What's a female condom?
A female condom is a thin polyurethane pouch that you insert into your vagina before sex to prevent pregnancy and guard against exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. Soft rings at either end hold it in place. Polyurethane is stronger than latex, so female condoms are less likely to tear than regular latex condoms. On the other hand, they're harder to use correctly and more likely to slide out of place. These drawbacks, along with their high cost ($2 to $5 apiece), may explain why female condoms aren't widely used. Female condoms can be bought in some drugstores and supermarkets, as well as by mail order on the Web.
How do I use it?
It takes some practice to insert a female condom correctly. The condom comes prelubricated with silicone, and a 4-ounce bottle of water-based lubricant is included in the package. Use this extra lube to make sure the condom is plenty slippery both inside and outside. (You can also use an oil-based lubricant like petroleum jelly if you want; it won't damage the polyurethane as it would latex.) Now grasp the flexible ring at the closed end of the pouch and pinch it into a long, narrow shape. Separate the lips of your vagina and insert the ring. Next, put your index finger inside the condom and push the ring up as far as it will go, so that it covers the cervix. Make sure the condom isn't twisted. When inserted correctly, it should adhere to the walls of your vagina. The flexible outer ring remains outside the vagina and holds the condom in place. It may take two or three practice tries before you get it right. You can insert a female condom as much as eight hours before sex. To remove it afterward, twist the outer ring to keep the semen inside, gently pull the pouch out, and throw it away in the garbage (not the toilet). Don't try to reuse it.
What does it feel like?
Polyurethane is thinner than latex and warms quickly to the temperature of the vagina, so a female condom may allow more sensitivity on the part of both you and your partner than a male condom does. Some users have also reported that the outer ring stimulates the clitoris during intercourse. Use more lubricant if the condom won't stay put or adheres to the penis.
Can I use it along with other methods for extra protection?
Don't use a female condom and a male condom together, since the friction of latex against polyurethane could push the man's condom off, or cause the female condom to slip to one side and tear. Female condoms aren't designed for use with a diaphragm either, but you can use them if you have an IUD.
Female Condom. Planned Parenthood. 2010
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Barrier Methods of Contraception. 2008