Learn About Sex

Barrier Contraceptives

[ Male Condom | Female Condom | Diaphragm and Cervical Cap ]
[ Vaginal Contraceptive Sponge | Vaginal Spermicide ]

Male Condom

Effectiveness (Theoretical)
Effectiveness (Real World)

A condom is a latex, polyurethane, or 'lambskin' sheath that fits over the penis preventing the sperm from entering the vagina. They are widely available with or without spermicide.

Spermicides contain a small amount of a chemical that kills sperm or makes them inactive. This prevents the sperm from entering the woman's uterus and fertilizing an egg.

Condoms are one of the few contraceptives that help protect you from sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The effective rate of the condom ranges from 88 to 98%, depending upon consistent and correct use. Greater protection against pregnancy is possible when a condom is used in conjunction with a vaginal contraceptive, such as foam, cream, jelly, sponge, diaphragm, or cervical cap. In addition, condoms have no side effects.

A new condom must be used each time intercourse takes place. Condoms can break or slip off during intercourse and there is also a possibility of spillage when the condom is being removed. Correct use reduces the chances of the above failures.

Some people may be allergic to latex or to the chemicals in spermicides. Most people who are allergic to latex are health care workers who wear powdered latex gloves during a significant part of their workday. Anyone who is concerned about being allergic to latex should go to a doctor and get a latex allergy test. For more information on allergies to latex, please visit the Centers for Disease Control or the National Institutes of Health.

Latex Condoms

  • Protects against STDs
  • Use only water-based or silicone lubricants

Polyurethane Condoms

  • Alternative for latex allergies (2.5% of people are allergic to latex)
  • Protects against STDs
  • Can use all types of lubricants (including oil based)
  • Better heat transfer than Latex
  • Thinner and stronger than Latex
  • Less slippage than Latex
  • About twice as expensive as Latex
  • Polyurethane Condoms

Lambskin Condoms

  • Does NOT protect against STDs
  • Provides a more "natural feeling"

All spermicidally lubricated condoms have a 3 year expiration date, which refers to the effective life cycle of the spermicide, not the life of the latex condom itself. All condoms have a normal shelf life of 5 years.

Saran wrap is not a substitute for a condom. Saran wrap has plenty of tiny holes, tears easily, and is awkward to use.

> Male Condoms
> How to use a male condom
> How to choose a male condom

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