The Female Condom Explained: Non-Hormonal Contraceptive

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The sometimes problematic phenomenon of men having the sole control over condom-wearing could soon become a thing of the past — if society supports the female condom.

The female condom, also known as the internal condom, is inserted in the vagina before intercourse to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Access to these non-hormonal contraceptives gives women more options and promotes greater control of women’s health their bodies.

Contraception Methods: Female Contraception, Non-Hormonal Contraception,
Contraception Methods: Female Contraception, Non-Hormonal Contraception,
There are various options for birth control, but some are easier to access than others. Source: Macrovector via iStock

One company, which produces a brand known as the FC2, strives to give women autonomy over condom use. The FC2 is the only female condom approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as the only one available in the United States.

The FC2 is a thin sheath made of nitrile polymer with a soft ring at each end. One ring is covered with polyurethane that fits over the cervix and rests behind the pubic bone, which anchors it in place. The larger, open outer ring covers part of the perineum and labia.

The female condom doesn’t require precise placement over the cervix. The female condom comes in one size that is designed to fit most women. However, sometimes the outer ring can be pulled into the vagina during intercourse. To prevent this, you can add more lubricant inside the condom or to the penis.

Because the female condom is latex-free, it won’t deteriorate when used with oil-based lubricants. It’s also pre-lubricated with a silicone-based lubricant and is meant for one-time use and should be removed immediately after intercourse.

The female condom is pretty similar to male condoms, and it offers many of the same benefits, but it can be hard to come by. And it’s more expensive.

The FC2 is an over-the-counter form of contraception and is covered by most insurance companies, meaning there are no out of pocket expenses when it’s prescribed by a physician. You can also buy it for personal use, but at almost $50 for a 24-pack, it might not be the most affordable option. And you’re limited to one purchase each month.

You can request a prescription on the website or using the Hey Doctor app, which is currently available in 26 states.

The FC2 female condom is sold at some retail drugstores, including CVS and Walgreens, HIV/Aids outreach clinics, family-planning clinics, sex shops and some college campuses. You can also buy them on at about $12 for a five-pack.

But with only one brand available, and because it is not as common as male condoms are, you’ll have to seek the female condom out. You can take your prescription to your pharmacy, and they’ll look it up in a database and fill your prescription.

Campaigns in certain countries are striving to make female condoms more accessible, mostly in African and Asian territories.

That’s because the female condom can offer certain advantages over male condoms. The benefits of female condoms include:

  • More coverage than the male condom, covering the labia, the perineal region, and the base of the penis, which may decrease the chance of genital warts and herpes.
  • The outer ring may stimulate the clitoris and make intercourse more enjoyable.
  • Non-hormonal, so it will not affect menstrual cycles.
  • You don’t have to rely on a man to use a condom.

However, the female condom can come with some drawbacks as well. Some reported issues with the female condom include:

  • Not as effective in preventing pregnancy as hormonal methods or a male condom.
  • More expensive than a male condom, and not as easily available.
  • Insertion may be difficult at first.
  • Some women experience discomfort.

Talk with your doctor (and with your partner!) to find out if female condoms might be the best contraceptive for you.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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