When couples practice safe sex, it is usually the male partner who dons the condom. But what about the woman? Are her choices for contraception limited to hormonal options like the pill? Enter the female condom, an often-ignored form of contraception.
The female condom is a strong, soft, transparent sheath. Each is about 6.5 inches long, the same as a male condom, and has a flexible ring on either end.
Susan Haney, associate director of Student Health Services, said Student Health rarely supplies them.
“We have a small supply. I’ve never had a request for one. They do not seem to be popular on campus,” Haney said.
The female condom is manufactured by the Female Health Company. It is the first and only female-initiated barrier method that is safe and effective, according to the company’s Web site, femalehealth.com. Like male condoms, it not only prevents unintended pregnancy, but also protects partners from sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS.
According to Planned Parenthood’s Web site, if used correctly, the female condom is 95 percent effective, as opposed to the male condom, which is 98 percent effective. Hormonal contraceptives like the pill, patch or vaginal ring are about 99 percent effective.
The female condom is essentially the opposite of male condoms, as it is inserted into the vagina prior to intercourse. The ring at the closed end aids in the insertion process and helps keep the product in place during intercourse. The softer ring at the open end stays on the outside. But, unlike regular condoms, female condoms do not need to be removed immediately after ejaculation.
Also unlike regular condoms, which are made of latex and can decay if not stored in the proper environment, female condoms are made of plastic and thus are not susceptible to deterioration from temperature or humidity. They are also a bit more expensive than regular condoms, at about $4 each.
Each female condom should only be used once. For more information, visit femalehealth.com or visit GW’s Student Health Center.