Dear Sexpert,

My boyfriend and I have been using condoms for a while, and we’re interested in trying another method of contraception. The female condom seems the most appealing to me, but I really don’t know much about it. Can you tell me about it? How does it work?

Thanks,

-Internally Curious

Dear Curious,

Using a male (or external) condom is a great way to promote your sexual health, as condoms lower the risk of both pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections. Luckily for you, the internal, or “female,” condom offers the same level of protection.

The internal condom is a non-reusable pouch that is designed to fit comfortably in the average sized vagina, which is 3-6 inches long. Like its “male” counterpart, also known as the external condom, the internal condom can also be used for anal intercourse (which is why “internal” is a more suitable name than “female”). The internal condom, like the external condom, catches your partner’s sperm, but instead of being worn on the penis, it can be inserted into the vagina or anus right before intercourse. Some women prefer the internal condom because it makes them feel more in control during sex, and some men prefer it because its width makes it feel as if nothing’s there. Unlike the external condom, the internal condom is made of polyurethane or nitrile, so it is ideal if you or your partner has a latex allergy. It can be used in conjunction with spermicide or other birth control methods.

However, never use it with a male condom, because the friction could cause them both to tear.

To use the internal condom, apply spermicide or lubricant to the outside of the closed end of the condom, and squeeze the sides of the inner ring together. Then insert it into your vagina, like a tampon, and use your index finger to push it as far as the ring can go; when you can’t push any farther, that means it has reached your cervix. Remove your finger and allow about an inch of the condom to hang out of your vagina. If you experience any pain or discomfort after insertion, the ring might not be properly in place; just remove and try again.

Some users of the internal condom like their partners to insert it for them, as it can be very pleasurable. The outer ring (the one hanging out) prevents the condom from slipping all the way into your vagina. The condom may move from side to side during intercourse, but don’t worry — that’s normal. However, your partner needs to make sure that his penis stays inside the condom (otherwise, you’re both losing STI and pregnancy protection). When the sperm has been caught, squeeze the outer ring and twist the condom closed, then gently pull it out of your vagina and throw it away. The internal condom is not reusable.

You can get internal condoms at several places. On campus you can get them at University Health Services for free at the front desk or at the LGBT Center. You can also order them on Amazon: a 15-pack costs about $29.

If the internal condom sounds appealing to you, or if you have any other questions about contraceptives, we strongly encourage you to make an appointment with Sexual Health and Wellness at UHS to discuss which method would be the best fit for you. The clinicians can help you decide on a form of contraception, and teach you how to use it properly, so it can provide the most protection.

We also strongly encourage you to include your partner in your experimentation with the internal condom. Trying something new is both exciting and a break from routine, so communication is key. (Also, it is important to ensure that you are using the condom correctly). Check in about how the new method feels: Does it need some adjusting? Is it irritating? Should you try a new kind of lubricant? The more comfortable your communication about your bodies, the better the sex — no matter what contraceptive method you’re using.

-The Sexpert

For more information on internal condoms or other forms of contraception, see bedsider.org or plannedparenthood.org

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