Ladies and Gentlemen: Use Your Condom Sense
Condoms—men and women of all ages and from all walks of life are using them for birth control and/or protection from sexually transmitted infections.
A male condom (also known as a rubber) is a sheath worn over the penis. It is made of latex, animal tissue, or polyurethane. A condom is used to catch semen before, during, and after a man ejaculates. When used during vaginal sex, it helps protect against pregnancy. When used during vaginal, anal, and oral sex, it also helps protect against certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
During sexual intercourse, a condom prevents sperm from entering the vagina. According to Planned Parenthood, about 15 out of 100 women will become pregnant during the first year of typical condom use, meaning inconsistent and at times incorrect condom use. Condoms have a 98% efficacy. The term efficacy refers to perfect condom use that is consistent and always correct, while effectiveness refers to typical use. Contraceptive foams, creams, jellies, films, and suppositories can also be used to provide additional protection against pregnancy, since they can kill sperm if the condom breaks. Some condoms are coated with a spermicide.
- Size—Condoms come in standard size (which fit most men), extra-large, and snug size.
- Shape—Some condoms have a rounded tip; others have a nipple (reservoir) at the end to hold the semen.
- Thickness—Extra-strength condoms are best for men who have anal sex or who tend to break condoms. Extra-thin condoms may allow more sensation, but they may break more easily.
- Lubrication—Many condoms are lubricated with spermicide, which helps to kill sperm and certain disease-causing germs. Lubricated condoms should not be used for oral sex.
- Color—Condoms come in many colors. However, this does not influence the effectiveness of the condom.
- Flavored—Flavored condoms have a mild, often mint flavor, and are worn when receiving oral sex.
- Texture—Some condoms have ripples or studs for extra sensation.
- Material—Most condoms are made of latex. If you or your partner has a latex allergy, options include animal tissue (usually sterilized sheep intestine) or synthetic polyurethane.
Last reviewedJune 2013by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.