Female Condom. The User Review
Feature from EJ Cook - Monday, 25 June 2012 @ 3:30pm
Continuing our series on contraceptive choices (Simone de Beaver's review of Implanon is must-read!), let's talk about female condoms. Yes, a lady-sheath! Did you even know there's a condom specially designed for the female anatomy?
The first question many people ask when they hear about female condoms is why? Male condoms are easily available in most places, and just about everyone knows how they work. But there are good reasons why female condoms (sometimes called "femidoms") should be more readily accessible. They can be inserted well in advance of any sexual activity starting, which means no interruption to the fun and less pressure to negotiate use of a male condom. The female condom can be empowering for women as it puts them in control of contraception and STI prevention, but there are no hormonal side effects because it's a barrier method. The female condom isn't restrictive, and warms up with body heat so it feels comfortable. Most brands are made from synthetic nitrile, which means they're suitable for people with latex rubber sensitivity. The FC2 condom (the second version, with less chip-packet crackle sound effects than the original FC1 polyurethane version) is manufactured by a US-based company.
The next thing most people want to know is how it works. The female condom is a soft sheath with a flexible ring at each end. The closed end of the sheath is inserted into the vagina, with the flexible ring holding it in place inside. The outer ring at the open end of the condom stays outside the vagina (which means he'll notice you're using it - no avoiding those tricky contraception conversations). Unlike male condoms, the female condom doesn't have to be removed as soon as sex is finished, so you can bask in the afterglow uninterrupted. When used properly, female condoms provide 95% protection against pregnancy (info from www.understandingyou.com.au).
Cost and availability are the biggest barriers to using this barrier method. It would be great to see them on the supermarket shelf, but until then you can get them from sexual health clinics at around $10.50 for a pack of three. Costs will come down as production increases. World YWCA says that the current manufacturing cost of 72c each could come down to 22c each if there were at least 180 million condoms ordered from the manufacturer (info from Wikipedia). This is not only a good thing for first world femidom users, but also makes this method more available to women in developing countries who want to take control of contraceptive decision-making. Female condoms can be washed and disinfected for reuse, which makes them more environmentally responsible than single-use male condoms, but it would be great if the cost was low enough that women in developing countries didn't have to do this.
So finally, the user review... it's pretty easy to use, comfortable, and it was reassuring to know there was no risk of an oopsy due to being protected before the action even started. As with most new things, I'm sure it gets even easier the more times you use it. Plus the internal flexible ring adds an extra element of fun during the event. Now if we could just get them onto supermarket shelves, perhaps more women could try them.
Image taken from zelnunes' Photostream on Flickr under Creative Commons Licence