Whereas the male condom is placed on the penis, the female condom is positioned inside the vagina. The female condom is a loose-fitting sheath, made of either nitrile or polyurethane, with a flexible ring at either end. The inner ring at the closed end of the female condom is positioned inside the vagina, while the outer ring at the open end of the condom covers the area around the opening of the vagina. The female condom can be inserted up to eight hours before sex, including immediately before sex. Both oil-based and water-based lubricants can be used with the female condom.
The most commonly available female condom is the FC2, made of nitrile polymer, a synthetic latex. FC2 has the same physical design, specifications, safety and efficacy profile as the earlier female condom and was developed to make it more available, as nitrile polymer is less expensive than polyurethane. The nitrile polymer is also a more comfortable material and more user friendly. The female condom will not be damaged by high temperature or humidity, while the male condom may. The use of a female condom is ideal for those allergic to latex. Note that the female condom is intended for vaginal intercourse, and has not been clinically tested for use in anal intercourse.
Use of the female condom is increasing, with studies showing that the female condom is acceptable to both male and female partners. Like the male condom, the female condom prevents HIV transmission by helping avoid exposure to semen or vaginal fluids. The female condom is more expensive than the male condom and is not as readily available for purchase in many parts of the world, although UN system organizations are encouraged to make them available to personnel at low or no cost.