FDA approves new female condom

Over the counter contraceptive seems too complicated for use

By Mechelle Brown, Forty-Niner Online
Oct. 4, 1994

In May 1993, the Food and Drug Administration approved a condom for women, giving them a new way to protect themselves from sexually-transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy.

The condom, which is ma nufactured by Chartex International, a British pharmaceutical company, is available over the counter at most major drug stores in Southern California, under the name Reality Female Condom.

Although the female condom gives women more options for b irth control, it has been slow to catch on with the general public.

Donna Diaz, a representative of Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles, said that the female condom is not popular because it is "more awkward to use" than the male condom. "It's not as effective as the male condom and it's very inconvenient to use," she said.

However, Holly Sherman, spokeswoman for The Female Health Company - which markets and distributes the condom - disagreed, saying the female condom provides protection fr om disease on genital areas because there is "less skin touching skin" and the chance of transmitting a disease is less likely.

Cal State Long Beach Health Educator Mary Byron-Garcia said that although birth control pills and other contraceptives ar e effective in preventing pregnancy, they don't provide protection from STDs. "It gives a woman a choice if her partner doesn't want to use a condom," Byron-Garcia said.

The female condom has a sheath material and a flexible inner ring, and is in serted similar to a diaphragm. A woman simply squeezes the ring and inserts it as far as possible into the vagina. The ring then covers the cervix. Its sheath material holds the condom in place. The outer ring lines the vaginal wall and helps cover the lips of the vagina. The male must stay within the confines of the female condom or it's ineffective.

According to Diaz, studies on the use of male contraceptives to prevent STDs show that condoms have a higher rate of effectiveness than foams or other contraceptives.

Female students at CSULB gave mixed reactions to the condom, some calling it a good idea but others saying that it seemed too bulky and difficult to use.

"They seem too complicated," said Veronica Pineda, a computer science major. "It's a lot easier to just have the men use them."

"The size scares people off," said journalism major Atoosa Karimi. "I'd never use it. It's just too big."


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