The Condom is considered a barrier method of contraception. There are male condoms and female condoms.

The male condom is a thin latex sheath that is positioned over the penis to prevent semen from entering the vagina during sexual intercourse. To maximize its effectiveness and protection, partners who choose to use condoms must read and follow all manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Additionally, a spermicide may help increase the effectiveness of the condom. The male condom is by far, the more widely used type of condom and is sometimes called a “rubber” or “prophylactic.”

A female condom is a polyurethane sheath with a flexible ring at either end. One end is closed and is inserted into the vagina, the other end is open and the ring sits outside the opening of the vagina.

Condom Accent Image

Using the Male Condom

The male condom is placed on a man’s penis during an erection. The condom is unrolled all the way to the base of the penis while holding the tip of the condom off of the penis to leave some extra space at the tip of the penis. This creates space for semen during ejaculation and makes it less likely that the condom will break.

During sexual intercourse, after the man ejaculates, he should hold the condom at the base of the penis as he pulls out of the vagina and while his penis is still erect. This will help prevent accidentally spilling semen and sperm into the vagina, which may happen once his erection is over.

Female Condom Accent Image

Using the Female Condom

The female condom is inserted into the vagina using the smaller, closed-end ring. The other ring (the larger ring) sits outside the vagina and keeps the condom open. The sheath then lines the walls of the vagina creating a barrier between the sperm and the cervix. The male and female condoms should not be used at the same time because they can stick together and cause one or the other to slip during intercourse. The female condom has the advantage of being able to be inserted up to 8 hours prior to intercourse, if desired.

General Condom Issues

A used condom should not be thrown down the toilet. It should be thrown in the garbage. Once a condom is used, it cannot be reused. A new condom should be used each time you have sex and it must be used from start to finish every time you have sex to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Never use oil-based lubricants such as mineral oil, petroleum jelly, or baby oil with condoms because the these substances can break down the rubber. And if a condom ever seems dry, sticky, or stiff when it comes out of the package, or if it is past its expiration date, throw it away and use a new one. It’s a good idea to have several condoms on hand in case there is a problem with one. It’s best to store unused condoms in a cool, dry place.

How Effective is the Condom?

Over the course of 1 year, 15 out of 100 couples who rely on male condoms alone to prevent pregnancy will have an accidental pregnancy. Therefore they are about 85% effective. The use of the female condom is a little less reliable and 21 out of 100 couples will have an unintended pregnancy, or 79% effective. Of course, these are average figures and the chance of getting pregnant depends on whether you use this method correctly and every time you have sex. In fact studies show that, although it’s possible for condoms to break or slip during intercourse, the most common reason that condoms “fail” is that the couple fails to use one at all.

Experts used to think that using spermicide with a condom would decrease the pregnancy rate as well as help fight against STDs. However, more recent information indicates that this is not necessarily true and spermicide does not help make condoms more effective.

When used properly, in addition to preventing pregnancy, condoms offer protection to both partners against STDs and infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Studies have found the following: There is a decreased risk of gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases in women who consistently use condoms. In a study of HIV-negative women whose only risk for infection was a stable heterosexual relationship with an HIV-infected partner, none of the women who consistently used condoms became infected. Regular use of latex condoms appears to decrease the risk of HIV infection by about 69 percent. Evidence suggests that other types of condoms may be less effective than latex condoms in preventing HIV transmission. Those who choose to use condoms should also note that petroleum-based lubricants may actually degrade the condom, decreasing its effectiveness in preventing infection. Water-based lubricants are considered safer. Synthetic condoms are available, but are currently approved by the FDA only for people who are allergic to latex.

Male Condom Facts

  1. The condoms that provide the most protection are made from Latex. Latex condoms offer the best protection. Natural-membrane condoms, such as lambskin, are porous and may not stop sexually transmitted diseases.
  2. Packaged condoms are good for approximately 5 years. The shelf life of a properly stored, properly packaged condom is five years.
  3. Packaged condoms that are coated with a spermicide are good for approximately 3 years. The shelf life of a properly stored condom coated with spermicide is three years.
  4. Latex condoms should be stored in a bedside drawer. They should not be stored in the refrigerator or be exposed to extreme heat or cold.
  5. Vaseline should never be used as a lubricant with latex condoms. Vaseline or other oil-based lubricants, such as those that include petroleum jelly, mineral oil, vegetable oil or cold cream can damage latex. Water or silicone-based lubricants are best.
  6. Men should not carry condoms in their wallet. Carrying condoms in a wallet will damage them.
  7. Next to abstinence, the most effective protection against sexually transmitted diseases is proper condom use. Yet, some people still won’t use condoms because they do not take the risks seriously. Fifty-eight percent of respondents in a recent poll said they didn’t believe they could be infected with HIV.
  8. The proper way to remove a latex condom from its package is to carefully tear off the top of the wrapper without damaging the condom.
  9. What is the best way to put on a male condom? Place the condom on the head of the penis and roll it gently down the shaft. Do not pull down tightly against the tip of the penis. Leave a reservoir for semen.