It’s widely recognized that the only birth control method that’s 100 percent effective in preventing sexually transmitted HIV is total abstinence. The next best choice is the male condom, but in many countries, women can’t or won’t ask their partners to use them. This is often due to cultural norms, lack of access to condoms, low user acceptability and compliance, and lack of education and empowerment among these countries’ women.
With the exception of the female condom, no form of woman-controlled birth control helps prevent HIV infection. Unfortunately, the female condom is subject to many of the same objections and obstacles that discourage people from using the male condom.
Dr. Alfred Shihata, Founder of FemCap, Inc., has been investigating ways in which the FemCap birth control device might provide women with a new way of protecting themselves against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The FemCap may help reduce the transmission of STIs in two ways: 1) by covering the cervix and shielding its vulnerable receptor cells from pathogens. 2) by providing a delivery system for microbicides (currently under development) within the vagina.
Most of us are familiar with the side effects associated with hormonal birth control. Some, such as weight gain, breakthrough bleeding, and reduced protection when taken with certain antibiotics, are simply minor annoyances. More serious health concerns include mood swings, migraine headaches, and a slightly increased risk of stroke and certain types of cancer.
The upside of hormonal birth control methods such as the Pill is that they have a high efficacy rate when taken correctly and in the right dosage. The downside is that the Pill requires women to think about birth control every single day. When pills are missed, effectiveness is reduced. This problem can be solved by using hormonal birth control implants, but these must be removed by a medical professional if the user decides she wants to become pregnant.
The FemCap is different from hormonal birth control methods because women only have to think about it when they plan to have sex. Like hormonal birth control, the FemCap is woman-controlled and her partner will not be able to tell it is being used. Unlike the Pill and implants, the FemCap has no side effects—not even latex reactions since it’s constructed of hypo-allergenic silicone.
And since what we put into our bodies affects more than just us, the FemCap has the added advantage of being environmentally friendly. New studies are raising red flags about the effects of synthetic estrogen on our country’s waterways and the fish and wildlife that live and breed there. The FemCap involves no hormones whatsoever, so you can use it knowing that your birth control is better for you and the environment.
The first steps include talking to your doctor and evaluating your own contraceptive needs. One option to consider is the FemCap, a medical grade silicone cervical cap for women who either cannot or would rather not use hormonal birth control. The FemCap works on the same principle as the diaphragm and condom in that it blocks sperm from entering the cervix. Unlike condoms which require cooperation from the male partner, the FemCap is woman-controlled. It’s virtually unnoticeable during use, and because it can be inserted several hours before having sex, doesn’t interfere with spontaneity.
The FemCap is designed to fit snugly over the cervix and conforms to the walls of the vagina for additional protection. The FemCap’s rim is designed to hold spermicide on both its vaginal and cervical sides, enhancing the device’s ability to prevent pregnancy. The rim can also hold microbicides to help guard receptor cells on the cervix from sexually transmitted infections.
The FDA-approved FemCap is available by prescription in the USA and over the counter internationally. It comes in three sizes, ranging from Small for women who have never been pregnant to Large for women who have given birth vaginally. Your doctor can discuss your pregnancy history and help you choose the size that’s right for you.