Condoms are a barrier method available over the counter, without a prescription from a medical professional. They can be latex or plastic (lambskin condoms are not recommended for protection against sexually transmitted infections) and are placed over an erect penis before sexual intercourse. They are available with or without lubrication, and in many different colors, styles and flavors.
WHAT IS IT?
Condoms are used as a barrier method to help protect against pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The condom, when placed over the penis, collects semen (fluid from the penis that contains sperm cells) before, during and after intercourse. By collecting the semen, a condom can help prevent the spread of bacterial or viral infections to the vagina, anus or mouth, and can help prevent pregnancy by keeping semen from entering the vagina.
WHERE DO I GET IT?
Condoms can be purchased at a local family planning clinic, drug stores, most grocery stores and some vending machines.
HOW DO I USE IT?
Before using any birth control method, both partners need to give full consent. Next, the person using the condom should feel the package for air to make sure there are no punctures in the package and check the expiration date. After opening the package, check to make sure that the condom will roll down correctly and pinch the tip to squeeze the air out. This leaves room for the semen when ejaculation occurs. Place the condom at the head of the penis (still pinching the tip) and roll the condom all the way to the base of the penis. A lubricant such as K-Y Jelly can be used with a condom as long as it is a WATER-based lubricant. Oil-based lubricants such as Vaseline will break down the latex. After ejaculation, pull out right away holding onto the base of the condom while the penis is still erect. Waiting to pull out could result in the condom falling off or spilling. Remove the condom taking care not to spill the semen, tie the top and throw the condom away in the trash. For the best protection, always use a new condom every time you have sex. Do not use with a female condom.
WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS?
o Condoms are safe and exhibit no side effects for most people
o People who have latex allergies may want to use plastic condoms instead
o Polyurethane condoms might not provide the same protection against STIs
o It is possible that a person could experience irritation from spermicide if it is on the condom
HOW WELL DOES IT WORK?
With typical use of the condom is about 85% effective. This means that out of 100 women using condoms; 15 of them will become pregnant within the first year of typical use. Perfect use of the condom is about 98% effective with 2 out of 100 women becoming pregnant within the first year of perfect use. Pregnancy protection can be increased by the use of spermicidal foam, cream, jelly or film, inserts or suppositories.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF THE METHOD?
Advantages of using a condom:
o No side effects (except for those with latex allergies)
o Easy to get and inexpensive
o Helps protect against STIs as well as pregnancy
o Can help avoid premature ejaculation
o Allows men to take part in the responsibility for birth control and prevention of STIs
o Only have to use it when intercourse occurs
Disadvantages of using a condom:
o Effectiveness is lowered if not used correctly and consistently
o Can break more easily if not put on correctly
o Possibility that semen could spill if care is not taken when penis is withdrawn
o Reduced sensitivity for some people
o Some partners may feel that it interrupts the spontaneity of sexual intercourse
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Condoms are relatively inexpensive to purchase. Condom prices may vary by store and brand but they are generally about .50 cents each. Many family planning clinics sell condoms at a low cost (6 for $2 at The Family Planning Association) or do not charge at all.