Birth Control – Frequently Asked Questions


What is a Condom? – Women’s Center Abortion Clinic.

Condoms are thin sheath coverings that are made out of either thin latex or plastic. They are worn on the penis during sexual intercourse that provides a physical barrier to sperm during intercourse. This prevents the chance of pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

There are many street slang terms for condoms, such as: rubbers, glove, raincoat, safes, or jimmies.

Male condoms are made out of latex, polyurethane, or lambskin and fit over the erect penis. Female condoms are made out of polyurethane and fit inside the vagina and over its outside lips (labia).

Condoms are effective with vaginal, oral and anal sex. They come in a variety of styles and even different colors. The main brands of condoms (like Trojan and Durex) come dry, lubricated or with spermicide. Spermicide is a substance that kills sperm, and using condoms containing spermicide make the condom that much more effective.

How Do Condoms Work

Condoms are effective in preventing pregnancy and STDs because they catch semen and pre-ejaculatory fluid during intercourse.

It is very important to use condoms in the correct way. Keep in mind that using lubricants in conjunction with a condom can be dangerous. Only water-based lubricants (like Astroglide or KY Jelly) can be used, otherwise the condom can become damaged, therefore losing its effectiveness.

How to Put On a Condom

Before opening and using a condom, check the package for detailed instructions and also the expiration date. Condoms do expire, and if you use one after the expiration date labeled on the package it is unsafe to use that condom as it may not be as effective as one that has not expired. Below are some instructions for how to put on a condom:

Place the condom on the penis before it comes into contact with the vagina/vulva

Please be sure to use only one condom for each sexual encounter, even if the encounters are within minutes or hours of each other.

When opening the condom wrapper, be careful not to rip the condom. Some people put a little lubricant inside the condom before use.

If you are not circumcised, pull back your foreskin before you roll the condom on.

The ring should be placed at the tip of the penis and you should be able to roll the condom downwards to snugly fit the penis.

Leave a small (1/2 inch) space at the tip to catch the semen. Roll the condom all the way down to the base of the penis.

Smooth out any air bubbles on the shaft

Lubricate the outside of the condom to prevent any breakages.

How to Take Off a Condom

Make sure you hold the condom in place, at the base of the penis, when you pull out so that you do not spill any semen.

Roll or pull the condom off and throw it away

Wash the genital area with soap and water and use a new condom for sexual intercourse.

What to do if the Condom Breaks

Condoms can sometimes break during intercourse. If this happens, pull out quickly and carefully and replace it. Women cannot tell, but men can tell what it feels like. Once the condom is off, you should wash the penis with soap and water, and also wash the vagina/vulva of any leaked semen.

If the condom has broken and you are not sure whether semen has leaked inside the vagina, emergency contraception (better known as the morning after pill) can be used as an option for women to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

The morning after pill is generally a progesterone only pill (Levonorgestrel 1.5 mg). It is most effective when taken immediately after the event.

If taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse there is a 75% reduction in the chance of pregnancy. The medical literature shows that emergency contraception can reduce the chance of pregnancy up to 5 days.

Here are some important tips on condom storage:

Condoms can break if not stored properly, so do not store them in a back pocket, wallet or the glove compartment of a car for long periods of time.

For transporting condoms, these places are fine.

  • Do not store them outside of their foil or plastic casing/pouch
  • Store condoms in a cool and dry place
  • If you see that the condom pouch is torn, punctured or stiff, do not use it.
  • Also, do not use sharp objects (teeth, scissors) when opening a condom wrapper, as this may result in a tear.

Are Condoms Effective?

Condoms are very effective in preventing pregnancies and STDs if used properly. However, they are not 100 percent effective.

Only abstinence is 100 percent effective.

  • 2 percent of women get pregnant each year from using condoms properly.
  • 15 percent of women get pregnant each year from using condoms improperly.
  • Condoms can be more effective if you use them in conjunction with spermicide, or if you pull out before you ejaculate.

Are Condoms Safe?

Condoms are very safe, unless you are allergic to latex. If this is the case, there are many brands of plastic condoms available for purchase.

Advantages of Condoms

Condoms have many advantages besides preventing STDs and pregnancies! Read below:

  • Condoms are pretty inexpensive and easy to obtain
  • Condoms can help with premature ejaculation
  • Condoms do not require a prescription like other methods of birth control
  • Condoms can be put on by men or women and used during foreplay
  • Condoms are disposable and easy to transport and store

Disadvantages of Condoms

Condoms do not have any side effects, other than allergic reactions which occur in approximately 1 to 2 percent of people.

However, there are some disadvantages to using a condom:

  • Condoms are not 100 percent effective
  • Men and women have voiced that using a condom hinders the sexual sensation
  • Men sometimes lose their excitement when putting on a condom
  • It can sometimes slow the sexual intercourse when men stop to put a condom on
  • Some men experience pain when using a condom that is not fitted properly or too small

Male Condoms

Latex Condoms:

The most commonly used type of condom and is available in many stores pharmacies and clinics. They are also the most effective condom. There are many different brands, sizes, styles, and colors of latex condoms available from ultra thin to textured to extra large. Latex condoms can be purchased with or without spermicide or lubricant.

Polyurethane Condoms: Are made of a thin and flexible, soft plastic material, and are an excellent alternative for people who have latex allergies and cannot use latex condoms.

Lambskin Condoms: They are made out of lamb intestines. They are not as effective in preventing pregnancy as latex condoms and they offer much less protection against STIs including HIV virus.

Female Condoms

The Reality® Female Condom is a sheath made of polyurethane with a ring at both ends. The female condom is more expensive than the male condom, but it can be inserted up to 8 hours before intercourse. It also provides protection against sexually transmitted diseases.

These condoms are 88 to 98% effective. If used consistently and properly every time, the risk of pregnancy is very small. Second to abstinence, condoms provide protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease (gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and HIV).

The disadvantages of condoms are the following:

  • They must be used every time with each new act of intercourse.
  • Women are at risk for pregnancy and infection if the condom is placed on the penis after the first penetration, even if a condom is used before ejaculation.
  • Condoms can break, tear, or fall off during sex.

Always put the condom on the penis before any genital-to-genital contact. The fluid at the tip of the penis contains sperm and may also carry infection. Use enough water-based lubricant to decrease risk of tearing.

Use a vaginal spermicide while using condoms to increase protection against pregnancy.

After intercourse, check the condom for any leaks before throwing it away. Emergency contraception is available if the condom breaks, tears, or falls off.

Remember; never reuse condoms. Before stopping the use of condoms, make sure each person is tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

Condoms are available in pharmacies, convenience and grocery stores. Many public restrooms have vending machines where condoms are sold. Many Family Planning medical facilities give condoms away free. They can also be ordered on the internet.

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