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Internal (or female) condoms

Internal (or female condoms) are like other condoms except they fit inside the vagina instead of covering the penis. They are made of polyurethane and line the vagina.

Quick guide


No hormones


No effect on mood


Protects against STIs


Only people involved in the sexual activity will see it


Periods will stay the same

Lasts for

Single use


Skin will stay the same

Preventing pregnancy

More than 95% effective if used without mistakes

Starting on this method

Can get them for free from some sexual health services and GPs or buy them from pharmacies, shops or online.


Use a new one each time you have sex

You can get latex-free internal condoms if you are allergic to latex.

How internal condoms work

Internal condoms line the vagina and protect against unwanted pregnancy by stopping the sperm contained in semen coming into contact with a vagina (which could lead to an egg being fertilised).

They also stop sexual fluids being transferred between partners which provides protection against STIs.

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Pros & cons


  • Protect against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Can be inserted up to eight hours before before you have sex
  • Only need to use them when you have sex
  • No side effects
  • 95% effective at protecting against pregnancy when used correctly
  • Can be used in addition to other methods (e.g. the pill, implant, injection) for extra protection
  • Made of polyurethane so are suitable for people with latex allergies 
  • Still effective if using medication in the genital area, such as creams, suppositories or pessaries.
  • Can use any lubrication with them including: body oils, creams, lotions or petroleum jelly


  • Can slip or get pushed up into the vagina if not used properly – if this happens or you are worried you may need emergency contraception
  • Less accessible and can be more expensive than other condoms 
  • Single use

Where to get internal condoms

Internal 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 free condoms from Brook services, young people’s services, contraception clinics, GUM clinics and some GP surgeries.

You may also be able to get free condoms from a local C-Card provider. The C-Card scheme allows you to pick up free condoms from local outlets like pharmacies, youth services and shops.

You can also buy condoms from pharmacies, supermarkets, vending machines in public toilets and online.

Under 16?
There is no age restriction on buying or accessing free condoms. You can still access condoms in the same ways as anyone else.

Embarrassed about buying internal condoms?

If you go to a service to get condoms, you will usually have a private consultation where they will ask you a few questions and they may show you how to use condoms.

If it’s easier, go to a clinic with a friend or a partner. Bringing up the subject of condoms when you’re about to have sex can be tricky. Get some tips for talking about it in advance with our page on talking about condoms.

When to start using internal condoms

You can start using internal condoms whenever and you only need to use them when you are having sex

After pregnancy

You can get pregnant from as little as three weeks after giving birth and from two weeks after an abortion of miscarriage
You can use internal condoms whenever you are ready to have sex.

How to use internal condoms

When used correctly internal condoms are 95% effective at protecting against pregnancy.

  1. Before opening, feel for the internal condom inside the packaging and push it to the side so that when you tear it open you don’t tear the condom as well
  2. Take the condom out of its packet and making sure there are no rips in it
  3. Lie or squat down
  4. Separate the labia (the lips of the vagina) with one hand
  5. 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
  6. Make sure that the large ring at the open end of the female condom covers the area around the vaginal opening
  7. Gently push the squeezed ring of the condom into the vagina as far as it will go
  8. 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
  9. Don’t worry if the condom is a bit loose – that’s how it’s meant to be
  10. 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
  11. After sex twist the outer ring of the condom to keep any semen inside the condom and gently pull it out
  12. Wrap the condom in tissue and throw it in the bin (don’t flush it down the toilet)
  13. It’s a good idea to put the condom in before the penis touches the vagina or genital area
  14. 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

Factors impacting their effectiveness


  • Check the expiry date – out of date? don’t use it. It could split
  • Check for the European CE mark or the UKCA mark on the packet. If it’s not there, don’t use them – you can’t rely on them
  • Always use a brand new condom – they can only be used once
  • Use lube if you need it
  • Take care that you don’t rip them with sharp nails or jewellery


  • Don’t use an internal condom if there are any rips, holes or damage to the pack
  • Don’t use two condoms together as this increases the chances of them splitting or tearing
  • Don’t use internal condoms if the wrappers look damaged
  • Don’t use the condom if you’ve already tried putting it on the wrong way. It’s easily done but you should throw it away as it may have touched some pre-come, or semen which could mean there is a risk of pregnancy.
  • Don’t let the penis touch 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

What to do if the condom breaks

Accidents happen and if the condom has broken, split, slipped out or you’re worried it was used incorrectly, don’t panic. Use our Find a service tool to find your local sexual health service where you can have a quick, simple and painless test for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and emergency contraception if there is a risk of unwanted pregnancy.


Is it difficult to insert internal condoms?

It might take you a couple of times to get used to inserting an internal condom particularly if you’re not used to inserting things into your vagina like tampons or menstrual cups. Internal condoms do have lube on them but you may find it easier to use more lube. Putting a leg up or squatting can also help you insert it.

Can internal condoms be used for anal sex?

Yes! Internal condoms can be used during anal sex to protect against STIs.

Can you use internal condoms and external condoms together?

No – it is not recommended to use two types of condoms at once as it is more likely that one or both of them split or break. If you’re worried about pregnancy you can use internal condoms as well as other types of contraception that are not barrier methods.

Unsure which contraception method is best for you?
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    Other Stuff you might find useful…


    Condom excuses (and comebacks!)


    12 common mistakes when using condoms


    How do I use a condom?


    Talking about condoms with your partner



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