What are Condoms?
Condoms are the only contraception that can prevent pregnancy and protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
The two types include:
- external condoms: these are worn on the penis
- internal condoms: these are worn inside the vagina
This article explores external condoms and describes how they work and other information.
What Types of Condoms Are There?
There are many types of external condoms, including:
- Latex, plastic, or lambskin: Many people use latex condoms; however, if you’re sensitive or allergic to this material, you can use plastic ones (made of polyurethane or polyisoprene). Latex and plastic condoms effectively protect people from STIs during vaginal, oral, and anal sex. Natural or lambskin condoms are created of material derived from lamb intestines. They can also prevent pregnancy, but they have small openings. In other words, they won’t protect you from STIs.
- Lubricated: Lubricated condoms feature a thin coat of liquid. They can prevent pain and irritation during sex and keep it from breaking. You can always add lube to a condom to make the experience more comfortable. Remember that you’ll want to use a water-based product – those are better for sexual activity. Oil-based lubricants like petroleum jelly can ruin the condom and prevent it from working.
- Spermicide-coated: These types of condoms contain a chemical called nonoxynol-9 that kills sperm. They may lower the risk of pregnancy, but the amount of spermicide on the condom may not be enough to make a difference. For extra protection, you can add a separate sperm-killing product. However, nonoxynol-9 can irritate your genitals and put you at a higher risk of contracting HIV.
- Textured condoms: These condoms feature ribbed and studded types. They intend to increase the pleasure for you or your partner.
You may have also seen glow-in-the-dark ones or other novelties. Proceed with caution: These kinds of condoms aren’t often FDA-approved and may not be as effective in preventing pregnancies or STIs. Please read the package and make sure it says that it protects against both.
Currently, there’s only one type of internal condom with FDA approval for use in the United States. It contains nitrile, a latex-free, human-made rubber, and comes pre-lubricated.
How do you use a condom?
To gain maximum protection by using condoms, they must be used correctly and consistently.
Keep in mind: the failure of condoms to protect against STI/HIV transmission is usually from inconsistent or incorrect use instead of product failure.
Here are some notable facts:
- Inconsistent or nonuse of condoms can lead to STI acquisition because transmission can occur during a single sex act with an infected partner.
- Incorrect use reduces the protective features of condoms due to condom breakage, slippage, or leakage. In addition, incorrect use entails failing to use condoms during the entire sex act, from the beginning of sexual contact to the end.
Methods of Using a Condom Consistently and Correctly
Here is how you can use a condom consistently and correctly:
- Use a new condom during every act of sex (including vaginal, anal, and oral) throughout the entire sex act. Before any contact through the genitals, put the condom on the tip of an erect penis with the rolled side out.
- If it does not feature a reservoir tip, you can pinch the tip to leave a half-inch margin for semen to collect. Now by holding the tip, unroll the condom down to the base of the erect penis.
- After ejaculation and before the penis goes soft, grip the rim of the condom and withdraw it carefully. After this, gently pull it off the penis, ensuring semen doesn’t spill.
- Wrap the condom in a Kleenex or tissue and throw it in the trash bin where others won’t touch it.
- If you notice the condom break during sexual activity, stop immediately and withdraw. Then, remove the broken condom, and put on a new one.
- Ensure adequate lubrication is used during vaginal and anal sex. As previously mentioned, water-based lubricants work best.
Are condoms effective against pregnancy?
If you use condoms perfectly every time you engage in sex, they are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy. However, not everyone will use them properly every time; in this case, they will be about 87% effective. In other words, 13 out of 100 people who use condoms will get pregnant yearly.
The more careful you are about using them properly every time during sexual activity, the more effectively they’ll work. However, everyone is human and can make mistakes, so there’s always a slight chance you will get pregnant even if you use them correctly.
Can you make them more effective?
The most surefire way to make condoms work as effectively as possible is to use them correctly every time you engage in sexual activity. Therefore, it is essential to wear it the entire time you are having sex. In addition, you must ensure the condom is rolled on your penis correctly before any skin-to-skin genital contact.
Using condoms with another form of birth control is an excellent way to get extra prevention for pregnancy.
Never wear two condoms simultaneously, or use an external condom with an internal condom. Condoms are made to be used independently, and doubling up may increase their chances of breaking. So, only use one at a time. If you use it correctly, one condom is all your required protection. In addition, check the expiry date on your condom wrapper or box and ensure they are still safe to use.
Using condoms is an effective way to prevent pregnancy and STIs. For more resources, check out our LGBTQ+ Lifestyle Guide and our other resources.