×

Got a question?

Use the Ask Brook 24/7 tool to answer your query or search FAQs

Find a service

Search for your nearest Brook sexual health service here

Internal (or 'female') condoms

Internal/female condoms (‘femi-doms’) are like other condoms except they fit inside the vagina instead of covering the penis.

Internal/female condoms protect against pregnancy by stopping the sperm contained in semen coming into contact with the vagina. They also stop sexual fluids being transferred between partners which provides protection against STIs

This page is about ‘female’ or ‘internal’ condoms, which are made of polyurethane and line the vagina. For information about ‘male’ condoms which stretch to fit over an erect penis or sex toy, go to the condom page.

Some key facts are:

  • When internal/female condoms are used correctly they are 95% effective at protecting against pregnancy 
  • Internal/female condoms are a method of contraception that protects against both sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy
  • You can get free condoms from Brook services, contraception clinics, young people’s services, GUM clinics and some GP surgeries
  • Internal/female condoms are made of polyurethane and are slightly wider than other condoms
  • Always check that the condoms have the European CE mark on the packet, and always check the expiry date
  • You can use internal/female condoms in addition to other methods of contraception
  • If the condom breaks or you are worried you can find out more about emergency contraception, and also getting an STI test
  • Internal/female condoms are inserted into the vagina before you have sex, and can be inserted up to eight hours before
  • There is one brand of internal/female condoms used in the UK - Femidons
  • There are also male condoms which stretch to fit over an erect penis or sex toy 

How do internal/female condoms work?

Internal/female condoms line the vagina and protect against pregnancy by stopping the sperm contained in semen coming into contact with a vagina. As condoms stop sexual fluids being transferred between partners they are also the only method of contraception that protects against most STIs. 

If they are used properly internal/female condoms are 95% effective. This means that five women out of every 100 who use condoms as contraception will become pregnant within a year. This is less effective than other methods of contraception. If you are using them as your only method of protection against pregnancy you may wish to speak with a doctor or nurse about the other methods that are available.

They are a method of contraception that protects against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Internal/female condoms have lubrication on them, but some people like to use additional lubrication. Because internal/female condoms are made from polyurethane, you can use any lubrication with them including: body oils, creams, lotions or petroleum jelly (unlike latex condoms as these substances destroy the latex). You can also still use internal/female condoms if you are using medication in the genital area, such as creams, suppositories or pessaries.

How do I get internal/female condoms?

Internal/female condoms are not always available at every contraception and sexual health clinic and can be more expensive to buy than other condoms. 

You can get internal/female condoms FREE from:

Or buy your condoms, even if you're under 16, from:

  • Pharmacies
  • Petrol stations
  • Machines in public toilets, bars and clubs
  • Most supermarkets
  • Mail order or online 

If you go to a service to get internal/female condoms, you will usually have a private consultation where they will ask you a few questions and explain how to use them.

You and a friend or partner can also go to a clinic together and keep each other company. This might make it a bit easier for you.

How do you use internal/female condoms?

Your condoms should come with instructions which you should follow, some general guidance instructions are: 

  • Take the condom out of its packet, checking the use-by date on the packet first and making sure there are no rips in it. Watch out for sharp nails, jewellery and teeth!
  • Lie or squat down
  • Separate the labia (the lips of the vagina) with one hand
  • At the closed end of the condom, squeeze the flexible inner ring (this stays inside the condom) between your thumb and finger, making it long and narrow and gently insert it into the vagina as far as it will go
  • Make sure that the large ring at the open end of the female condom covers the area around the vaginal opening
  • Gently push the squeezed ring of the condom into the vagina as far as it will go
  • Now with your middle finger gently push the inner ring as far up into the vagina as you can so that it rests just above the pubic bone. The outer ring should hang outside the body
  • Don’t worry if the condom is a bit loose – that’s how it’s meant to be
  • Make sure the penis enters into the condom, not between the condom and the side of the vagina, it can help if you guide the penis into the vagina
  • After sex twist the outer ring of the condom to keep any semen inside the condom and gently pull it out
  • Wrap the condom in tissue and throw it in the bin (don’t flush it down the toilet)
  • It's a good idea to put the condom in before the penis touches the vagina or genital area
  • You can put the condom in when you are lying down, squatting or with one leg on a chair. It's worth experimenting with putting the condom in to find the position that suits you best
  • As with other types of condom, you should always use a new one every time you have sex and check the expiry date on the packet

Look after your condoms
Keeping condoms in your pocket or at the bottom of your bag for a long time might damage them. If the wrappers look damaged throw them away and get new ones. Always check the expiry date: out of date condoms are less effective.

What if the internal/female condom breaks?

If the condom breaks or you are worried you may need emergency contraception or speak to your doctor or nurse. You may also need to be tested for STIs.

Advantages of internal/female condoms

  • They protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well as pregnancy
  • You only need to use them when you have sex
  • They are available for FREE from Brook services (for under 25s), some youth clinics, contraception and sexual health clinics and some GPs. You can also buy them at any time of day from supermarkets, vending machines in public toilets, petrol stations etc, even if you're under 16
  • You can put them in before you have sex (up to eight hours before)

Disadvantages of internal/female condoms

  • They can slip or get pushed up into the vagina if not used properly – if this happens or you are worried find out more about emergency contraception
  • You need to make sure the penis goes into the condom and not between the condom and the vagina
  • They are not always available at every contraception and sexual health clinic and can be more expensive to buy than other condoms

What can make internal/female condoms less effective?

  • If it slips or gets pushed out of place
  • If it is not put in properly
  • If the penis touches the area around the vagina before a condom is inserted, because pre-come (fluid which leaks of out the penis before ejaculation) may contain sperm
  • If it is ripped by sharp nails or rings
  • If it splits

If any of these happen or you are worried you can find out more about emergency contraception. You may also need to be tested for STIs, find out more about STIs.

Using internal/female condoms after having a baby

You can use condoms immediately after having a baby.

Using internal/female condoms after an abortion or miscarriage

You can use condoms immediately after having a miscarriage or abortion.

Page last reviewed: August 2015
Next review due: August 2017