Read Original Story

Buzzfeed offers refreshing candor in explainer piece on female condom


5 Star


Here's What You Need To Know About The Female Condom

Our Review Summary

Credit: Anka Grzywacz

This is a well-rounded “explainer” story looking at female condoms, a less frequently used form of contraception compared to male condoms. The story is not directly tied to a specific research study, but does include numbers for efficacy which are nearly equal to those for male condoms.

The story comes with a sizable dose of speculation about potential benefits (such as decreased risk of infection and increased sexual pleasure) that are unproven.  On the other hand, it offers refreshing candor about the availability of the device and how it is used. We were especially pleased to see so much attention given to cost and availability of the product. It also openly disclosed one of the source’s relationships with the condom’s manufacturer.


Why This Matters

Women can be at a cultural disadvantage in asking for birth-control prevention at the time of intercourse, and are at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV because of exposure. Female condoms could be a relatively low-cost answer to this problem if they became better known and understood.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?


Hooray for details on cost, including nuances about “free” but only with prescription. We also believe the details on availability and position on shelves is very important.

Here’s what story says:

“Up until the past few months, the female condom lived on store shelves, usually right next to the male condoms. But it was difficult to get shelf space and secure the product in every outlet, Fisch tells BuzzFeed Health. Plus, the female condoms came in three-packs, making them more expensive than a big box of male condoms.

Recently, Veru Healthcare moved FC2 behind the counter, where it’s available in packs of 12 with a prescription from your provider. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans must cover at least one form of contraception from each FDA-approved method at no cost. And since FC2 is the only FDA-approved female condom, it will be free with a prescription from your doctor.”

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


Here the story excels at providing important context. Benefits, in the case of barrier condoms, are measured in “failure rates.” These rates depend on behavior. The story makes this clear.

Some of what the story gave us in benefits:

“Before we get into the numbers, it’s helpful to understand that birth control effectiveness is measured in terms of failure rates, or the percentage of people who get pregnant within the first year of using this method.

Female condoms have a 5% failure rate with perfect use (using it consistently and correctly every single time), making them 95% effective. In contrast, male condoms have a perfect use failure rate of 2%, making them 98% effective.

The failure rate for both male and female condoms goes up when you also include people who used the method inconsistently or incorrectly (referred to as “typical use”). Female condoms have a typical use failure rate of 21%, while male condoms have a typical use failure rate of 18%.

The effectiveness of FC2 is actually taken from research on the effectiveness of its predecessor, FC1 (the original female condom approved in 1993). Since the FC2 is an improved version of FC1 (made of nitrile instead of polyurethane), no further FDA studies were required, said Fisch.”

It also discussed two possible, but not proven, benefits that the condom may decrease the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and improve sensation. We wish the story had hedged a little more on these–even a minimal degree of skin-to-skin contact can transmit some infections, such as herpes or human papilloma virus.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?


There is a good discussion of the drawbacks of condom use, for both male and female condoms.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?


The story is not about new research findings, so it is not held to the same standard as a story directly about new clinical research. Still, we were pleased the story had hyperlinks to two research articles to back up the statistics about efficacy. We were a little disappointed that one of those studies was from 2011, which may not be the most up-to-date findings.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


There is no disease mongering. We also applaud the context in behavioral and financial realities that is part of the story.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


The story makes it clear that one of the sources is chief corporate officer of Veru Healthcare, which distributes the female condom known as FC2. 

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


The story does a good job of talking about many alternatives that couples have for birth control.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story does a good job of handling the nuances of availability.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story explains that female condoms have been around for a while, but within the past few months one manufacturer made them available by prescription.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


The story contains fresh interview material from scientists and does not rely on a news release.

Total Score: 10 of 10 Satisfactory


Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.