Following the National Female Condom Evaluation study conducted by the MatCH Research Unit and cited in the Health Systems Trust (HST) National Health Review, it appears that South Africa is one of the world’s largest users of female condoms.

Every year, South Africa distributes tens of millions of female condoms, making the country home to one of the largest female condom programmes in the world, research published in the 2017 South African Health Review (SAHR) showed.

Tian Johnson, founder of the African Alliance for HIV Prevention said a female condom is a birth control (contraceptive) device that acts as a barrier to keep sperm from entering the uterus. It protects against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The female condom is a soft, loose-fitting pouch with a ring on each end. Johnson says one ring is inserted into the vagina to hold the female condom in place. The ring at the open end of the condom remains outside the vagina. The outer ring helps keep the condom in place and is also used for removal. They are only two female condoms, the FC1 female condom and its replacement, the FC2 female condom. The FC1 female condom, which is made of plastic, is no longer being produced.

The female condom helps prevent pregnancy. Among various benefits, the female condom is:
• Immediately effective
• Offers protection from sexually transmitted infections
• Is available without a prescription or special fitting
• Can be inserted eight hours before sex
Risks
Up to 21 out of 100 women will become pregnant in a year of typical use of female condoms possibly because they don’t use condoms every time they have sex.The female condom has a higher failure rate than the male condom. Condom failure means it’s possible to contract sexually transmitted infections or become pregnant.

The female condom may not protect you if:
• The condom breaks
• The condom slips out of the vagina
• The penis slips between the vagina and the outer surface of the condom
• The outer ring of the condom gets pushed into the vagina during sex
The female condom may also cause discomfort during insertion, a burning sensation, itching or a rash.

Tips to use the female condom:
• Open the package carefully. Don’t use your teeth or fingernails, which could tear the condom.
• Consider using additional lubrication. You can apply additional water-based or oil-based lubricant to the condom to make it easier to insert and to minimise noise during sex.
• Insert the female condom.
Squeeze the ring at the closed end of the pouch with your middle finger and thumb and insert it into your vagina like a tampon. Place your index finger inside the condom and push the ring up as far as it will go. Don’t allow the condom to twist. Make sure the outer ring remains outside the vagina, extending about 1 inch (or about 2.5 centimetres) beyond the labia. You can place the female condom inside your vagina up to eight hours before sex.