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Birth Control Health Center

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Female Condom Use Still Has Barriers


Interviews with the women showed that more than two-thirds had used the female condom, with 46% trying it twice or more. This is progress, says Wechsberg, but more is needed. "With a female condom, it's 'Oh, how do I insert it? How do I deal with touching myself?' Some of these women may be out there trading their bodies, but they're really unaware of their sexuality," Wechsberg tells WebMD.

Another study, from the University of Massachusetts on attitudes of African-American and Puerto Rican women toward the female condom, shows the will to use the device is there -- but not necessarily the way. While interest in this kind of protection was high, women had trouble finding answers to their questions about the approach or where to get the device for free. So more education about female condoms is needed for both women and health care providers.

University of Michigan researchers studied the female condom in male-female relationships. Researchers found that the duration of a relationship is less important than the quality of sexual communication when it comes to success with the female condom. Based on interviews with women and their male partners, those who used the device consistently could talk openly about the experience. Inability to have frank discussions about sex proved to be a hallmark of failure.

How a person presents the female condom to her partner is also an important consideration, says Ana Penman, MPH, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Women in this study were coached on presentation techniques and given a video for illustration. Successful women, says, Penmen, tried a variety of approaches. If at first, they didn't succeed, they tried something else. For example, suggesting the condom as a novelty, as this excerpt from a study participant interview illustrates:

"Do you want to try something different? And he said, 'What?', and I said, 'a female condom.' He said, 'Yeah, I'll try [it]. I don't have to do nothing?' And [I] said, 'No, I'll do all the work.'"

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