The female condom was first proposed by a Danish doctor (Lasse Hessel) in the 1980s. It is a strong, soft sheath made of polyurethane plastic that is inserted inside the vagina. When placed properly, it lines the walls of the vagina and covers the cervix hence preventing STDs transmission and pregnancy.
The condom has two rings on both ends, although one end is closed. The ring at the closed end aid in inserting the condom into the vagina and to keep it in place against the cervix. The other ring is slightly larger and remains outside the vagina where it covers the genitalia. They have a water-based lubricant that makes it easy to insert and offers comfortable movement during sex. Others have a silicon-based, non-spermicidal lubricant with a shelf-life of five years.
Female condoms do not need to be specially fitted, the woman uses her fingers to insert it and can do so any time from hours before sex to immediately before sex. Interestingly, if you do not want to remove the condom immediately after sex or ejaculation, you leave it there for some time.
Basically, female condoms have been introduced in many countries, however, their supply and use are inadequate. They face financial and regulatory barriers that slow down their distribution. There is a need to advocate for female condoms from the community level to increase demand, access, and availability.
Types of Female Condoms
- The original FC1 that is made of polyurethane
- FC2 is made of Nitrile a non-latex synthetic rubber.
These condoms are pre-lubricated and are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. Nevertheless, there are other female condoms sold outside the United States such as CupidR, I’AmourR, and JeitosaR. The female condom acts as a barrier to sperm and other sexually transmitted diseases when used correctly.
How Effective Are Female Condoms ?
The majority of STDs are preventable, yet most are incurable. For instance, half of the adults infected with HIV are women, therefore, women are most at risk. As a result, we need to have an urgent and effective way to protect women’s health and future fertility.
The condoms are effective in birth control as they create a barrier where the sperms remain in the condom. They also protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as HIV, but are not as effective as male condoms in preventing STIs. However, when used correctly all the time they are 95% effective.
On the other hand, condoms are impermeable to viruses, but a small amount can cross the walls, though they reduce the level of exposure in a huge way. With consistent and correct use, female condoms should protect against herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections since they cover a larger surface area around the genitalia.
Nonetheless, there is a need for effective counseling to individuals whose sexual behaviors place them at high risk of being infected with HSV. Research shows that effectiveness as a barrier protector depends on correct and consistent use.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that the failure rate is about 21% therefore, in 100 women who use the female condom as their main birth control method, about about 21 of them at risk failure due to one of below.
- If there is a tear
- If they are not well placed in the vagina
- If you fail to use a new condom each time you have sex
- If the contents in the pouch spill as they are being removed
- If used pass expiration date
- Cost-effective. Female condom promotion is a cost-effective intervention in HIV prevention considering the high cost of HIV treatment. There is a predicted cost saving in promoting female condoms as they would avert new HIV infection cases.
- Also, when the FDA approved the FC2 condoms, the new material used for production reduced the cost of the female condom. Previously, the high cost of the female condom compared to the male condom made it difficult for its widespread distribution. Therefore, reducing production costs has had a great impact on FC2 distribution.
- The Female condom is not dependent on an erect penis. It can be inserted before sex and is particularly useful in situations where negotiations about male condom use are difficult, especially when the partner is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It gives a woman more control
- Like male condoms, female condoms offer protection against unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections
- It is a better alternative to the male condom in the family planning
- It is an effective and untapped resource in HIV prevention and other STIs
- Unlike the male condom, the female condom is less likely to split
- They are easy to use
- They protect against cervical cancer
- No side effects. It does not contain latex that can cause allergies
- They increase sexual arousal due to friction of the condom where it lubricate and stimulate the clitoris
- They are safe and can be used without a prescription
- Can be used during periods or pregnancy
- Female condoms are slightly more expensive than the male condom
- Due to sexual norms and gender inequalities, the decision-making power puts women at risk of infections than men. Lack of sufficient information about sexual reproductive health leads to vulnerability and women are not able to protect themselves.
- Some women report dissatisfaction during sex due to discomfort
- The condom may make some noise if not well lubricated
- There is no direct contact between the penis and the vagina, so, the feeling may be less enjoyable
- Most of the time, the woman will need consent from her partner
- Other women experience difficulty in use
- Sensitivity to polyurethane. Irritation and allergic reactions may occur
- Some women want to feel the warm fluid as it enters her body, in this case, the condom makes it impossible
- During sex, the outer ring may be pushed into the vagina making the condom less effective.
How to insert a female condom
- Clean your hands first before handling the condom
- Carefully open the package (avoid tearing) and remove the female condom
- Find a comfortable position such as squatting with knees apart or lying down with legs bent and knees apart
- Hold the thick inner ring with closed ends, squeeze it with your thumb and middle finger and insert it in the vagina. Use your index finger to push the inner ring with the pouch up into the vagina and near the pubic bone. Go slowly and be patient to make sure that the condom is not twisted. With your other hand, separate the folds of the skin. The thin outer ring with an opening remains outside the body covering the vaginal opening, about one inch of it should be outside the body.
How to use a female condom
Guide your partner`s penis into the opening of the condom. Make sure it does not go between the walls of the vagina and the female condom. Stop intercourse immediately you feel the penis or the condom is not in the right position. Note that, when the penis enters the female condom, it expands giving it a better fit.
How to remove a female condom
It is better to remove the condom while lying down. After intercourse, the penis can linger on a little longer, but when your partner has withdrawn, gently squeeze and twist the outer ring of the condom to avoid spillage, and gently pull it out of the vagina. Wrap it and dispose of in a waste container
Is it safe to use a female condom during menstruation?
The female condom can be used during periods for the reason that it does not cause interference, but cannot be used alongside a tampon. The tampon must be removed before inserting the condom. Consequently, the female condom should be inserted just before sex and removed immediately after because it can be messy.
What Size Do You Need?
The female condom is 185mm long with a width of 76mm. They are wider than the male condoms so guys who are larger or smaller than average do not have to worry. The female condom adjusts to fit all sizes regardless of the size of the vagina or penis
Dos and Don’ts
- Do use a female condom consistently every time you have vaginal sex from the start to finish
- Do read the inserts in the package for instructions
- Do use lubricants to prevent tear and slip
- Do store the female condom under the right conditions and room temperatures
- Don’t double up a female condom with a male condom as it can cause a tear
- Don’t reuse
- Don’t flush used female condoms, they can clog the toilet
- Don’t use expired condoms
- Don’t use scissors or teeth to open the package as you can tear the condom
- Don’t damage/tear the condom, watch out for long fingernails and rings
- Don’t use oil-based lubricants.
If a man is experiencing difficulties in maintaining an erection, then a female condom is handy. The female condoms are safe and effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies and STIs, they are also readily available. Therefore, use them according to package instructions every time you want to have a good time.
CDC. (n.d.). The right way to use a female condom. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov
Center for Young Women’s Health. (2017, December 26). Female condoms. Retrieved from http://youngwomen’shealth.org
Condom-Sizes. (n.d.). Using female condoms. Retrieved from http://www.condom-sizes.org
Landenberg, A. (2004). Interrupting herpes simplex virus type 2 transmission: the role of condoms and microbicides. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15319084
UNAIDS. (n.d.). The female condom and AIDS: Facts and figures. Retrieved from http://www.unaids.org
UNFPA. (2006). Female condom. Retrieved from http://www.unfpa.org
USAID. (n.d.). The female condom is safe and effective. Retrieved from http://www.usaid.gov