Views and experiences of the female condom in Australia: An exploratory cross-sectional survey of cisgender women

Sarah E. Fenwick, Jessica R. Botfield, Prudence Kidman, Kevin McGeechan, Deborah Bateson

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Background The female condom is the only female-initiated form of protection against unintended pregnancy and sexually transmissible infections (STIs). However, use of this method in Australia is low. To better understand women's views and experiences of the female condom, we conducted an interventional cross-sectional study. Methods Cisgender women ≥16 years, heterosexually active and living in New South Wales were recruited through social media advertisements and email invitations to clients of a family planning service. Eligible participants were provided with three female condoms and invited to complete a follow-up survey. Survey responses for women who attempted to use at least one female condom were summarised using counts and proportions. Results We recruited 556 women; few (30/556) had used the female condom before the study. There were 284 women who used, or attempted to use, a female condom during the study and completed the follow-up survey. Fifty-one percent (104/205) reported experiencing some difficulty in insertion, although only 46% (130/284) had seen an instructional demonstration. Approximately half (105/204) of women rated the sensation and comfort of the female condom as the same or better than the male condom, and 66% (137/204) reported that it provided the same or better lubrication. Approximately half of women said they would consider using the female condom again for STI prevention (51% (133/260)) or contraception (40% (103/260)), or would recommend to others (43% (112/260)). Conclusion Findings highlight the need for increased health promotion and education regarding use of the female condom. To increase access it will be important to address method cost and availability in Australia. Future research should explore other perspectives of this method, including among the LGBTIQ+ community.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0246664
Number of pages12
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes

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