Are you or your partner allergic to latex? Does your male partner not like to use condoms, or does he want to try something that may feel less restrictive? Would you like to decrease the risk of skin-to-skin transmission of viruses, such as those that cause genital warts or herpes? Do you feel that putting on condoms distracts from the spontaneity of sex? You might be interested in learning about female condoms.
September 12 is Global Female Condom Day.
The female condom, available as the brand name FC2, is a barrier contraceptive that was developed with the dual purpose of allowing women contraceptive control and providing protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
You do not need a prescription or to see a health care provider to get the FC2 — it’s available for sale just like male condoms.
As with other contraceptive methods, it is not foolproof, but when used properly and consistently it is 79 to 95 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. Also, its shape and design allows less skin-to-skin contact where diseases may spread.
The first female condoms were made of polyurethane. The new FC2 is now made of a thin, flexible nitrile sheath with an open ring at one end that covers the outside of the genital area and a smaller closed ring on the end that is inserted in the vagina. Inside the sheath is a silicone lubricant. Because the condom is not latex, it can also be used with any kind of additional lubricant and by those allergic to latex.
The FC2 homepage and Planned Parenthood provide excellent information on how to insert and use the FC2. Some couples insert it as part of their lovemaking and like the way it feels. It can, however, be inserted up to eight hours in advance of intercourse. Just be careful when using the condom that the penis is guided into the protected area of the condom, not between the vaginal wall and the condom where there is no protection. If you notice some rustling sounds while using the FC2, extra lubricant may help.
Because the female condom costs a bit more than male condoms, some couples have been tempted to wash and reuse them. The safest rule is to use each condom only one time. There have also been reports that the female condom is good to use in anal sex, but it has not yet been approved or recommended for this use.
Female condoms give women more contraceptive control and are a good alternative if her partner will not use a condom. Because it puts this control in women’s hands, the female condom is being promoted worldwide. In July 2012, the London Summit on Family Planning, led by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the British government, and the United Nations, met to promote a shared goal of providing contraceptive services, information, and supplies to millions of women and girls in some of the world’s poorest countries by 2020. The Female Health Company, the maker of the only FDA-approved female condom, FC2, was one of four private companies to commit to helping achieve this goal, donating $23 million to the cause.
So go ahead, celebrate Global Female Condom Day on September 12 by trying a female condom. Or stop by your local Planned Parenthood health center for female condoms (call first for availability) and more information.
Click here to check out other installments of “Let’s Talk Contraception”!