May 23, 2024

What Are Condoms?

Condoms are thin pouches used during sex to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). They come in two main types:

  • Male condoms: Worn on the erect penis, typically made from latex (rubber) but also available in latex-free options like polyurethane or polyisoprene.
  • Female condoms: Inserted into the vagina, featuring flexible rings at each end. Made from latex-safe materials.

How Do Condoms Work?

  • Male condoms: Placed on the erect penis, unrolling completely to the base while leaving space at the tip. This space prevents breakage during ejaculation. After ejaculation, the condom should be held at the base while pulling out with the penis still erect to avoid slippage.
  • Female condoms: Inserted into the vagina with the closed-end ring first. The open-ended ring rests outside the vaginal opening. The condom lines the vaginal walls, creating a barrier between sperm and the cervix. It can be inserted up to 8 hours before sex and should be removed immediately after, before standing up.

Important Use Tips:

  • Never use male and female condoms together: Friction can cause breakage or slippage.
  • Use a new condom every time: Do not reuse.
  • Unroll from start to finish: Cover the entire penis for males and ensure the condom lines the vagina for females.
  • Avoid oil-based lubricants: These can damage condoms. Use water-based lubricants instead.
  • Check for damage: Discard dry, sticky, stiff, or expired condoms.
  • Store properly: Keep unused condoms in a cool, dry place.

Effectiveness for Pregnancy Prevention:

  • Typical use (male condoms): 15 out of 100 couples experience accidental pregnancy per year.
  • Typical use (female condoms): 21 out of 100 couples experience accidental pregnancy per year.

For better protection, consider using condoms alongside other birth control methods like pills or IUDs.

STD Protection:

  • Latex, polyurethane, and polyisoprene condoms effectively prevent many STDs when used correctly.
  • Lambskin condoms are not effective against STDs, especially HIV/AIDS.
  • Condoms don’t protect against infections from sores outside the covered area.
  • Use condoms with other birth control methods for complete STD protection.
  • Abstinence is the only guaranteed way to prevent pregnancy and STDs.

Possible Problems with Condoms:

  • Allergic reactions: For those with latex allergies.
  • Irritation: From spermicides or lubricants on some condoms.

Who Should Use Condoms?

  • Everyone for STD protection.
  • Couples seeking reliable pregnancy prevention who can consistently use condoms before each sexual encounter.
  • Males seeking a birth control method they can control.

Availability:

  • Condoms are readily available in drugstores, supermarkets, and vending machines (often in the “Family Planning” section).
  • No prescription or doctor’s visit needed.

Cost:

  • Male condoms: $0.50 to $1 each (cheaper in bulk). Many clinics and Planned Parenthood offer free or low-cost condoms.
  • Female condoms: Around $2 each. Some clinics and Planned Parenthood offer free or low-cost female condoms.

When to Call a Doctor:

  • Females: Possible pregnancy, condom breakage during sex, vaginal discharge changes, unexplained fever/chills, pelvic/abdominal pain, or pain during sex.
  • Males: Condom breakage during sex, lesions/bumps on the penis, penile pain, or penile discharge.

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