What is a condom?
Condoms are a thin rubber tube which fits over the man's erect penis before intercourse. When the man ejaculates, he does so into the condom which prevents the sperm from entering the vagina. Most condoms are made of latex and are considered an effective means of protection from pregnancy and the spread of STDs. There are other condoms available which are made of animal intestine but these are less effective for disease prevention.
How effective are condoms?
When condoms are used properly, they are about 95% effective in the prevention of pregnancy. When condoms are used with spermicidal foam, their effectiveness rate is nearly 100%. Some condoms are packaged with spermicidal lubricant already applied to them and for those that don't contain spermicidal lubricant, or if extra lubrication is required, we recommend Wet lubricant with Nonoxynol-9. Furthermore, condoms provide excellent protection from the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, although the exact rates of success are unknown. The latex condom is the recommended form of STD and pregnancy prevention.
How are condoms used?
When using a condom, you check for holes and review the expiry date. [Note: never carry a condom in a hot, confined place such as your wallet. Always ensure they are kept out of direct sunlight.] Squeeze the tip to release the air and then roll the condom down to the base of the penis. Some rolled latex will remain at the base of the penis to make it easier to pull the condom off after ejaculation. Be sure that your fingernails or jewelry do not damage or rip the condom. After orgasm, the man should hold the base of the condom during withdrawal from the vagina or anus. After the condom is away from the genitals of the partner, the condom can be safely removed.
Never use a condom more than once. Always use a latex condom for effective prevention of STDs. Lubricated condoms offer more protection from breakage and spillage of semen. Always use water-based lubricants. (We recommend Astroglide) You can double up condoms during vigorous sex. Use an unlubricated condom on the bottom, and a lubricated one on the top. Unlubricated condoms are best for oral sex.
Practical concerns when using condoms
One of the problems with a condom is that you must interrupt foreplay momentarily to put it on. Some people get wrapped up in the moment and forget to practice safer sex. Making the condom a part of your sexual ritual will go a long way to ensuring proper use. An additional incentive to use condoms are the many varieties and brands to choose from. Condoms come in different sizes and some have special ridges to increase enjoyment for both partners. Experiment with different brands until you find the one that is best for you. For those who find that condoms reduce sensitivity during intercourse, we recommend trying Crown Condoms from Okamoto, the makers of Beyond Seven. This is the thinnest condom on the market and much less noticeable than other condoms. For more on enjoying condoms in safer sex see our Making It Fun section. Another concern is that latex condoms are weakened by oil based lubricants such as Vaseline, edible oils and medications. If you wish to use lubricants during sex play make sure that they are water based.