Updated: Oct 22, 2021
Though there are many other wonderful contraceptive options to choose from, the Internal (or 'Female') condom is the only barrier method currently available, that empowers women to totally take control of their personal safety (or that of their partners) in terms of both contraception AND Sexually Transmitted Infection!
Let's face it, the Internal Condom (currently marketed as the "Female Condom") is NOT the sexiest looking sexual health tool on the market. Some might even call it 'intimidating' and/or 'clunky'!
But having acknowledged that, one of the great things about the "female" condom, is that unlike the male condom (which can only be effective on an erect penis), the 'Female' condom can be worn "internally" by anyone - front door or back door (but not "oral", given its generous coating of silicone based lubricant both inside and out).
So in the interest of making this unique, underated, overlooked and misunderstood sexual health tool inclusive for everyone who might benefit from exploring its practical advantages, we prefer to call it the "Internal" condom, rather than the "Female" condom (even though that's what the packaging says it is)!
WARNING: this video is great, but quite explicit!! So if that's not for you, please don't watch it!
So what are Internal Condoms?
The internal condom is the only female-initiated method of protection available for both unintended pregnancy and sexually transmissible infections (STIs).
Just like the more common 'external' condom that is worn on the penis, the internal condom stops sperm from entering the body of the 'receiver' and simultaneously helps to protect both parties from sexually transmitted infections.
The one and only brand of internal condoms available in Australia "FC2" are made of a latex free synthetic rubber called nitrile, and are essentially a lightweight, pre-lubricated 'pouch' with flexible rubber rings at each end. One end holds the condom inside the body of the receiver and the other end stays outside of the receiver's body during sex.
Despite their somewhat intimidating and clunky appearance, internal condoms actually warm to the body's temperature and kind of 'mould' to where they are placed - which can feel more natural and pleasurable. They are also not tight on the penis and therefore cannot be criticised for inhibitting or dulling sensation like the traditional male condom. And some say that the 'rings' can provide additional internal and external stimulation.
How do you use an internal condom?
Unfortunately all of the existing product instructions for the FC2 assumes that the user will be female with a vagina! But you can likely use your imagination to translate the directions to your individual situation. Some do suggest removing the internal ring for anal penetration though.
How effective are internal condoms?
Like traditional condoms, internal condoms are very effective when used correctly every time - some stats say 95%. But the reality is that 'typical use' of any of the barrier methods falls way short of 'perfect' every time, which brings their effectiveness down considerably when compared to other 'contraceptive' methods (ie, around 80%). But in terms of providing protection from STI's, any method or effort is 100% better than none!
Protection against both pregnancy & STI's
Insertion can take a little practice
Gives the 'receiver' the control
Hard to find. Not many retailers stock.
Male erection is not required
Expensive (average $3 each)
Outside ring can stimulate clitoris
No hormones. No side effects
Can be more spontaneous if inserted before sex
Not tight on penis & can fit any size
Is it just a case of "we don't know what we don't know"?
Earlier this year, Family Planning NSW published results of an exploratory study they conducted in 2019 to better understand the views and experiences of the female condom in Australia.
And whilst they found that the use of the 'female'condom was low, once they actually tried it, many women said they would consider using it again.
Approximately 50% of the study's participants rated the sensation and comfort of the female condom as the same or better than the male condom, but approx 50% also noted that they experienced some difficulty in inserting it (which can reduce its effectiveness as a barrier). 66% also reported that it provided the same or better lubrication than the external condom.
Though the results of the study were encouraging and support the importance of raising awareness and increasing the availability of the female condom, it seems that nothing much has changed yet.
We believe that the Internal Condom is an important and underutilised tool in the fight against Sexually Transmitted Infection, So we thought, why not do something about increasing awareness and accessibility ourselves!?
You're invited to try it and give us your feedback? We'll send you free samples!
If you're interested in participating in our trial, leave us your details and we'll send you some samples.
In return, we would like to interview you and get your feedback by way of a written survey, audio or video recording.
Views and experiences of the female condom in Australia: An exploratory cross-sectional survey of cisgender women Sarah E. Fenwick,Jessica R. Botfield ,Prudence Kidman,Kevin McGeechan,Deborah Bateson. Published: February 19, 2021
The female condom offers benefits the male version doesn't — so why don't we use them? ABC Everyday / Edwina Storie
The female condom: What do Australian women say? Jessica R. Botfield, Sarah Cucuzza,Prudence Kidman,Sarah E. Fenwick,Deborah Bateson, First published: 31 January 2021