Using human-centered design to develop an innovative female condom

Publication Year: 2022
Contributing Organisation: PATH
Authors: Patricia S Coffey and Maggie Kilbourne-Brook
Learning Themes: Global Health

The female condom is a non-hormonal barrier method that can protect from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections such as HIV. Female condoms are an important contribution to women’s reproductive
health globally as they are the only woman initiated method currently available that can provide dual protection. This article describes how human-centred design (HCD) was applied to the development of the Woman’s Condom—a second-generation female condom.

A multidisciplinary team pioneered the application of HCD principles to develop a novel reproductive health product. The Woman’s Condom design incorporated feedback from both female and male users from multiple sites in the USA and Cuernavaca, Mexico; Durban, South Africa and Khon Kaen, Thailand to inform product development.

We developed and tested more than 50 design iterations reflecting various solutions to user-related concerns. The final locked design confirmed that the Woman’s Condom was easy to use, stable, comfortable and provided satisfactory sensation during sex for both partners. The ‘dissolving capsule’ to facilitate insertion and ‘soft cling’ design are key innovative features of the Woman’s Condom.

The Woman’s Condom is a second generation female (or internal) condom product that has been shown to be highly acceptable to users throughout the world. The Woman’s Condom’s special design features enable easy
insertion, secure fit during use, good sensation and easy removal. Engaging users as co-designers through an HCD approach resulted in a female condom that meets the needs of women and men from diverse regions.

Even when developing a sensitive product like a female condom, incorporating input from users is possible and can help build acceptability into the product at each stage of design to meet the needs of intended audiences.

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