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Common and convenient, condoms are one of the most popular methods of birth control. With an average price of $1 each, condoms are inexpensive and readily available at:
They are also frequently distributed for free in some health clinics, as well as at bars and other venues where people meet.
Male and female condoms are the only forms of contraception that can prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In addition, male condoms are the only male-controlled form of contraception other than vasectomy.
A condom is a sheath that covers the penis during intercourse. They are made out of:
Condoms come in many varieties. Variations include different:
Condoms come in both lubricated and unlubricated varieties. Lubricated condoms may or may not contain spermicide, a substance that often contains the chemical nonoxynol-9, which kills sperm.
Condoms prevent pregnancy by physically containing semen. They keep sperm from entering the vagina during intercourse. Condoms also prevent the spread of STIs, including HIV/AIDs.
Condoms are relatively easy to use. However, it may help to practice. To use a condom:
To remove the condom after sex:
The penis should be removed from the vagina while still erect. Otherwise, there is a risk of the condom slipping off during withdrawal.
Condoms cannot be reused. Also, they should be put on before the penis touches the vulva.
Condoms are a very effective form of birth control when used properly. According to Planned Parenthood, the contraceptive failure rate is two percent for women whose partners always use condoms properly, and 18 percent for women whose partners don’t always use condoms properly.
Further pregnancy protection can be achieved by combining condoms with spermicides or another form of birth control—such as hormonal contraception. However, spermicides that contain nonoxynol-9 (N-9) should be used with caution. Used frequently, N-9 may increase the risk of HIV.
The popularity of condoms as a birth control method is mostly due to convenience. The advantages include:
Potential disadvantage of condoms include:
If you have latex allergies and want to use condoms, don’t fret. There are now two alternatives to latex condoms—polyurethane and polyisoprene. Polyurethane condoms are made of plastic. They are highly effective, although they feel different than latex condoms. Polyisoprene condom are made out of synthetic latex. However, they are safe for most people with latex allergies. Latex allergies are usually due to natural contaminants rather than the rubber itself. Polyisoprene condoms feel more like latex condoms.
Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Published on: Jul 24, 2014
Medically reviewed on: Jul 18, 2016: University of Illinois-Chicago, School of Medicine
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