The word condom often evokes a specific image: A tight, lubricated sleeve designed to roll neatly onto an erect penis pre-intercourse for protection from pregnancy and STIs. It also comes with a lot of baggage, including—but not limited to—gender roles, accessibility, ego, and comfort.
But what about internal condoms? Though the barrier method option has been available (and FDA-approved) for nearly three decades, you’re not alone if you struggle to visualize it. To be fair, the first generation, then called the female condom, was decidedly clunky, but the new iteration has since been elevated, now boasting a slim, barely-there feel, inner and outer lubrication, and a polyurethane material designed to transmit the body’s warmth for a more natural-feeling experience.
As with all things sexual, there’s definitely a learning curve involved with the internal condom. But with increased knowledge comes increased access, and thus the space for more acceptance and even easier offerings. In short, don’t let the unfamiliar territory deter you: The internal condom is here to stay.
Read on for the benefits and drawbacks of the lesser-known option.
Pros of the Internal Condom
Internal condoms were designed for women to be inserted into the vagina or anus, so unlike the external condom, it is entirely under the receiver’s control. As a bonus, the internal condom can be inserted up to two hours before intercourse—no need to interrupt your hook up!
It Offers Protection Against STIs
The internal condom, which is inserted deep into the vagina, is a barrier method device, meaning that it can safeguard against STIs, like HIV. Considering that heterosexual transmission is the leading cause of HIV transmission in women,
It Is Readily Available
No prescription is needed to procure the internal condom, which can be found in drugstores and family planning clinics, and through The Pill Club. Some insurance companies even cover the cost of internal condoms; check with your provider to find out details.
It Levels the Playing Field
This choice allows the receiver to more actively partake in their own protection. With increased normalization, either partner is free to take matters into their own hands.
It Opens the Door for Conversation
Opting for an internal condom offers an opportunity for a conversation about education, choices, and sexual health, as well as more negotiation around those behaviors and habits.
Cons of the Internal Condom
It Requires Internal Application
The internal condom consists of a lubricated sleeve with a soft, pliant ring at each end, and must be inserted deep inside of the vagina to effectively cover the cervix and remain in place. Though simple, application can be more challenging than the roll-on sleeve of the external condom.
It Can Be Intimidating At First
When set against the external condom, prettily packaged and discreet as it is, couples may be wary of the internal condom’s larger size and look.
Accidents Can Happen
As with the external condom, tearing is a possibility, as is the potential for the penis to slip around the device. Also, like other barrier methods, the failure rates of the internal condom are higher than other forms of birth control, such as the pill.
It Can Be More Expensive Than an External Condom
There is only one brand of internal condom on the market in the U.S. As such, the condoms are more difficult to track down than their external counterparts, and can be more expensive once you find them.