining safe and latex free. The FC2 was born and was FDA approved in 2009. Since then the FC1 has gone out of production. The FC2 is made of nitrile, the same as medical gloves. Nitrile is latex free, less expensive to produce, and significantly reduced the crinkle sound that occurred with the FC1. The FC2 helped the internal condom gain popularity in the US but many women still didn’t quite know how to use it.
How It Works
The internal condom is a sheath about 6-7 inches long with two flexible metal rings, one at the closed end of the sheath and another at the open end. The sheath loosely lines the vagina so the penis moves within the condom. There is some silicone lube inside but feel free to add more, both on the inside and outside, if desired. Make sure the lube is evenly distributed by rubbing the outside of the package before opening. The condom is inserted by folding the flexible ring at the closed end, inserting it into the vagina, then pushing it all the way up to the cervix. The larger ring at the open end stays outside and helps to keep the condom in place. This covers part of the vulva adding some external barrier protection. The penis should be guided in; you don’t want it accidentally slipping between the internal condom and the vaginal wall. If this happens, pull out and try again. Sometimes the condom can slip too far inside the vagina. If this happens, immediately remove and replace before starting again. If the condom starts sticking to the penis instead of moving within it, add more lube. Don’t try to double up by using it with a male condom. The friction may cause tearing, making the protection null and void. To remove after sex, twist the outside end to keep the semen in then gently pull the condom out. Throw in the trash, do not flush or reuse. If you’re still not sure how to use it check out FC2’s handy video or their pdf, http://www.fc2femalecondom.com/how-to-use-a-female-condom/
What About Anal?
The FDA hasn’t approved the internal condom for anal use but research is ongoing. While the manufacturer does not outright recommend it, there has yet to be enough research to prove that it can’t be used safely. The studies so far have found the biggest problem with using the internal condom anally is slippage and increased discomfort for the receiver. The internal condom may slip and shift more readily than a male condom but risk of tearing or breaking seems to be the same. The advantage of the internal condom is it provides another latex free barrier choice and can be more a comfortable alternative to wearing a male condom. Insertion of the internal condom for anal sex is about the same as the aforementioned vaginal insertion. It’s recommended not to remove the upper ring as it may weaken the condom and increase the chance of breakage. It can also be inserted by applying to the penis first. Use lots of lube, both inside and out, and check to make sure the penis is still inside the condom and the condom has not slipped inside. Removal is the same, twist to seal and pull gently. Thrown in trash, do not flush or reuse. The jury is still out on anal use as research continues. There are also internal condoms specifically designed for anal use currently in development.
The internal condom has a 5-21% chance of failure, 5% if used perfectly. This is only slightly less than the male condom which has a 2-15% failure rate. The biggest issues are with slippage, either being pushed into the vagina or slipping out, and with the penis slipping between the condom and the vagina. There is less breakage risk than the male condom, although this is for vaginal use not anal use. It provides protection against STD/STIs and can even provide extra protection from Herpes and HPV. The condom partially covers the labia providing some additional protection from skin to skin contact. It can be inserted up to 8 hours in advance lending itself to more spontaneity. It puts women more in control and provides an option if their partner refuses to wear a condom. It’s a great alternative to latex condoms since it can be used by those allergic to latex and can be used with oil-based lubes you can’t use with latex condoms. It conducts heat well, making sex more pleasurable and the outer ring can stimulate the clitoris providing even more stimulation. Other than slippage, the only real drawbacks are that it’s more expensive than a male condom, can crinkle a bit (not like the old polyurethane ones though, just add more lube) and some find insertion a bit complicated. You’ll get the hang of it quicker than you think. Proper insertion makes it much more effective and comfortable to use so don’t be afraid to try it!