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close this bookThe Female Condom: a guide for planning and programming under (UNAIDS, 2000, 81 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAcknowledgement
View the document1. Introduction
View the document2. What is the female condom?
View the document3. What we know about the female condom
View the document4. Cost-effectiveness of the female condom
View the document5. Planning strategically for the introduction of the female condom
View the document6. Steps to introduce and integrate the female condom into reproductive health programmes
View the document7. Explaining the female condom to potential users
View the document8. Resource materials

2. What is the female condom?

The Female Condom

Source: The Female Health Company

This Section provides an overview of the product and compares the female condom to the male condom.

The female condom is a strong, soft, transparent polyurethane sheath inserted in the vagina before sexual intercourse, providing protection against both pregnancy and STIs. It forms a barrier between the penis and the vagina, cervix and external genitalia. It is stronger than latex, odourless, causes no allergic reactions, and, unlike latex, may be used with both oil-based and water-based lubricants. It can be inserted prior to intercourse, is not dependent on the male erection, and does not require immediate withdrawal after ejaculation. The female condom has no known side-effects or risks.

The female condom has been available in Europe since 1992 and is now available in dozens of countries throughout the world. In 1993, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the female condom for marketing and distribution. The female condom provides dual protection for preventing pregnancy and STIs, which, based on laboratory studies, should include HIV/AIDS.

The Female Condom

· A strong loose-fitting polyurethane sheath that is 17 centimetres long (about 6.5 inches) with a flexible ring at each end.

· Polyurethane is a soft, thin plastic that is stronger than latex, which is used to make most male condoms.

· Polyurethane conducts heat, so sex with the female condom can feel very sensitive and natural.

· Polyurethane is odourless.

· The inner ring is used to insert the female condom and helps keep the female condom in place. The inner ring slides in place behind the pubic bone.

· The outer ring is soft and remains on the outside of the vagina during sexual intercourse. It covers the area around the opening of the vagina (the vulva). It can prove pleasurable for men as well as for women.

· Protects the vagina, cervix and external genitalia, affording extensive barrier protection.

· There are no serious side-effects associated with use of the female condom, and less than 10% of users report mild irritations.

· Polyurethane does not cause allergic reactions.

· It can be inserted ahead of time so it will not interrupt sexual spontaneity.

· It comes pre-lubricated with a non-spermicidal, silicone-based lubricant that is needed for ease of insertion and for easy movement during intercourse.

· Lubricants reduces noise during sexual intercourse and makes sex smoother.

· Additional lubricant can be used, and you can use both oil-based and water-based lubricants.

· It is not tight or constricting.

· It does not require a prescription or the intervention of a health care provider.

Comparison between a female condom and a male condom

Both the female condom and male condom are barrier methods that provide dual protection against pregnancy and STIs. The male latex condom has been proven to protect against HIV/AIDS. Although no clinical studies of the female condom for HIV prevention have been conducted, laboratory studies indicate that the female condom is impermeable to STIs and HIV. The female condom is the same length as the male condom and somewhat wider. They also differ in the following ways:

Male condom

Female condom

Rolled on the man’s penis

Inserted into the woman’s vagina

Made from latex; some also from polyurethane

Made from polyurethane

Fits on the penis

Loosely lines the vagina

· Can include spermicide
· Can be water-based only; cannot be oil-based
· Located on the outside of condom

· Can include spermicide
· Can be water-based or oil-based
· Located on the inside of condom

Requires erect penis

Does not require erect penis

Condom must be put on an erect penis

Can be inserted prior to sexual intercourse, not dependent on erect penis

Must be removed immediately after ejaculation

Does not need to be removed immediately after ejaculation

Covers most of the penis and protects the woman’s internal genitalia

Covers both the woman’s internal and external genitalia and the base of the penis

Latex condoms can decay if not stored properly; polyurethane condoms are not susceptible to deterioration from temperature or humidity

Polyurethane is not susceptible to deterioration from temperature or humidity

Recommended as one-time use product

Recommended as one time use product. Re-use research is currently underway

Male and female condoms should not be used together as friction between the plastic and the latex rubber can result in either product failing.