Birth Control Barrier Methods (cont.)
The female condom (brand name: Reality) is a polyurethane sheath intended for 1-time use, similar to the male condom. It contains 2 flexible rings and measures 7.8 cm in diameter and 17 cm in length. You can buy them at a drugstore without a prescription. The ring at the closed end of the sheath serves as an insertion mechanism and internal anchor that is placed inside a womans vagina just before sex. The other ring forms the external edge of the device and remains outside of the canal after insertion.
The female condom prevents pregnancy by acting as a barrier to the passage of semen into the vagina. Do not have a male partner use a condom at the same time because they may stick to each other, leading to slippage or displacement of either device. If you have a choice between the two, have the male use a condom for better protection.
- How effective: Early tests show a pregnancy rate of 15% in 6 months. In August, 2002, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) listed a higher failure rate of 21 pregnancies per 100 women per year. The proportion of women using this method of contraception in the United States is less than 1%.
- Advantages: The female condom provides some protection to the labia and the base of the penis during intercourse. Although it may provide some protection, it is not as effective as a latex male condom in preventing STDs. The sheath is coated on the inside with a silicone-based lubricant. It does not deteriorate with oil-based lubricants. It can be inserted as long as 8 hours before intercourse.
- Disadvantages: The lubricant does not contain spermicide (a substance that kills sperm). The device is difficult to place in the vagina. The inner ring may cause discomfort. Some users consider the female condom awkward. The female condom may cause a urinary tract infection (UTI) if left in the vagina for a long time.
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
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