What are their advantages and disadvantages and how do you use them properly? We’ll look at all that here.
What are condoms?
Condoms are also called sheaths, rubber johnnies, bags and many other names. They fit over a man’s erect penis and therefore prevent the sperm getting into the vagina and prevent pregnancy.
They’re made of latex rubber but about 2% of people (men and women) find they can’t tolerate latex and have skin reactions. New plastics (called polyurethane) are better for this group of people. These polyurethane condoms are thinner, give a man better sensitivity than latex condoms, and are odour-free. However they are more expensive than latex condoms.
How effective are condoms?
They are about 98% effective against pregnancy when used correctly. See below for how to use them correctly.
How do I use condoms?
- Buy your condoms only from a reputable source and buy brands that you recognize – Jiffy, Durex, Mates for example.
- It’s important that a man puts the condom on his penis before it has any contact with the vagina or vulval area.
- Some people say that they feel using a condom interrupts the fun of sex, but you can learn to have fun using condoms as part of sex.
- Don’t use baby oil, Vaseline etc with condoms as they will damage the materials they’re made of and may cause them to split. Use a water-based lubricant (eg KY Jelly or other specially designed sex lube) or spermicide.
- Use a new condom every time you have sex.
- Check the expiration date on the condom. Materials that are old can perish and split.
- Open the package carefully, making sure that your teeth, nails or any other sharp object don’t damage the condom.
- Pinch the teat at the end of the condom to get rid of the air.
- Place the ring of the condom over the head of the erect penis with the teat still pinched.
- Roll the condom smoothly over the penis, right to the base of the penis.
To remove the condom:
While the penis is still fairly firm:
- Your partner should hold the base of the penis and the condom, so that it doesn’t come off and get left inside you.
- Withdraw the penis and remove the condom so that there is no contact between it and the vagina/vulval area.
- Dispose of it in the trash, not in the toilet.
They are easy to buy and use.
They give you both protection against some sexually transmitted infections.
They may give protection against cervical cancer.
What are the disadvantages of using condoms?
Some people are shy or embarrassed about asking a partner to use a condom. If that’s you, then read this article: ‘how to get your sex partner to use a condom’.
Some people say that they interrupt sex, so try to work some fun around using them.
Some men say that they have reduced sensation with condoms and enjoy sex less. Try the plastic (polyurethane) condoms. They are more expensive but it may be worth it if your partner is happier to use one.
They can split.
If you have any doubts about whether you have used a condom correctly and are worried that you might be pregnant after a recent sexual encounter, then talk to your healthcare provider and seek emergency contraception very soon.
Are condoms right for me?
If you are in a new relationship and don’t yet know your partner’s sexual history then condoms are good protection against many sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well as pregnancy. You may want to consider other contraception and use condoms for disease prevention.
If you don’t have a regular partner and have sex with men you don’t know too well, condoms are ideal as they will protect you against some (not all) STIs as well as pregnancy. You may want to consider other contraception and use condoms for disease prevention.
If you are nearing the menopause, condoms can be a good choice of contraception if you don’t want to use another method.
If you don’t want to use any drug-beased birth control methods, condoms are a good choice.
What are the side effects of condoms?
There are no side effects.
If you find that you have a latex allergy – a skin rash, itchiness or redness – then see your doctor for a diagnosis and use polyurethane condoms.
Find out more:
In the UK see www.fpa.org.uk
In the US see www.plannedparenthood.org