Background: Only one female condom [FC1 Female Condom (FC1)] is currently marketed, but it is poorly utilized, perhaps due to difficulty with insertion, discomfort and suboptimal functional performance during intercourse. The Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) Woman's Condom (WC) was developed in an effort to overcome these obstacles.
Study design: This was a randomized crossover study to evaluate the functional performance, safety and acceptability of the FC1 and WC. Seventy-five couples were assigned to one of two condom use sequences (WC/FC1 or FC1/WC) at three centers. Four condoms of the first type were used by couples in four acts of intercourse at home over a 2-4-week period. After a follow-up visit, these procedures were repeated with the second assigned condom type. In a substudy of participants (n=25), a colposcopy was performed prior and subsequent to the first condom use of each of the two condom types. Condom performance was evaluated by calculating measures of function from questionnaires completed by the couple after each condom use. Safety was evaluated by reported urogenital symptoms with a given condom during or immediately following condom use and colposcopic signs of genital irritation in the substudy. Acceptability of each given condom type was measured by questionnaire.
Results: Total condom failure (slippage, breakage, etc., divided by the number of female condoms opened) was 31% for the WC and 42% for the FC1. Total clinical failure (slippage, breakage, etc., divided by the number of female condoms used) was 17% for the WC and 24% for the FC1. The proportion of condom failures was 10.9 percentage points less, and the proportion of clinical failure 6.7 percentage points less, when couples used the WC compared to the FC1 [90% CI: -18.5 to -3.3 and -12.6 to -0.8, respectively). Fewer women reported symptoms of urogenital irritation when using the WC vs. the FC1 either overall or when analyzing each use of the condom [woman as unit: -20 percentage points (90% CI: -30.5 to -9.3); condom use as unit: -12.3 percentage points (90% CI: -18.0 to -6.7)]. A similar result was seen for signs of urogenital irritation [woman as unit: -20 percentage points (90% CI: -42.7 to 4.8)]. Among participants with a preference, WC was preferred over the FC1 by twice as many males and by 2.6 times as many females.
Conclusions: While both female condoms were safe and acceptable in short-term use, the PATH Woman's Condom leads to less failure, was associated with fewer adverse events, and was more acceptable than the FC1 Female Condom.