While you might consider yourself an expert when it comes to the basics of using male condoms, odds are, you’ve never used a female condom. Female condoms, also called internal condoms, are like their male counterparts in that they’re barrier methods of STI and pregnancy protection. However, the similarities pretty much end there.
For instance, female condoms are much larger than male ones and are meant to be inserted inside the vagina or anus as opposed to fitted on a penis.
Here are 12 other things you probably didn’t know (but should) about female condoms.
1 You can get female condoms for free from government clinics
The original FC1 female condom is no longer in production, but the newer FC2 female condom is currently available from government clinics.
2 This female condom is non-latex.
The FC2 is made of a nitrile non-latex sheath and outer ring and a polyurethane inner ring. There’s a silicone-based lubricant added to the inside and outside of the condom, but no spermicidal additives are added to it.
3 You can use both water- and silicone-based lube with it
With traditional latex condoms, you can only use water-based lubricants, as oil or silicone-based lubes can break down rubber (making it more prone to break). However, since the female condom is non-latex, it’s the one barrier method you can use with silicone-based lube. Silicone lubes tend to last longer than water-based (they’re great for shower sex since they don’t wash away), so go forth and stay slick
4 One major difference between female condoms and male condoms is the two rings
There are two rings on a female condom: The inner ring is flexible and meant to help with insertion and holding the condom in place during sex, and the outer ring covers the area around the opening of the vagina. The outer ring is designed to keep the condom from slipping inside the vagina, explains Jennifer Johnsen, senior director of marketing and communications at Power to Decide.
5 You must hold the condom in place during insertion
To insert a female condom, push the sides of the inner ring together so both ends touch, then insert it, pushing the ring as far into your body as possible while leaving the outer ring outside of your body.
During sex, you don’t have to hold the female condom in place, but it is a good idea to hold the outer ring in place when you’re done and pulling out, says Johnsen.
6 No, it can’t get ‘lost’ in your vagina
That’s why the outer ring is meant to be kept outside of you so that the entire condom doesn’t get lodged inside of you. ‘If that does happen, though, you can put a finger in your vagina and hook it around the ring to pull the internal condom out,’ explains Johnsen.
7 Female condoms are 79 percent effective at preventing pregnancy
According to Planned Parenthood, internal condoms are 95 percent effective at preventing pregnancy if used perfectly every single time you have sex. However, that’s nearly impossible to do, so with normal use in real life, they’re 79 percent effective. For context, male condoms are 85 percent effective.