A female condom is a method of birth control.
In 1992 in Europe and in the U.S. in 1993, a birth control device for women made off polyurethane called the "female condom" became available. Because it does not contain latex, it is safe for people with latex allergies and when used correctly.
The female condom is thought to be as less effective that the male condom at preventing pregnancy. The failure rate is 3% to 14% for male condoms and 5% to 21% for female condoms.
This method of birth control is also thought to offer some protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), though very little research has been done on how much protection is provided.
Since there is no evidence that using a male condom can lessen the risk of getting certain STIs, the female condom may also not be effective at preventing: pubic lice, scabies, or human papilloma virus, also known as HPV or genital warts. Some types of HPV increase a woman's risk of cervical cancer or precancerous changes of the cervix, called cervical dysplasia. Even so, correct and consistent male condom use has been associated with a lower rate of cervical cancer, an HPV-associated disease.
The female condom is meant to be inserted into the vagina before sex. The sheath contains a flexible ring on each end. One ring is inserted into the vagina and helps hold the condom in place. The outer ring stays outside the body. This can help prevent the condom from getting pushed into the vagina. Lubrication is generally provided with the condom, but more may need to be applied.
There are several advantages and disadvantages to the female condom. The advantages include: It is one of the only birth control methods for women that may provide some protection against STIs.Since part of the external genitals are covered, there may be more protection against the STIs mentioned above than with male condoms.It can be inserted before intimacy begins, avoiding the need for interruption or for timing with an erection, as with a male condom.There are no side effects.No healthcare professional's visit, prescription, or fitting is needed. This is not true for many other forms of female birth control.Women do not seem to have much of a decrease in sensitivity with this method. A man's sensitivity also seems to be less affected than with a male condom. This may make a partner more willing to use this method.After ejaculation, a man does not need to withdraw his penis from the vagina right away. With a male condom, the penis should be withdrawn quickly.
Disadvantages of the female condom include: Its appearance is considered odd or unattractive by many who use it.It is expensive compared to a male condom. On average, a female condom costs about two dollars.It may be noisy or may slip, move, or break during use.It is currently sold as "one size fits all," and may be uncomfortable for some women.The outer ring may irritate the clitoris or labia.Information about its effectiveness and safety is limited.
The female condom is disposable and should never be reused. It must be removed carefully to prevent spilling of semen into the vagina.
This method of birth control should not be used at the same time as a male condom. Its use for anal sex has not been approved or studied much by researchers.
Women who have used this form of birth control seem to accept it almost as much as the male condom. The main reason for stopping its use seems to be the appearance of the device itself.
Williams Obstetrics, 1997, Cunningham et al.
The JAMA website