The female condom

Young women and men both find many characteristics of female condoms appealing, a new study finds.

The female condomThe female condom is a nitrile pouch that fits inside a woman’s vagina. It has a soft ring on each end. The outer, larger ring stays on the outside of the vagina and partly covers the labia (lips). The inner ring fits on the inside of the vagina, somewhat like a diaphragm, to hold the condom in place. The female condom can also be used in the rectum for anal sex.

Female condoms are currently the only woman-controlled method of safer sex. Just as the development of oral contraceptives was revolutionary in giving women control over their reproductive status, female condoms offer women a method they control that provides effective protection against STIs.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington surveyed female and male students ages 18-24 to see what they think about female condoms. Design of the condom (including fit, comfort, and pleasure), lack of side effects, protection against STIs and pregnancy and convenience were important to females. These elements (especially protection and design) were also important to the men, along with the notion that a female-centric condom would potentially relieve them of some of the responsibility of providing protection (one man citing this as an advantage commented “I don’t have to worry about wearing a condom”).

One curious finding is that while most participants had heard of female condoms, only a handful had actually seen or touched one before taking part in this study. Female condoms have had some difficulty gaining traction in a space dominated by male condoms and the researchers said that “Seeing and touching the [female condom] was a key element in this study. It gave the participants an opportunity to, not only get familiar with the FC but also, evaluate it by comparing it with other contraceptives.”

Read more about female condoms, including how to use them, on the female condom page.

Reference: Shaw CM and Chatterjee K. Communicating sexual health messages: young adults and the female condom. Open Access Journal of Contraception, 2014. 5:29-37.