Female Contraception: The Femidom
Female Contraception: What is a Femidom?
Femidoms are condoms meant exclusively for women. They are a modern method of contraception for women. They also reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV. Femidoms were invented by Danish MD Lasse Hessel (although history has proved that female controlled contraception methods have widely been in use since ancient times in Egypt, Greece and Rome).
How does it work?
The femidom is worn internally by women and physically blocks ejaculated semen from entering that person's body. Female condoms can also be used during anal sex.
The female condom is a pouch with flexible rings at each end. Before intercourse, the ring inside the pouch is inserted deep inside the vagina, holding the condom in the vagina. The penis is directed into the pouch through the ring at the open end, which stays outside the vaginal opening during intercourse.
Why should I use one?
Femidoms play a crucial role in women’s sexual life. The female condom gives women an extra measure of control over birth control and STD prevention. This is particularly important for women in cultures where they do not traditionally hold equal power to men. It gives a woman an option when her male partner does not want to wear a condom himself.
In some countries, overlooking the use of the femidom has raised concerns about teenage pregnancies. Studies conducted by the BBC and Guardian in the UK show a rise from 40.9 per 1000 in 2006 to 41.9 per cent per 1000 in the year 2007 of teenage pregnancies for girls in the age group of 15-17. This clearly reflects the importance of educating teenage girls on using femidoms during love making.
Femidoms are distributed mainly for free by HIV/AIDS NGOs in Zimbabwe, Ghana, South Africa and Botswana, as well as in other African and some South East Asian countries. In areas with high HIV prevalence, and where men are not willing to use their own condoms, the femidom is becoming very desirable.
In Zimbabwe, for example, the country has seen a decline in new AIDS cases due to the promotion of changes in sexual behaviour. Female condoms are a part of HIV/AIDS prevention programming in Zimbabwe. Daisy Nyamukaba, who works with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), says the female condoms are crucial in the battle against HIV/AIDS. Nyamukaba said they are well-received by many of the women who use them.
Why some people don’t use Femidoms
Some women have complained that they don’t like to use femidoms for a variety of reasons. These include that inserting the female condom is a skill that has to be learned – it is not that easy at the beginning. Also, they reported a "rustling" or “squeaking” sound during intercourse. The visibility of the outer ring, which remains outside the vagina, was also reported to be unpopular.
However, recently an as-yet unpublished study in South Africa found that 80% of men liked the female condom and the same percentage of women agreed.
The Decisions for Life project in South Africa is running a special focus on femidoms and women’s sexual health, and have held several discussion groups. Hear what South African women say about Femidoms.