The female condom, that little-known

Pose d'un préservatif féminin. Source : INPES.

The use of the female condom is less widespread than that of the male condom. It shares some characteristics with the latter, as well as some advantages, but also some possible disadvantages.

How to use it?

Unlike its male counterpart, it is placed in the woman’s vagina, not on the man’s penis (see illustration above). It is recommended to practice it two or three times before using it, in order to learn how to put it on properly (this is also true for the male condom).

In addition, it can be placed several hours before sexual intercourse or just before it. If you put it on several hours before, it is not necessary to remove it if you need to urinate. It can also be used during your period. It must be changed for each new penetration.

How effective is it?

Like the male condom, the female condom is a means of contraception as well as an effective means of protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Regarding contraception, its effectiveness varies greatly depending on the conditions of use. According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, when the use of the female condom is perfect, its effectiveness rate is 95% (5% of women in the United States who use it perfectly have an unintended pregnancy during the first year of use). In so-called “typical” use (misuse), the effectiveness rate drops to 79% (21% of women in the United States misusing it have an unintended pregnancy during the first year of use). It is therefore important to use it correctly.

By way of comparison, the respective male condom effectiveness rates are slightly higher: 98% in perfect use and 82% in incorrect use.

Male and female condoms can be combined with another method of contraception (without diaphragm) to compensate for failures due to incorrect use. However, the male condom and the female condom cannot be used at the same time.

What are its advantages?

The female condom does not cause allergies, unlike some male condoms (latex condoms).

Apart from the fact that it can be applied in advance, and unlike the male condom, it does not require the man to withdraw immediately after ejaculating.

It is also very resistant, due to its polyurethane composition.

Finally, to the extent that its external part covers the vulva, its effectiveness against STIs is increased.

What are its drawbacks?

Its use can be noisy, which can be compensated by the addition of lubricant. In addition, it covers the vulva and masks the clitoris, which can put off some partners and users. Stimulation of the clitoris can also be hindered, but the outer ring of the condom can also stimulate it.

Finally, it is quite expensive (about $2 or €2 each, $20 for a pack of 12 in the USA, €23 for a pack of 18 in UK), but female condoms are distributed free of charge in american local Planned Parenthood health centers and in several sexual health services in UK.