By Jae Lin
What are internal condoms?
When it comes to condoms and contraceptives, more options is always better. Our bodies and preferences all vary from person to person, so it’s helpful to try different methods for ourselves to decide what works best for us.
Internal condoms look like a tube of see-through material with two flexible rings at each end. One end is open and the other end is closed. Internal condoms can be used in many ways, including as a contraceptive and/or a barrier between skin and fluids during penetrative sex. Internal condoms are one-time-use and can be inserted into a vagina or an anus (more info on how-to, below). They have a 95% effectiveness for preventing pregnancies when used correctly as contraception.
Internal condoms are currently branded as “female” condoms, and the packaging provides information only about its use in vaginas. However, this condom may be used by anyone of any gender, and it can be used not only for vaginal sex but also anal sex. There is nothing inherently gendered or female about this condom—or about vaginas, for that matter. People with vaginas commonly identify as male, nonbinary, or female.
New Name, New Rules from the FDA
Positive developments! At the end of last year (2018), the FDA finally passed some revisions relating to the approved additional uses and reclassification of the internal condom.
Previously, the FDA had only approved the internal condom for vaginal sex, but it is now approved for both vaginal and anal sex. They have also changed the way it is referred to in FDA regulations from “single-use female condoms” to “single-use internal condoms” as a way to reflect this change.
The internal condom has also been downgraded from Class III to a Class II medical device (same as external condoms). Regulations and approval processes for Class III medical devices are much more strict and extensive compared to those of Class II. With this change, manufacturers will have an easier time getting new brands and updated versions of internal condoms approved.
Hopefully, in the future, we will see more new and different brands and manufacturers develop internal condom products. Currently, the FC2, which has retained its branding as a “female condom” for now, is the only internal condom in the US market. With the new rules and potentially new internal condom products on the horizon, hopefully we’ll see this condom gain more popularity with increased inclusivity and variety.
Pros and Cons of Using an Internal Condom
So why choose to use an internal condom over or in conjunction with other forms of contraception or STI protection? Read over these features & considerations to decide whether or not internal condoms could be something that you are interested in trying out!
- Receptive partner has direct control over this form of protection
- Latex-free. Internal condoms are made up of a nitrile sheath and outer ring as well as a polyurethane inner ring.
- Nitrile transfers heat more readily than latex, which can increase sensation during sex.
- No hormones or spermicides.
- Oil-based, silicone-based, and water-based lubes can all be used with this condom.
- Does not rely on an erection to be effective or stay in place, unlike external condoms.
- Can be inserted up to 8 hours before sex, so it can be worn before foreplay or even before a date night, hook up, play session, or any other anticipated encounter. You and your partner(s) can proceed to the action without any interruption!
- If used in a vagina, the outer ring may stimulate the clitoris during sex.
- Because the outer ring stays outside the vaginal opening or anus, the condom provides some barrier coverage for the skin in those areas as well, offering a bit of extra protection against skin-to-skin STI transmission for herpes and HPV.
- One size. Because it is worn in the receptive partner, it works with penises and dildos of any size.
- Can take some practice inserting the condom for the first few times.
- May not be suitable if the receptive partner doesn’t feel comfortable touching the area to insert the condom.
- It may make some crinkling or popping noises during the friction of sex (extra lubricant helps with this)
- Each internal condom can only be used once, and it can be more expensive if purchased directly. (For alternative, cheaper, and free ways to access internal condoms, see the ‘Where to Get Internal Condoms’ section below. In fact, you can get them for free at allgo!)
- If inserted prior to sex, the outer ring will hang outside the vagina or anus a bit when you stand up, which may be uncomfortable. Wearing snug underwear when going out and about should help with this.
- The condom itself—and therefore the packaging—is larger than that of external condoms. This may make it a little harder to carry around.
Step-by-Step on How to Use Internal Condoms
Internal condoms may take a bit of practice inserting when using them for the first time. I recomend practicing inserting it before using it during sex so that you can get used to the process and the feeling.
- (Optional) Lube. The internal condom comes already lubricated. You can add some lube to the outside of the condom around the closed end to help it go in a little smoother. You can also add extra lube inside the condom before putting it in if you want to.
- Rub the sides of the condom together to spread the lube evenly around the inside of the condom.
- Get into a comfortable position for inserting the condom. It may help to squat or prop one leg up on a chair/bathtub/etc to open up the area. You could also try sitting or lying down. If you have inserted tampons before, using a similar position might feel more familiar or comfortable. Take your time, and do what feels best to you.
- (Optional) If inserting the condom into the anus, some people prefer to take out the inner ring from the closed end of the condom. This comes down to personal preference between the different way it feels with or without the ring inside. The condom will work either way in the anus. (Do not take out the inner ring if using it in a vagina)
- Squeeze the ring on the closed end of the condom together so that it looks kind of like an infinity sign (though it should not be twisted with the ring crossing itself).
- Insert the ring into the vagina or anus. Once the ring is inside, use your finger to continue pushing the ring as far as it will go. If inserted into the vagina, the closed ring should rest against the cervix.
If the inner ring was taken out for insertion into the anus, use your finger to keep pushing the condom in as far as it will go, leaving the outer ring hanging out close to the anus.
- Use your finger to feel around inside the condom to make sure that the condom is not twisted inside. The inner ring should hold the condom in while making a loose lining around the walls of the vagina or anus.
- Take out your finger. The outer ring should be hanging outside the vagina or anus.
The condom is now in place and ready to be used while having sex. Hold the outer ring in place while the penis or dildo is being inserted. Extra lube can be applied around the opening of the vagina or anus as well as on the penis or dildo during sex. If the condom keeps sticking to (or moving with) the penis or dildo, extra lube should help.
To remove the condom after sex:
- If there is semen, or cum, in the condom, twist the outer ring closed and squeeze it shut so that semen does not spill out.
- Gently pull out the condom.
- Throw away the condom in a trash can.
A few more notes:
- Never flush your condoms down the toilet; it will mess up the plumbing.
- Never use an external condom on the penis while also using an internal condom. The friction will cause them to rip.
- The penis or dildo should be surrounded by the condom at all times. If it slips out of the condom and into the vagina or anus to the side of the condom, stop and gently move the condom back into place. You can continue having sex with the condom.
- If the outer ring gets pushed into the vagina or anus, stop and pull the condom out back to its original position. You can continue having sex with the condom.
- If any pre-cum or cum gets near the vulva or into the vagina, and you are worried about pregnancy, you can still prevent pregnancy with emergency contraception (morning after pill).
- If cum or pre-cum gets near the vagina or anus, consider getting tested for STIs.
Where to Get Internal Condoms
allgo has internal condoms for free; drop by our office located on 701 Tillery St or find us at any event, and we’ll have them available! You can also call or email us (512-472-2001 and firstname.lastname@example.org) to set up a time to pick them up.
If you are not in the Austin, TX area, you can search for other community centers who have internals condoms available on this website: https://fc2.us.com/find-fc2-near-you/
If you have health insurance, internal condoms are covered by many insurances with no out-of-pocket cost when they are prescribed by a physician. After getting a prescription, you can fill the prescription at a local pharmacy, like a CVS or Walgreens, or through an online pharmacy like King’s Pharmacy or Enexia Specialty.
Internal condoms can also be directly purchased online at https://fc2.us.com/buy-now/. If you are uninsured or if your insurance does not cover internal condoms, you can get a discounted price. They will be shipped directly to your address. There are also many other online vendors who sell internal condoms that you could find through a search engine.
I really hope that this information shed light on an underrepresented type of barrier condom. It’s always great to have options and alternatives—and the sex that comes with those options can look and feel different, which can be exciting and/or empowering. With the new FDA changes, hopefully we’ll see some more development in the internal condom arena, and we’ll definitely be back on this blog with another update if we do.