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Medical Devices

Condoms

Condoms are used to reduce the chance of getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and as a method of birth control. When used properly, they are about 85 percent effective in preventing pregnancy.

Where can I get condoms?

Condoms can be purchased at most drug stores and are also available from vending machines in some restrooms.

What kinds of condoms are there?

There are many different types of condoms, which are intended for several different uses. These are described below. Remember that no single type of condom is appropriate for all uses. It is important to use the right condom in the right way at the right time.

What are male condoms made of?

Most condoms are made of a type of rubber called "latex." Recently, condoms made of polyurethane (a type of plastic) have become available. These are more expensive than latex condoms and seem to break more easily. They are mainly useful for people who are allergic to latex. There also are "natural" condoms, which are made of animal membranes. These are quite expensive and are probably not effective in preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

What are the differences in latex condoms?

  • Size – The standard size will fit most men. Extra-large condoms are available, as well as "snug" sizes that are a little smaller and fit more tightly than the standard size.
  • Shape – Some condoms come with a nipple in the end to hold the fluid when the man ejaculates. Others have a rounded end.
  • Thickness – Extra-strength condoms are available. These are stronger and are especially useful for rectal sex and for men who have problems with condom breakage. Extra thin condoms also are available, but these are not recommended because they might break more easily.
  • Lubrication – Many condoms come pre-lubricated with a substance that kills sperm (spermicide) and many disease-causing germs. Lubrication might give some extra protection, especially if the condom breaks. Lubricated condoms taste bad and are not recommended for oral sex.
  • Flavored – These condoms are meant for the male to wear when receiving oral sex. They are not lubricated and have a mild flavor (usually mint).
  • Color – Condoms come in many colors. The color of the condom doesn't make it any more or less effective.

When should a man use a condom?

A man should wear a condom any time he inserts his penis into the body of another person, if there is even the slightest risk that either person has a sexually transmitted disease. Men frequently become infected with STDs when receiving oral sex, so a condom should be worn then, too. The condom should be put on before there is any contact, and should be removed and thrown away promptly after the man has ejaculated

How is the condom used?

The condom may be put on either by the man or his partner. The penis must be erect (hard). The tip of the condom is grasped between the thumb and forefinger, and the condom is placed over the head of the penis, leaving a 1/4 inch space at the end. Be sure that the rolled edge is on the outside of the condom. If it is not, take the condom off and turn it over. Roll the condom all the way up the penis. Follow these directions:

  • Place condom on tip of the erect penis.
  • Roll the condom down, leaving a nipple at top
  • Remove the condom as soon as you begin to get soft. Be careful not to let any fluid spill out.

What causes condoms to break?

  • Condoms too old – Modern condom wrappers have a date after which the condom should not be used.
  • Improper storage – Heat damages latex condoms, so they should not be kept in a hot place, such as a car glove compartment or wallet.
  • Not enough lubrication – Additional lubrication is always needed for rectal sex. It might also be needed for vaginal sex. The lubricant should be water-soluble, such as KY jelly.
  • The wrong kind of lubricant – Lubricants that contain oil – such as Vaseline, baby oils, and vegetable oils – should not be used with latex condoms since they weaken the rubber.
  • Condom too small – Try a larger size.
  • Partner too tight – Use an extra strength condom and more lubricant.

What causes condoms to come off during sex?

  • Condom too large – Try a snug condom.
  • Loss of erection – Remove your penis, holding on to the rolled edge of the condom, as soon as you begin to lose your erection.

Why aren't condoms 100 percent effective?

The most common reason for condom failure is not using it properly. The most common reason for not using a condom is not having one. BE PREPARED. With careful use, condoms give excellent protection.

 

What about female condoms?

Female condoms are available in drug stores without a prescription. They are made of polyurethane (plastic) in the shape of a tube. Before sex begins, the woman inserts the closed end of the tube into her vagina so that it covers the cervix. The open end covers the area around the opening of the vagina. Female condoms should be discarded after one use. They provide some protection against sexually transmitted diseases, but are probably not as effective as male condoms. They are about 75 percent effective in preventing pregnancy.

Tips to remember when using condoms

It's important to use a condom correctly to fully protect yourself against sexually transmitted diseases. Here are few tips to keep in mind:

  • Use a condom during any sex act that involves the penis.
  • Put the condom on after the penis is erect (hard).
  • Place the condom on the tip of the penis and roll it down.
  • Squeeze the tip of the condom as you roll it on to release any trapped air.
  • Leave a little room at the tip of the condom where semen can collect.
  • If you use a lubricant (lotion), make sure that it is water-based. Do not use Vaseline, petroleum jelly, or lubricants made with mineral or vegetable oil.
  • Leave the condom on until you are done with the sex act.
  • Remove the condom while the penis is still erect (hard).
  • Always throw out used condoms.
  • Don't use condoms that are expired, hard, broken, or look the wrong color.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 1/10/2007...#9404