Ladies and Gentlemen: Use Your Condom Sense
by Amy Scholten, MPH
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).
Condoms and Pregnancy Prevention
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.
Latex Condoms and the Prevention of STDs TOP
When used consistently and correctly, a latex condom helps protect against many STDs because it blocks the exchange of body fluids that might carry infection.
A study published in a 1993 issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes looked at the results of condom use in couples in which one partner had human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)—the virus that causes AIDS. During a four-year period, 123 couples who consistently used condoms did not transmit HIV. In 122 couples who did not consistently use condoms during the four-year period, 12 partners became infected with HIV.
Latex condoms help protect against the following STDs:
Latex condoms offer significant protection against:
Types of Condoms TOP
Condoms come in various sizes, shapes, and materials. Here are some things to consider when buying condoms:
When to Use a Condom TOP
A man should use a condom any time he has vaginal, anal, or oral sex, if there is even the slightest risk that either person has a STD. The condom should be put on before any contact and removed and thrown away immediately after ejaculation.
If you are embarrassed to talk to your partner about using condoms, practice talking before you are in a sexual situation. And have your talk well before you are in the heat of passion.
How to Use a Male Condom TOP
Putting on a Condom
Both partners should know how to put on and use a condom.
Taking off a Condom
If the Condom Breaks During Sex
Benefits and Disadvantages of Male Condoms TOP
The male condom:
Some drawbacks include that the condom:
Additionally, some men are self-conscious about using condoms.
Benefits and Disadvantages of Female Condoms TOP
The female condom is a thin, soft, loose-fitting, lubricated pouch made of polyurethane that fits inside the vagina and also covers the vulva. An inner ring at the closed end is used to insert the device inside the vagina. The outer ring remains outside the vagina and covers the vulva. It can be used with any type of lubricant. The female condom is about 75% effective in preventing pregnancy.
Before engaging in sexual activity, the woman inserts the female condom into her vagina. The closed end of the tube should cover the cervix and the other end should slightly cover the vulva. The female condom should be discarded after use.
The drawbacks to the female condom include that it is:
Another disadvantage is that, at times, the penis may slip between the device and the woman’s body.
Condoms can be used enjoyably and effectively for preventing pregnancy and many STDs. However, no protective method is 100% effective. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the surest way to avoid transmission is to abstain from vaginal, anal, and oral sex, or to be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and you know is uninfected.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Healthy Living Unit (Public Health Canada)
Public Health Canada
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.
Male latex condoms and sexually transmitted diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchstp/od/condoms.pdf. Accessed April 28, 2009.
Planned Parenthood website. Available at: http://www.planned.... Accessed April 28, 2009.
Saracco A, et al. Man-to-woman transmission of HIV: longitudinal study of 343 steady partners of infected men. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 1993;6:497-502.
Women's contraception collection. Journal of the American Medical Association website. Available at: http://pubs.ama-assn.org/cgi/collection/womens_contraception. Accessed January 10, 2003.
Last reviewed April 2011 by Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 4/11/2011