- Theresa Hoke, PhD, MPH
Theresa Hoke, PhD, MPH
- Health Services Research
- Katherine M Stone, MD
Katherine M Stone, MD
- Medical Epidemiologist
- Markus J Steiner, PhD
Markus J Steiner, PhD
- Senior Epidemiologist
- FHI 360
- Lee Warner, PhD, MPH
Lee Warner, PhD, MPH
- Chief, Applied Sciences Branch
- Division of Reproductive Health
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The female condom covers the cervix, lines the vagina and shields the introitus, thus providing a physical barrier between genitalia and secretions during sexual intercourse. It is designed to protect against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and is available without prescription. No contraindications exist to its use, but it may not be appropriate for women who are not comfortable touching their genitals or who may have other problems with insertion. Female condoms account for less than 1 percent of condoms produced globally .
In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) published WHO/UNFPA Female Condom: Generic Specification, Prequalification and Guidelines for Procurement to provide a technically sound, systematic process to support the manufacture, prequalification, procurement and distribution of quality female condoms that meet the needs of different populations in a broad spectrum of challenging environmental conditions. In 2015 the US Food and Drug Administration announced it was considering reclassification of the female condom from a Class III to a Class II device. This change would reduce regulatory control to the level assigned to male condoms, potentially expanding innovation opportunity for female condoms .
TYPES OF FEMALE CONDOMS
All female condoms currently available or in development have an anchor (eg, ring, frame) outside the vagina to prevent the condom from being pushed inside the vagina during use; the anchor is also used for removing the condom. Female condoms have been made out of natural rubber latex, synthetic latex (nitrile), and polyurethane. They prevent preejaculatory fluid, semen, and vaginal secretions from entering the users’ vagina. No spermicide is required, but a lubricant is often needed. An illustration can be seen at the US National Library of Medicine.
The most widely available female condom today is FC2, manufactured by the Female Health Company. It is a soft, loose-fitting nitrile sheath or pouch with two flexible rings. One ring is contained within the closed end of the sheath and serves as an insertion mechanism and internal anchor. The other ring forms the external, open edge of the device; it remains outside the vagina after insertion. Silicone-based lubricant lines the inside of the condom, but additional lubrication for the inside and/or outside could be used. The condom is about 17 cm (6.5 inches) in length (similar to a male condom).
In 2009 FC2 replaced the FC1, the first condom marketed to women. FC2 is similar in design to FC1, but made of nitrile (rather than polyurethane) and without a seam. In comparative trials, it performed as well as the FC1 in terms of patient satisfaction, breakage, slippage, and invagination (ie, when the outer frame of the condom pushes into the vagina during intercourse) [3,4]. No data on pregnancy prevention or STI prevention are available for FC2 specifically, but effectiveness is assumed to be similar to the FC1 given the similar design, specifications, and functionality. The FC2 is indicated for preventing pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and other sexually transmitted infections . It may make less noise during intercourse than the FC1 and is projected to be cheaper when mass produced. It is available in about 100 countries. It has been approved by United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA); has CE Marking, which certifies that the device meets consumer safety standards and can be marketed in countries in the European Union; and has been cleared by the World Health Organization (WHO) for purchase by United Nations agencies.
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