Barrier Methods for Women

Female Condoms

Average Failure Rate: 21%

Cervical barriers, like the female condom, have characteristics that make them attractive to many women. The female condom is a female-initiated methods that can be used by a woman to help protect herself from pregnancy or an STD, but requires male cooperation.

Description of a Female Condom

The female condom is a thin polyurethane sheath with two soft
rings at each end. One ring, covered with the polyurethane,
fits over the cervix, acting as an anchor.

The larger, open ring stays outside the vagina, covering part of the perineum and labia during intercourse. When the male ejaculates, the female condom traps the semen, preventing sperm from entering the uterus.

There is only one brand of female condom
in production, the FC Female Condom (formerly known as Reality in the U.S.), produced by the Female Health Company. These can be obtained at drug stores or through family
planning clinics. Because the condom is not made of latex,
it will not deteriorate when used with oil-based lubricants.
It can be inserted up to eight hours before intercourse but
should be removed immediately after. Some women find the
outer ring causes discomfort during use. Male and female
condoms should not be used at the same time.

Future Female Condoms

In 2005, the Female Health Company announced the development of the FC2, a second generation female condom made of a synthetic rubber called nitrile. The FC2 has the same design as the original female condom and has shown to perform as well as the first generation female condom but will be available at one third of the cost. As of August 2006, the World Health Organization's (WHO) has announced that the FC2 has met international standards as a woman-initiated dual protection method against STD infection and unintended pregnancy. Currently, the FC2 is available only in developing countries.

Related Articles

Male condoms

Over the Counter Contraceptives

Safe Sex Without A Condom


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