Why aren't female condoms as popular as other contraceptives?
Considering India's struggle with population control, a dedicated Condom Day or Contraceptive Week or Reproductive Health Month to raise awareness is long overdue. But since we don't have any yet, let's use America's National Condom Month, February, to discuss the deafening silence around female condoms in India. However, before we question why we don't use them, let's find out what we know about them.
Made of thin polyurethane, a female condom acts as a protective cover for vagina to prevent sperms from entering. If used correctly, which is very rare, it is 95% safe. For most women, however, it is only 79% effective. Though women across all ages and body types can use it, female condoms can be tricky for those who have never used tampons.
Unlike male condoms which differ according to their make, all female condoms protect from sexually-transmitted infections. It can be inserted up to 8 hours before the intercourse, leaving no room for last-minute inconveniences. The condom stays put even if erection is lost, making it a safer choice. Its external ring rubs against clitoris during sex. It therefore gives women greater pleasure than male condoms.
Pharmacies, departmental stores rarely stock them, but they are easily available on online marketplaces such as Condom Bazaar, Amazon and Flipkart. In India, the top three brands are Moods Velvet condoms (3pcs for Rs. 90), Cupid Female Condoms (6pcs for Rs. 300-600) and I Pill Female Condom (2pcs for Rs. 110). They can be used for anal sex but should be discarded after use.
Despite their benefits, female condoms are seldom the preferred contraceptive because of several reasons. They cost two to four times as much as male condoms, don't have as many varieties, aren't as convenient, effective or easily available. According to Durex, male condoms are 85% effective but female condoms only 75%. There's also the danger of them slipping into vagina/anus or dislocating during intercourse.
Why not? They give you better control and enhanced satisfaction compared to other contraceptives. Moreover, they don't negatively affect natural hormones or menstrual cycle like pills, patches. Also, they save you from the complications of a surgery or inserting foreign objects (vaginal rings, implants, diaphragms or IUDs) in your body for an extended period of time. All they need is some getting used to.