September 16: Global Female Condom Day
On September 16, we celebrate Global Female Condom Day, also known as the Feminine Condom, a tool that not only protects against sexually transmitted infections but also against unplanned pregnancies.
However, unlike its male counterpart, the female condom has not been as widely available, and its price is higher than the external condom.
Given that access to this protection is limited, the day to celebrate it is also a date designed to promote its knowledge and use since women in many regions of the world have not yet been able to access it.
How Popular is it?
Since a female condom is not so easy to get (it costs three times that of a male condom and is not readily available in all countries), it has also been difficult to know whether it is well accepted or not.
Frequently, the studies that have been carried out to know the opinion of women and their partners, had to be accompanied by training so that they could learn how to use it. The good news is that acceptance results for the method are often positive once people get to know it well.
For example, a study conducted in New York in 1995, with 52 women over the age of 18, found that two-thirds of them valued the female condom positively, and only 15% said they did not like it (the rest said they had a neutral opinion). Half of the women said their partners did like it, and about a quarter said they didn’t like it (the rest had a neutral opinion).
Later, in 2007, a study was conducted in Italy in a group over 18 years of age where 66.7% were women and 33% were men. When evaluating their knowledge of this device, it was concluded that it was practically unknown. It was also identified that there was an interest in knowing more, but at the same time, there was a resistance to approving it. For this reason, the research team stressed that it is important to train on the use and advantages of this method in order to overcome this resistance.
In 2010, another study, this time in El Salvador and Nicaragua focused on training and then surveying sex workers on the use of the female condom. The results showed that most of them said that they had practiced between 2 and 10 times before feeling ready to use the device with their clients. Among the advantages, the women mentioned were lubrication, size, comfort, and strength, and among the disadvantages, they considered the large size of the packaging, the initial physical discomfort, and the possibility that this visible device could scare away their customers.
How to Use it?
Several studies that have been done regarding this tool have found a common problem: ignorance. The female condom requires practice to master its use (just like its male counterpart), and as long as women and men are not familiar with it, it may seem too complicated.
Its use could be summarized in 6 simple steps. However, before you start, it helps to think of it like any other device to be inserted into the vagina, such as a tampon or menstrual cup: you need to identify the anatomy and practice a few times to be able to use it without problems.
So, to use a female condom:
- Open the package at one corner, using your fingertips (do not use anything sharp that could damage the condom).
- Find a comfortable position to insert the condom. It can be lying down, standing with one leg propped up, or squatting.
- Press the end ring closed in the center, forming an 8. Insert that ring into the vagina. Through the middle of the condom, use your finger to push it as far as you can.
- Check that it was not twisted when inserted. The open end ring will be outside the vagina, covering the vulva.
- At the moment of penetration, make sure that the penis enters the condom and not on one side of it.
- To remove it, twist the outer ring to prevent semen from draining, and gently pull it out. Throw it away in the trash can (you can wrap it in toilet paper).
If you want to know more about its use, you can see it in this video.
At AHF Latin America and the Caribbean, we can channel you to institutions that provide free female condoms. Contact us at the closest Wellness Center or Allied Center for more information.