|What Is The Female Condom?
Also called the vaginal pouch, the female condom is a sheath of synthetic rubber that fits inside the vagina and acts as a barrier method of birth control. Relatively new to the U.S. market they are sold under the brand name FC2 Female Condom®. They offer the same level of protection against sexually transmitted diseases as the male condom, without requiring the same degree of participation from the man. Additionally the female condom is less likely to slip or break during intercourse than the male version.
How To Use The Female Condom
The condom has two flexible rings - one smaller inner ring at the closed end of the pouch, and a slightly larger outer ring at the open end. The smaller ring keeps the condom in place when it is inserted and the larger ring rests outside of the vagina. To insert the condom, squeeze the small ring between your thumb and middle finger. Insert it as far as possible into the vagina where it will cover the entrance to the cervix. Leave the outer ring hang outside the vagina. Check to make sure that the condom has not become twisted before intercourse. After intercourse squeeze and twist the outer ring to ensure that semen stays inside. Remove the condom by gently pulling out. Throw it away (don't flush it down the toilet, it may cause plumbing problems), condoms can only be used once.
Note: Female condoms come prelubricated and can be inserted up to 8 hours before intercourse.
Tips For Use
• Do not use a male and female condom at the same time. The friction can cause them to tear or bunch up.
• Be careful not to tear the condom with sharp nails or jewelry when inserting.
• Do not use Vaseline or other petroleum-based substances as lubricants. It can break down the condom.
• Remove tampons before inserting the condom.
• If the condom breaks or sperm spills into the vagina when removing it, immediately use spermicide to prevent pregnancy. If an accident occurs during one of your most fertile days consider using emergency contraception (the morning after pill).
How Effective Is The Female Condom?
The female condom seems to be about as effective as the cervical cap or contraceptive diaphragm (theoretical failure rate of 6 percent if used perfectly and an actual failure rate of about 18 percent). While this failure rate is significantly higher than the male condom, this initial high finding may reflect relative inexperience on the part of women using them. You can increase their effectiveness by adding a spermicide gel, cream or foam in conjunction with the condom. Some women who practice natural birth control methods choose to use condoms as an additional form of contraception during their most fertile days.
Pros And Cons
Timing: It can be inserted up to 8 hours before intercourse.
STD Prevention: If used correctly they are as effective as male condoms in STD prevention, including syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital herpes and the HIV virus (the cause of AIDs). They are even more effective in preventing genital herpes - and other STI's that spread by skin to skin contact - because the outer ring covers more surface area around the vagina.
Control: You retain control of contraception, you do not need cooperation from the male.
Allergy: Less likely to cause an allergic reaction than male condoms. This is because it is made of a synthetic rubber called nitrile (not latex), which is hypo-allergenic.
Prescription: No prescription is necessary.
Shelf-Life: It has a shelf life of 5 years.
Costs: Currently it is about 5 times more expensive than male condoms. A single female condom costs between $2.50 and $5.00 each.
Failure Rate: It has a higher failure rate than male condoms, probably because of relative inexperience. The condoms themselves are less likely to break than the male condom.
Noisy: The condom can make popping or crackling noises which can be distracting. In fact some reviewers report that it feels like 'making love to a plastic bag'.
Enjoyment: Friction of the condom may reduce clitoral stimulation making love making less enjoyable. Additionally the woman will not feel the warm fluid when the man ejaculates (this is more important to some than others).
Are There Any Side Effects?
There are no known side effects associated with the female condom. It does not affect fertility. A woman can become pregnant in the future, she simply needs to stop using the condom.
FC and FC2 Condoms
The original version of the female condom (brand names included Reality, Femy and Femidom) were made of polyurethane, and the packet were identified as ‘FC’. As polyurethane is a relatively expensive material, the manufacturers released the FC2 female condom which used the cheaper nitrile material. Large-scale production of FC2 began in 2007 and the production of the original FC condom has now stopped.