Who: Internal condoms can be used by anyone engaging in penetrative sex, specifically those engaging in receptive penetrative sex.
What: The FC2 condom, the only FDA approved internal condom, is a thin sheath made out of synthetic polymer (nitrile). It is worn inside the body during penetrative sex to protect against pregnancy and/or STIs. It can also be used to cover foreign objects being used for penetrative sex.
Where: Internal condoms can be placed inside the vagina, anus, or over foreign objects.
When: You can insert the FC2 into the vagina up to eight hours prior to penetration. If you’re using it for anal sex, you should insert the condom just before penetration.
The internal condom might be less common than the external condom but it has been around for quite some time. In fact, it was first mentioned in a myth from 150 AD about a goat’s bladder being used as a “female sheath”. That said, the FDA didn’t approve the modern internal condom, initially known as a female condom, until 1993. The original, and now outdated, design was called the FC1 and was made from polyurethane.
Since its debut, the condom has been redesigned and rebranded. In 2009 the FDA cleared the FC2, a nitrile version of the original female condom. The nitrile offers multiple benefits such as increased heat conductivity for a more natural feel, a thinner material that causes less noise, and less expensive production making it more accessible. In contrast to most external condoms, you can use nitrile internal condoms with any lubricants – including oil-based! You can find the FC2 condoms at drugstores like CVS and Walgreens, public clinics, sex shops, or online.
The internal condom is comprised of an inner ring, a nitrile sheath, and an outer ring all enclosed in silicone based lubricant. The condom is different from the oral dam, another barrier method intended for anilingus and cunnilingus.
Bend the inner ring into a figure eight shape and insert it like a tampon into the vagina, where it lies over the cervix. The sheath itself is wider than an external condom. Some people with penises find this to be less restricting and more pleasurable. The outer ring sits on the outside of the body, so that the condom covers much of the vulva. Though some people dislike this more visible component of the condom, others appreciate the added protection from STIs that can be transmitted from skin-to-skin contact, like HPV and herpes. Plus, some even note added pleasure from the outer ring stimulating the clitoris or the inner ring during deep penetration.
More recently, in 2018, the “female condom” was rebranded as the “internal condom,” which reflects its potential use during anal sex for protection from STIs.
To use the internal condom in an anus simply insert it, with or without the internal ring, until there is about an inch of the condom left outside the body. While the condom can be inserted with fingers, it is easiest to insert it by placing it over a penis or sex toy and then inserting it. Unlike when used in a vagina, when used in an anus it should be placed immediately before intercourse. This is to minimize the risk of the rectal muscles pulling the condom into the body.
Looking for more guidance? The Centers for Disease Control provides instructive videos that show how to insert the internal condom into a vagina or anus.
When used correctly, the internal condom is 95% effective at preventing pregnancy, and with typical use it is 79% effective at preventing pregnancy. To ensure that you’re using the condom properly it is important to practice inserting it beforehand. In addition, never use an internal condom and an external condom together. It increases the risk of tearing the condoms.
To remove the condom, twist the outer ring, gently pull it out, and throw it away. Do not flush it down the toilet. If there is ejaculate (semen) in the condom, be sure to remove the condom while lying down to avoid spillage and contact with bodily fluids.
The internal condom can be an effective barrier method with many perks. Add it into you safer sex tool-kit to take charge of your own sexual health! Curious about other ways to reduce your risk of contracting an STI? Check out this blog on STI prevention for more tips. Looking for convenient, discreet, at-home STI Testing? Take our simple quiz to find the right test for you.