Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Original research
Using human-centred design to develop an innovative female condom
  1. Patricia S Coffey,
  2. Maggie Kilbourne-Brook
  1. Medical Devices/Health Technologies, Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, Seattle, Washington, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Patricia S Coffey, Medical Devices/Health Technologies, Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, Seattle, Washington, USA; pcoffey{at}


Objective 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.

Methods 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.

Results 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.

Conclusion 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 codesigners through an HCD approach resulted in a female condom that meets the needs of women and men from diverse regions.

  • women's health
  • sexual health
  • sexually transmitted diseases

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:

View Full Text

Statistics from


  • Contributors Both authors were involved substantively in all aspects of the product development work including the conception and design of the work; the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; and drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content. Both authors have provided final approval of the version to be published; and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

  • Funding PATH developed the Woman’s Condom with support from the following donors and agencies: CONRAD, Eastern Virginia Medical School, under USAID Cooperative Agreement #HRN-A-00-98-00020-00; the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the terms of the HealthTech IV Cooperative Agreement #GPH-A-00-01-00005-00; Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; I+Solutions/Universal Access to Female Condoms; and other donors. Support for the preparation of this manuscript came from KESSEL Medintim, GmbH (Waldorf, Germany).

  • Disclaimer The content of paper is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the donors.

  • Competing interests Both authors work for PATH, a global non-profit that improves health ( and were actively involved in the product design and market development efforts around the Woman’s Condom. These efforts were supported by various donors including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval We received ethics approval by the PATH Research Ethics Committee and ethics review committees at each of these sites for these non-randomised, non-significant risk studies among couples in a monogamous relationship who were not at risk of pregnancy and at low risk of sexually transmitted disease in the countries where the activities occurred.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data sharing not applicable as no datasets generated and/or analysed for this study.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.