Female Condoms

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Female Condoms are a women’s best choice for barrier protection during sex. If used correctly, not only do they prevent unwanted pregnancy, they also offer protection from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Female Condoms basically consist of a thin sheath or pouch made of polyurethane, a type of plastic. They have a ring at each end – one ring (at the closed end of the sheath) lies inside the vagina. The other ring, at the open end of the sheath, lies outside the vagina after the condom has been inserted. These condoms may be inserted into the vagina minutes or even hours before sex, and completely line its walls.

In many ways, Female Condoms represent a society whose sexual mores are now coming of age. More than mere contraceptives, they empower women to make sexual choices. They have freed them from their dependence on their male partners to use barrier methods for safe sex.


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Social Significance

It is estimated that around the world, about 17.1 million women are living with HIV. The most common reason for its spread is ignorance and unsafe sex. Female Condoms are proving crucial in the fight against HIV as they empower women, giving them greater control over their reproductive health. In fact, WHO and UNAIDS are actively encouraging wider access to the female condom. Many governments (especially in Africa the US) are now providing female condoms for free or at subsidised prices as part of their HIV prevention and family planning programmes.


How effective is the Female Condom?

Initially, Female Condoms got a lot of bad press as their failure rate was rather high. It was found that out of every hundred women using the female condom regularly, twenty one still became pregnant.

However, this was found to happen because of improper usage. Manufacturers now aver that is the female condom is used following exact instructions it is 95 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy. This means that if 100 women use the female condom use the female condom correctly and every time they have sex, five will become pregnant in a year.

As far as the female condom’s efficacy in protecting against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases is concerned, the jury is still out. But commonsense dictates that anything that lines the walls of the vagina and acts as a barrier against semen and other body secretions must provide significant protection.

Female Condoms have also had an unforeseen positive effect -- recent studies indicate when female condoms have been introduced in communities where the male condom is already available, there have been increased instances of protected sex. A major study in Zimbabwe showed consistent use of female condoms among couples who used male condoms inconsistently and among married women who had never used a barrier method.


Pros and Cons

There are many good reasons for using Female Condoms:

  • Female Condoms empower women to take their sexual health into their own hands.
  • They are available without a prescription
  • While both male and female condoms significantly reduce the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, female condoms are less likely to evoke allergic reactions.
  • Female condoms are less likely to break.
  • Female condoms are small, easy to carry, and disposable – just like their male counterparts.

Here is the flip side of using female condoms:

  • They are three to five times more expensive than male condoms.
  • Some users find the outer ring, which remains outside the vagina, cumbersome.
  • Getting them on the right way has to be learnt. Otherwise female condoms could have a high failure rate, compared to male condoms.
  • During intercourse, female condoms sometimes get quite distracting as they may make crackling or popping noises.


Did You Know?

You should never use a male condom at the same time that you are using a female condom!

The female condom can be inserted up to eight hours before intercourse so as not to interfere with the moment!

Currently, 14 million female condoms are distributed to women in the developing world on an annual basis. By comparison, between 6 and 9 billion male condoms are distributed per annum.


Who Should Not Use Female Condoms?

Most women can use female condoms safely. But there are some medical conditions which these condoms may exacerbate.

Female condoms should not be used by individuals who are allergic to latex.

They are also not suitable for women who have infections of the vagina or cervix, or for those who are prone to such infections.



References

  • Female Condoms
  • What is a female condom?
  • Products and Services
  • Female Condoms: Just the Facts
  • WHO - Female Condoms