What Is It?
Condoms are considered a barrier method of contraception. There are
male condoms and female condoms. A male condom is a thin latex (a
type of rubber) sheath that is worn on the penis. 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. The male condom is
far more widely used and is sometimes often called a "rubber"
How Does It Work?
The condom works by keeping semen (the fluid that contains sperm)
from entering the vagina. The male condom is placed on a guy's penis
when it becomes erect. It is unrolled all the way to the base of
the penis while holding the tip of the condom to leave some extra
rubber. This creates a space for semen after ejaculation and makes
it less likely that the condom will break.
the guy ejaculates, he should hold the condom at the base of the
penis as he pulls out of the vagina. He must do this while the penis
is still erect to prevent the condom from slipping off when he gets
soft. If this happens, sperm could enter the vagina.
The female condom is inserted into the vagina using the closed-end
ring. The other ring creates the open end of the condom. 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 get stuck together and cause
one or the other to slip during intercourse, making them ineffective.
The female condom can be inserted up to 8 hours prior to intercourse.
A used condom should be thrown in the garbage, not down the toilet.
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 Well Does It Work?
Over the course of 1 year, 15 out of 100 typical couples who rely
on male condoms alone to prevent pregnancy will have an accidental
pregnancy. The use of the female condom is a little less reliable
and 21 out of 100 couples will have an unintended pregnancy. 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.
In general, how well each type of birth control method works depends
on a lot of things. One factor is whether the method chosen is convenient
- and whether the person remembers to use it correctly all the time.
Abstinence (not having sex) is the only method that always prevents
pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Protection Against STDs
Most male condoms are made of latex. Those made of lambskin may
offer less protection against some sexually transmitted diseases
(STDs), including HIV, so use of latex condoms is recommended. For
people who may have an allergic skin reaction to latex, both male
and female condoms made of polyurethane are available.
When properly used, latex and plastic condoms are effective against
most STDs. Condoms do not protect against infections spread from
sores on the skin not covered by a condom (such as the base of the
penis or scrotum). For those having sex, condoms must always be
used to protect against STDs even when using another method of birth
Possible Side Effects
Most men and women have no problems using condoms. The side effects
that can occasionally occur include:
- allergy to latex condoms
- irritation of the penis or the vagina from spermicides or lubricants
that some condoms are treated with
Who Uses It?
Couples who are responsible enough to stop and put a condom on each
time before sex and people who want protection against STDs use
condoms. Because condoms are the only method of birth control currently
available for men, they allow the guy to take responsibility for
birth control and STD protection. Condoms are also a good choice
for people who do not have a lot of money to spend on birth control.
How Do You Get It?
Condoms are available without a prescription and are sold in drugstores,
supermarkets, and even vending machines. (In some stores, they will
be in an aisle that's called "Family Planning.") Condoms
come in different sizes, textures, and colors.
How Much Does It Cost?
Condoms are the least expensive and most available method of birth
control - other than abstinence, of course. Male condoms cost about
$0.50 to $1 each and are less expensive when they are bought in
boxes that contain several condoms. In addition, many health centers
and family planning clinics (such as Planned Parenthood) and some
schools distribute them free of charge. Female condoms are a little
more expensive and cost about $2 to $3 per condom.