TOPE OMOGBOLAGUN examines the difficulties females face in using condoms made specifically for them
I have never seen a female condom before neither have I used it for once,” said Mrs Booky Glover who has been married for about seven years with three children.
Glover’s case mirrors the situation of many Nigerian women who have only heard of the condoms but never used them. Some of them have not even heard of it.
The female condom is one of the seeming scarce commodities in Nigeria as most of the women who spoke with NewsDiary.ng said they hadn’t seen it before.
Online sources describe the female condom as a long plastic pouch, usually made of nitrile, a manmade latex-free rubber. The condom goes inside the body during sex and the flexible rings at both ends hold it in place. The condom lines the walls of a vagina and collects semen and other fluids.
Our correspondent who got a pack of the condom observed that before opening it, one could feel the double edges neatly folded. It’s oily like the male condoms and the end are a soft, loose-fitting cylindrical pouch with a ring on each end; a big open end and a small close end. To use it, one of the rings, the small closed side has to be inserted into the vagina. One ring is inserted into the vagina to hold it firmly in place.
The close end inside the vagina walls holds the semen after sexual activity and usually drawn out in a way that the fluid would not pour out.
Glover noted that the female condom wasn’t available and accessible like the male condom. She said, “I don’t even know where to get it. Besides, the male condom is what is common everywhere. Why we don’t hear much about female condoms or get it easily is a wonder.”
A report in Pan African Journal indicated that more than half (69.9 per cent) males and between 20-25 years of age (61.2 per cent) have heard about female condoms however only 16.8 per cent have seen it. Almost half (47.9 per cent) of the respondents have heard about female condoms, however, only 16.8 per cent have seen it while 4.3 per cent have used a female condom.
These statistics seem true. Like Glover, a bank worker, who identified only as Mrs. A, said that she had never seen a female condom nor used it.
She said, “I have no knowledge of a female condom because I have nothing to protect myself from. I am in the early years of my marriage so I am still within the conceptual period. Hence, I am not trying to protect myself from giving birth nor am I scared of any sexually transmitted diseases. I am sure of myself as much as I am of my husband.”
For a mother of one and an engineer, Mrs. Gbekeleoluwa Onobote, felt the idea of a female condom sounds strange. She simply said, “I find it weird wearing a female condom. I have never been interested in it so I don’t even know anything about it. It just sounds weird to me.”
Female condoms’ scarcity
An Ibadan, Oyo State-based teacher, Mrs Dupe Adedolapo and entrepreneur, said she learnt there was a female condom but never seen it physically other than in diagrams.
She said, “I have never seen a female condom before. But I think I have an idea of what it looks like. I have seen it on the television and a women’s book I once read. Since I have never seen held or seen it physically, there is no way I could have used it.”
Another research published in the journal of reproductive health stated that out of almost half (47.9 per cent) of its respondents had heard about female condoms but only 16.8 per cent had seen. Out of the 16.8 per cent, only 4.3 per cent had used a female condom.
Like others, Oluwatomilola Eniola, also has not seen a female condom before. “I have never seen a female condom before; I don’t even know what it looks like. If I should come across it, I don’t think I’d want to use it.”
Also speaking, an entrepreneur and a student, Deborah Wilson, said she had seen a condom before but wouldn’t be comfortable using it.
She said, “Well, I have seen a female condom before but I haven’t used one before. I have implants to avoid pregnancy so I don’t need to use a condom. The man using a condom is enough. I think people use protection just to be freaky but I always feel it won’t be comfortable.’’
Wilson stated that though she had not used a female condom before, she knew about its usage. She explained, “Female condoms are worn inside the vagina before any sexual activity. It can slip into the vagina during sex, but it’s easy to remove by oneself when it happens. Female condoms may not be suitable for women who are comfortable touching their genital area.”
A civil servant and a mother, Adebo Oluwayemisi, said she knew the use of a female condom but usually uncomfortable with its insertion in the vagina. She told NewsDiary.ng that she learned how to use it when she went for family planning classes.
Oluwayemisi stated, “I don’t use it because I feel it might be uncomfortable for me because of the way it’s inserted. They taught us about its uses when I went for family planning.”
On her part, a medical practitioner and mother, Mrs Lisa Adeniyi, said she had heard of it and knew much about it but usually uncomfortable wearing it.
She said, “I know what a female condom is and I have seen it, though I have not tried it. I won’t try it because it involves me inserting it into my vaginal wall. I don’t like anything like that. I don’t like the discomfort and slight pain sensation during insertion which I was told it involves.”