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IU Researchers To Design New Female Condom

IU researchers, whose work is being sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are designing a female condom that aims to increase sexual pleasure.

infographic

Photo: Debby Herbenick

IU researchers have not released images of their condom design, but an infographic explains the condom's goals.

Indiana University researchers plan to design a new female condom that is easier to use.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today announced the research is one of 55 projects in 12 countries that it is funding as a way to improve health worldwide.

Several of those projects focus on developing female and male condom designs to prevent unintended pregnancy, HIV, and other sexually transmitted infections.

IU researcher Debby Herbenick and Frank Sadlo, founder of the custom condom company TheyFit, are creating a female condom that has a more elliptical shape as opposed to the more traditional round one, making it fit more naturally with the female body.

“Female condoms are really in their infancy. There are very few designs,” Herbenick says. “Current condoms are big and baggy and really don’t match a female’s anatomy.”

The Gates Foundation has funded research into condom design before, but Herbenick says all of the designs were for male condoms. The new funding aims to provide women, especially those in developing countries, with additional alternatives.

“Many men just refuse to use condoms, so if a woman’s partner refuses to use a condom or complains about a condom, she can say I’ll use one,” Herbenick says. “It provides a female-initiated or a female-controlled option.”

The funding is an 18 month grant, during which the researchers will finalize their design, search for a manufacturer and create a prototype.

Prototypes will then be sent to couples in India to be tested.

Gretchen Frazee

Gretchen Frazee is a reporter/producer for WFIU and WTIU news. Prior to her current role, Frazee worked as the associate online content coordinator for WFIU/WTIU. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studied multimedia journalism and anthropology. You can follow her on Twitter @gretchenfrazee.

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