Additional Sources for Effectiveness Ratings and Use:
Additional Sources for Effectiveness Ratings and Use:
The What, the Why, the Where, the When, and the How-to: Condoms work by preventing sperm from having any contact with the vulva, because semen is contained within the condom during both ejaculation and pre-ejaculation. Condoms are also the only method of birth control which very effectively reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Used properly and consistently, they can be almost as effective as hormonal methods. Viva la condom!
The male condom is what most people think of and are familiar with when it comes to condoms: they are worn by the male partner, rolled unto the penis before any genital contact, held in place by a ring at the base, and removed and disposed when genital intercourse is finished. The female condom is worn by both the male and the female partner: the female partner inserts the condom into her vagina (or anus: female condoms, like male condoms, can also be used for anal intercourse), and then the male partner inserts his penis into it during intercourse. After intercourse is through, a partner will remove the condom carefully.
For birth control, condoms made of latex, polyurethane (great for those with latex allergies) or lambskin are all effective. However, lambskin condoms do not offer any protection against STIs, so they're not advised, since there's just little sense in going without the double-duty bonus condoms provide of protection against pregnancy AND infections, and let's face it, even if you're not a vegetarian, there's something not-so-appealing about covering your genitals with lamb intestines. The female condom is made of polyurethane or nitrile: it is also a non-latex condom.
Because condoms are a barrier method, they are suitable for anyone who can't use hormonal methods of birth control, or who just doesn't want to. Condoms are inexpensive, easy to use, and easy to find. They're also one of but three methods of birth control -- the other two being vasectomy and abstaining from intercourse -- which men can use on their own, and a way male sexual partners can really share responsibility for birth control.
You can get condoms from a lot of different places: pharmacies, grocers, megastores, online vendors, student and community health centers and clinics (where they can often be found for free) and in other places. When buying condoms be sure to avoid buying them in places where they may have sat on shelves or in hot or cold areas for a long time (such as in gas stations or vending machines) and store them properly yourself, outside of heat or cold or in places they might get torn inside the wrapper.
Condoms are best used with additional latex-safe lubricants designed for sexual use, both to provide greater comfort for both partners, as well as to help keep condoms from breaking due to friction and dryness. You can purchase lubricated condoms, though so little lubricant is on those condoms that additional lubricant from a bottle is usually needed. While spermicidally-lubricated condoms also may provide some lubrication, the World Health Organization has made clear that there is no evidence that spermicidally-lubricated condoms provide any additional protection against pregnancy or STIs compared with condoms lubricated with other products. They add that since adverse effects due to the addition of Nonoxynol-9 to condoms cannot be excluded, such condoms should no longer be promoted, and also suggest that Nonoxynol-9 not ever be used rectally/anally.
For detailed instructions on how to use a male condom, see: Condom Basics: A User's Manual
For help in shopping for male condoms, check out: Your Map to the Condom Aisle
For detailed information on how to use a female condom, click here.
Some questions and answers about condoms:
Or, click on the tag for condoms for a larger list.
When Good Birth Control Does Bad Things: Condoms fail when they are not used for all genital contact from start to finish, used improperly or if they break, tear or slip off: they most often fail because of not being used for all genital contact. If a condom fails, it will be fairly obvious, and emergency contraception can be used. Condoms can also fail if a male partner withdraws without holding the base of the condom while he does, as the condom may slip off.
With either kind of condom, it's important that whoever is putting it on does not feel rushed or pressured to get it on in a hurry: it's much easier to mess up that way. So, if you're the partner of a condom user, be patient with your partner or give them a hand putting it in or on. That's far more helpful and positive than pestering them about if they've got the damn condom on yet, already.
As well, do NOT use more than one condom at a time. Some people think that condoms will be safer if they double up and use two instead of one, when, in fact, adding a second condom adds extra friction and makes condoms far more likely to break.
Other methods which can be used as a backup method with condoms:
We don't personally recommend backing up condoms with withdrawal. When people are practicing withdrawal, they tend to have to withdraw very quickly, and at a time -- during orgasm -- when few of us think (or want to!) very clearly. Because of that fuzzy-headedness, it can be easy to forget, when racing to withdraw, to hold the base of the condom when pulling out, and that can cause condom failure. Used properly, condoms can handle an ejaculation just fine, so there's no need to withdraw. If you prefer a backup method with condoms, we'd suggest methods in the list above rather than withdrawal.
Other methods you might like if you like condoms:
Why would condoms be a good option for me? If any of the following are true:
For a brief overview of all BC methods, have a look at Margaret Sanger's Disneyland: Choosing Contraceptives. Want to start over with Birth Control Bingo? Click here.