Female Condom

The female condom is the only female-controlled barrier method that protects against both pregnancy and STDs.
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The female condom (brand name RealityŽ) is a polyurethane sheath with a flexible ring at each end. The closed end fits inside the vagina, against the cervix, and the open end remains outside the vagina, providing coverage to the labia (vaginal lips). The female condom is the only female-controlled barrier method that protects against both pregnancy and STDs. It has no odor or taste, and it is soft, non-drying, and non-constricting. It conforms to the contour of a woman's vagina and warms up immediately to body temperature. It come in one size and is meant to be used only one time. The lubricant that comes with Reality is water-based and unflavored.


The female condom can be as much as 95 percent effective in preventing pregnancy when used perfectly, though typical use provides 79 percent effectiveness.


The female condom is a non-hormonal birth-control method. Few health risks or side effects are associated with this method. The female condom provides some protection against HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, and it's available without a prescription in most drug stores. Because the female condom is not made with latex or nonoxynol-9, it causes few allergic reactions. It requires no health-care service to fit, prescribe, refill, insert, or remove. Women can insert the condom up to 8 hours prior to sexual activity; therefore, women do not need the consent of their sexual partner and have greater protection against STDs and pregnancy. It does not have to be removed immediately after ejaculation, allowing intercourse to last longer. Because the outer ring of the female condom rests on the labia and partly covers the female external genitalia and the base of the penis, it offers at least as much protection against STDs as the male condom. The female condom is less likely to break, because it is made from a stronger material than the male condom. The polyurethane material is unaffected by water-based or oil-based lubricants.


Medical problems are not common with the female condom. Some women have difficulty inserting the female condom, so they should experiment with the condom a few times before using it during sex. Some women have reported a reduction in sexual pleasure while using the female condom, but loss of sensation or stimulation was reported less than with use of the male condom.


The female condom, available in one size, can be purchased over-the-counter without a prescription at many drug stores.


Female condoms cost approximately $1 to $2 each and are usually sold in packages of five.

Information Resources

For additional information, check out these books:

  • Boston Women's Health Book Collective, Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.
  • Winikoff, B. & Wymelenberg, S., The Whole Truth About Contraception: A Guide to Safe and Effective Choices. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press, 1997.
  • Hatcher, Robert et al., Contraceptive Technology, Seventeenth Revised Edition, Ardent Media Cooper Station, NY, 1998.

From the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association Copyright 2003. All rights reserved.



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