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Saturday, September 23, 2023

Life + Arts

Rethinking the rubber

The FC2 Female Condom, which is manufactured by the Female Health Company, is the second generation female condom. Originally produced in the 1980s, the condom, right, seems much larger than condoms for men, left, but is actually the same length.  |  Emily Chambers/The Daily Cougar

The FC2 Female Condom, which is manufactured by the Female Health Company, is the second generation female condom. Originally produced in the 1980s, the condom, right, seems much larger than condoms for men, left, but is actually the same length. | Emily Chambers/The Daily Cougar

The FC2 Female Condom is an elusive, semi-complicated device, that when used properly, has only a five percent failure rate.

The condom looks a little freaky at first — it’s bigger than the male condom — and has to be inserted into the vagina with precise calculation. But once in, women are in control — something the male condom greatly lacks.

Beverly McPhail, the director of the Women’s Resource Center at UH says that the condom is important because it provides women with more options.

“If their partner refused to wear a male condom, women have the option of wearing the female condom,” says McPhail. “It provides more choices for women and a sense of empowerment that they can be in charge of their reproductive choices while safeguarding their health.”


An added contraception option

Most traditional methods of birth control fail because they’re typically used incorrectly or inconsistently.

According to the World Health Organization, “withdrawal” typically has a 22 percent failure rate, the male condom has an 18 percent failure rate and birth control has a nine percent failure rate.

McPhail says that women aren’t often aware that skipping pills or taking them at varying times greatly increases their chances of becoming pregnant.

A combination method, for example, using a condom and birth control, is one of the safest ways to be sexually active, McPhail says. And, thus, the female condom open more doors for women.

“Knowing about the female condom provides them with one more option. There is no perfect birth control method — each one has its plusses and minuses, and different failure rates,” McPhail says. “Women need to protect themselves from (sexually transmitted diseases and infections) and pregnancy, so they need to become knowledgeable about the range of options available to them.”


Advantages and disadvantages

The Female Health Company manufactures, markets and sells the FC2 Female Condom, which, according to its website, is the only currently available product under a woman’s control that is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The condom was approved by the FDA in 2009. And in 2006, according to the website, the WHO deemed that the FC2 was “acceptable for procurement by United Nations agencies.”

According to literature available inside of the female condom packaging, the condom is not manufactured from natural rubber latex, so the condom is not actually a “rubber.” Admittedly though, some female condoms currently in development are made of latex.

Information found on the Planned Parenthood website states that this is actually a benefit for those who are allergic to latex.

The female condom is wider than condoms for men, but still around the same length — 6.5 inches. It has flexible rings at each end — one to hold the pouch in and the other to keep about an inch of the condom out of the vagina.

Lena H. Sun writes in an article for The Washington Post that the female condom is becoming more popular because of its increase in availability, low cost and pleasure factor.

“The new version is made of a synthetic rubber polymer called nitrile that is a softer material that conducts heat and enhances sensation. Women — and men — have found it more satisfactory,” writes Sun.

The Planned Parenthood site includes other benefits such as that it can be used with both oil-based and water-based lubricants; there is no effect on a woman’s hormones; that it allows women to “share responsibility for preventing infection;” and no prescription is required.

Regarding safety concerns, almost everyone can use the female condom, the Planned Parenthood website states. “In fact, female condoms can be used by just about any woman who can use a tampon.”

As McPhail stated there are no full-proof, problem-free contraception methods. The product literature states that problems that have been reported when using the condom during sex include the complete insertion of the condom into the vagina or the condom slipping completely out; the slipping of the penis to the side of the condom; and condom breaks.


An education

McPhail also stresses that it is important for parents to be open with their children about being sexually active so that their kids know the reality of consequences before it’s too late.

“When we know young people are old enough to drive, parents let them take driver’s education courses or teach them themselves while discussing the risks and responsibilities openly. I wish the same were true for sexual education,” says McPhail.

A pamphlet about the effectiveness of birth control methods from the Women’s Resource Center shows how the most effective methods of birth control are ones that college students are least likely to use, including female and male sterilization, contraceptive implant and intrauterine implant.


Safe, not sorry

People who are sexually active need to have a plan in order to be safe, McPhail says.

“Most college-educated women are delaying marriage until their late twenties, so many women have a whole decade of sexual activity before marriage and they need to be knowledgeable and comfortable taking charge of their sexuality, which includes protecting themselves from STIs and unplanned pregnancies,” says McPhail.

The female condom typically costs around $6.95 for a box of three and is available in many different locations, including CVS and Walgreens.

For more information on the female condoms, visit the Female Health Company’s website at

The company also maintains an official Facebook page, which can be “liked” at

For more information on the Women’s Resource Center, visit

[email protected]

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