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Internal (female) condoms

An internal (sometimes called a female) condom is a thin pouch that you put in the vagina or anus before sex. 

Internal condoms are less common than external condoms but they are still one of the best ways to protect your sexual health. This is because condoms are the only type of contraception that stops you getting or giving sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – including HIV – and they also prevent pregnancy.  

For condoms to work you have to use them correctly every time you have sex. Read on to find out how! 

What is an internal (female) condom?

It is a thin pouch made from a soft plastic called nitrile that goes inside the vagina. Although they are often called female condoms, people of any gender can also use them inside the anus. 

You can get them for free from sexual health clinics or doctors. They are also sold online and in some shops and pharmacies.  

How does an internal (female) condom work?

Semen, vaginal fluids and blood can pass on HIV and STIs. An internal condom stops these fluids from entering the body. 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of internal (female) condoms?

Advantages 

Condoms are the only type of contraception that stops you getting or passing on HIV and STIs  

Internal condoms are a good alternative to external (male) condoms, because: 

  • they can be inserted up to eight hours before sex, so there are no interruptions in the heat of the moment 

  • most internal condoms are made of latex, which some people are sensitive to. Female condoms are hypoallergenic, so they don’t irritate the skin 

  • some men prefer external condoms as they are larger so they give the penis more breathing room and can make it easier to keep an erection 

  • during vaginal sex, the inner ring can stimulate the tip of the penis, and the external ring can rub against the vulva and clitoris – this can feel great for both of you  

  • an internal condom does not need an erection to stay in place, so your partner does not have to withdraw straight after ejaculation.  

Disadvantages 

  • You have to use them correctly every time you have sex. But this isn’t difficult once you know how! 

How do you use an internal (female) condom?

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Internal condoms are easy to use with a bit of practice. Here’s how: 

  1. Don’t start having sex until you put the condom in. 

  1. Check it hasn’t passed its expiry date. 

  1. Carefully take the condom out of the packet. Don’t use teeth or scissors as these can damage condoms. 

  1. Squeeze the sides of the inner ring (by the closed end of the condom). 

  1. Get into a comfortable position – try lying down or squatting and push the condom inside your vagina. The outer ring should stay outside with the rest as far in as possible. 

  1. Use your hand to guide your partner’s penis into the condom.  

  1. Keep the condom in the whole time you have sex. 

  1. After sex, twist the outer ring and pull the condom out. 

  1. Wrap the condom in a tissue and put it in the bin. 

Remember 

  • Don’t double up! Using an internal condom at the same time as an external one as this causes friction that can make condoms break. 
  • Use water-based lubricant. Don’t use an oil-based lubricant as this can damage the condom. 

How do you use an internal (female) condom for anal sex?

Whatever your gender, you can use internal condoms to protect against STIs, including HIV, during anal sex.  

There are two ways to do this: 

Wear it like an external condom 

  1. Put water-based lubricant (lube) inside the condom and place it on the penis. 

  1. Put plenty more lube on the outside of the condom and around the anus before inserting the penis gradually.  

Putting the condom in the anus before sex 

  1. Use water-based lube around the anus first, then squeeze the inner ring of the condom to form an oval shape and push it into the rectum. 

  1. Put your finger inside the condom and push it as far up as you can. The outer ring should stay outside the anus. Do not try to remove the inner ring, you may break the condom. 

  1. After sex, when you are ready, withdraw the penis. Then twist the external ring a few times and gently pull the condom out ensuring no semen is spilt. 

Make sure you use plenty of lubricant during sex because the anus doesn’t create its own.  

What do I do if a condom splits or breaks?

Condoms rarely break. But if they do, follow these simple steps: 

  1. Withdraw the penis immediately. 

  1. Remove the semen (cum) as much as you can. 

  1. Gently wash the outside of your genitals but avoid washing inside the vagina or anus as this can spread infection. 

  1. If you’ve been having vaginal sex, go to the toilet and pee to flush away any semen. 

  1. If you need to, go to a healthcare facility to get emergency contraception.

  1. Get an HIV and STI test. 

If we are in a relationship can we stop using condoms?

If you’re worried about getting or passing on HIV or STIs, it’s still a good idea to use condoms. 

Remember that using condoms isn’t a sign that you don’t trust your partner – it’s a way of showing you care and want to protect you both. 

Let's talk about condoms!

Here are a few questions to help kick-off discussions on the issues you need to talk about! You can share them on social, on WhatsApp or just get talking.

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What advice can I give to someone about using an internal condom?

If someone is thinking about using condoms, the best thing you can do is to give them clear and accurate information, which you can find on this page.  

The best way to speak to someone about any form of contraception, including condoms, is to: 

Respect their decisions: this means their decision to have sex and the type of contraceptive they choose.  

Be open: be prepared to discuss any form of contraception and let them know they can ask anything they want; you won’t judge them. 

Respect their privacy: they might feel embarrassed about discussing things to do with sex. If they are, you could give them details of a friendly healthcare professional, a helpline or factual online resources, like this app. 

It is a good idea to discuss both internal and external condoms, and mention that internal condoms can be particularly good if they are struggling to use external condoms.  

Why not suggest they experiment with both external condoms and internal condoms? They may be surprised which they prefer! 

Remember, they might feel embarrassed about discussing sex with you. If they are, connect them with a friendly healthcare professional, a helpline or factual online resources, like this site. 

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  • Last updated: 13 May 2022
  • Last full review: 01 March 2022
  • Next full review: 01 March 2025
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