Internally Curious: How does an internal condom work?

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?

–Internally Curious

Dear Internally 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 (STIs). Luckily for you, the internal, or “female,” condom offers the same protection.

The internal condom is a non-reusable pouch that is designed to fit comfortably in the average sized vagina, which is 5-6 inches long. Like its “male” counterpart, the external condom, the internal condom can also be used for anal intercourse (which is why “internal condom” is a more suitable name). 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 should 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. It’s not reusable.

You can get female condoms several places. On campus you can get them at University Health Services by prescription (most insurance covers the cost) or off-campus by prescription from your health care provider.

If the internal condom sounds appealing to you, or if you have any other questions about contraceptives, I 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.

I also strongly encourage you to include your partner in your internal condom quest! Trying something new is both exciting and a break from routine, so communication is key. Check in about how the new method feels: Does it need some adjusting? Does it fit like a glove? Does it rub nicely, or is it irritating? Should you try a new kind of lube? The more comfortable your communication about your bodies and feelings, the better the sex—no matter what contraceptive method you’re using.

~The Sexpert

Information on internal condoms retrieved from Bedsider