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Everything You Need to Know About Condoms

By

Updated May 20, 2014

Condoms

Condoms

Photo © Damon Hart-Davis
condoms

Types of Condoms

Photo Courtesy of E. Scott
Condoms

Use Condoms Properly

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Definition of Condoms:

Male condoms are a thin sheath made of latex rubber, polyurethane (plastic), natural membrane (lambskin), or polyisoprene (non latex natural rubber). Condoms fit over a man's erect penis during intercourse. They are considered to be an effective over-the-counter, barrier method of reversible birth control. Other than a vasectomy, the condom is the only available method of birth control used by men.

Also Known As:

Rubbers, Prophylactics, Safes, Protection, and Jimmies

How Condoms Work:

Condoms work as a barrier by collecting semen before, during, and after a man ejaculates. This can prevent sperm from coming into contact with the inside of the vagina and from joining a female’s egg. Condoms also blocks sexually transmittable disease-causing organisms from coming into contact with a non-infected partner's skin.

Advantages of Male Condoms:

  • Convenient and easy to obtain
  • Inexpensive
  • Do not require a prescription
  • Can be used with other methods
  • Are lightweight
  • Are disposable
  • Help in preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections
Additionally, men and women often say they have better sex when they use condoms. Some couples may include putting on the condom on as part of their foreplay: Plus, couples report that it is easier to focus on their sexual pleasure once the worry of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections is gone. Some men may also maintain their erection longer when they use condoms.

Positive Medical Side Effects of Condoms:

Condoms can:

  • Prevent sperm from touching the tissues in a woman's vagina. This may lower the chances that her body will produce antibodies against the sperm (This is one of the causes of infertility).
     
  • Help relieve premature ejaculation and may help a man stay erect longer. Because condoms compress the outer veins of the penis, they can be helpful for men who have difficulty maintaining an erection.

Disadvantages of Male Condoms:

  • Some men and women feel that the condom dulls sensation.
  • A few men are unable to maintain an erection after putting on condoms.
  • Some sexual excitement may be lost when sex play must be interrupted to put on a condom.
  • Friction caused by condoms may reduce female stimulation which can make sex less enjoyable or even uncomfortable. Using lubricated condoms may avoid this issue.
  • Some men are self-conscious about using condoms.
  • Intercourse may be less enjoyable since the man must withdraw his penis immediately after ejaculation.
  • Condoms may be uncomfortable to wear (experimenting with different condom sizes and types can help with this issue).
  • A man may feel pressure to maintain an erection in order to keep the condom on.
  • The woman cannot feel the warm fluid entering her body - some women care about this, some do not.
  • Pre-planning is required (to have condoms ready in anticipation of having intercourse).
  • 1-2% of women and men are allergic to latex condoms. If this is the case, the couple can use polyurethane condoms, non-latex condoms or lambskin (natural) condoms.

Where To Buy Male Condoms and Costs of Condoms:

You can buy condoms without a prescription. They are sold at most drugstores or supermarkets as well as in vending machines in some restrooms. You can buy condoms online or through mail order and may even be able to get free condoms at family planning clinics.

One condom may cost $.50 or less. In some states, Medicaid will cover the cost of condoms bought at a clinic or doctor’s office.

Things About Condoms to Be Aware Of:

  • Condoms deteriorate with age.
  • If properly stored, they will be effective until the expiration date printed on the condom's wrapper.
  • Don't "double-bag" condoms (using two condoms at the same time).
  • Condoms come in various lengths, widths, and thickness, so a man should try different condom brands and styles to find out which fits best. Most packages do not indicate size.
  • The materials/chemicals in your condoms could affect your health. It may be good to find out what is in your condoms, but sometimes this can be difficult because condom packages don't readily display this information.
  • Use only water-based lubricants intended for use with condoms (like Wet Gelle, KY, Astroglide, etc) or silicone-based lubricants. Any oil-based or petroleum based products will compromise the safety of condoms.

See: Top 10 Condom Myths

Some types of condoms:

  • Colored or tinted
  • Transparent or opaque
  • Dry or powdered
  • Ribbed, studded, contoured or textured
  • Lubricated — with spermicide or without (look to see if the condom contains nonoxynol-9 as their are certain FDA warnings associated with this spermicide)
  • Flavored
  • Thin
  • Non lubricated
  • Vegan-friendly
It is very important to read condom labels because some novelty condoms may not protect against pregnancy and STDs. It is also important to realize that condom size does matter. Because of this, you may want to figure out your penis size, so you can pick out the condom that will fit most securely and comfortably. Navigating condom sizes may be tricky because different condom manufacturers have different standards for categorizing their condoms by size.

Where To Store Condoms:

Condoms should be kept in a cool and dry place and handled gently. They should not be exposed to heat, light, air, or sunlight for long periods of time. This means that condoms should not be stored in a glove compartment or carried in a wallet or back pocket (unless planning on using that day). The friction caused by opening and closing a wallet and from walking may cause tiny holes to develop in the condom.

If the condom seems discolored, brittle, or sticky, it may be past the expiration date and more likely to break.

Effectiveness:

Condoms are 85-98% effective. This means that with typical use, about 15 out of every 100 women whose partners use condoms will become pregnant during the first year. With perfect use, 2 will become pregnant.

To be most effective, condoms should be put on before the penis comes into contact with or enters the vagina and should must be carefully removed immediately after ejaculation. Also, semen should not come into contact with the vagina as the condom is being removed.

The effectiveness of condoms is compromised when:

  • The condom ruptures due to manufacturing defects (rare) or user error.
  • Semen leaks from a condom during withdrawal.
  • The penis comes into contact with vagina before the condom is on, so the condom is not put on early enough.
Lubricated condoms that have spermicide (sperm-destroying agent) provide additional help in preventing pregnancy. Additionally, it is even more effective to add additional spermicide to a lubricant in case some semen leaks from the opening of the condom.

STD Protection:

Condoms are the ONLY birth control method that can provide protection against sexually transmitted infections. They can help reduce the risk of contracting:

Condoms can also protect against vaginitis caused by trichomoniasis or changes in the pH balance of the vagina that can be triggered by semen.

Condoms offer some protection of HPV/Genital Warts or Herpes ONLY if the infected area is covered by a condom.

Condoms provide protection from sexually transmitted diseases to both partners during anal and oral sex.

Multiple, daily use of the spermicide nonoxynol-9 may increase the chance of HIV transmission because it may irritate body tissue (so check to see if this ingredient is in your condom).

Only latex condoms, non-latex condoms and polyurethane condoms can effectively prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Condoms made of natural animal membranes may have tiny pores that infection organisms can pass through even though sperm cannot.

 

To purchase male condoms online: Compare Prices

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