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Condom: Teen Version


What is a condom?

The male condom, sometimes called a rubber, is a method of birth control used by men. A condom is a thin, disposable covering, usually made of strong rubber or latex that fits snugly over an erect penis. Condoms can also help protect against sexually transmitted infections, including AIDS.

Male condoms are available in a wide variety of styles, colors, and textures. They may be made of latex, polyurethane (a type of plastic), or animal skin. Some condoms are lubricated. To make sure you have a type of condom that protects against disease, check the condom package for a statement that the condom prevents disease.

How is it used?

Roll the tube-shaped condom over the erect (hard) penis before intercourse. There is usually a place at the tip of the condom to hold semen after an orgasm. Each condom must be used just once and then thrown away. To protect against pregnancy and infection, condoms must be used correctly and used every time you have sex.

To use a condom:

  1. Do not unroll the condom before you put it on. Place the condom over the tip of the penis when it is erect (hard). If the penis is uncircumcised, pull the foreskin back before putting the condom on.
  2. Leaving a space at the top of the condom to collect semen, roll the condom down to cover all of the penis. Squeeze the tip of the condom as you roll it on to release any trapped air and prevent it from bursting when semen is released during ejaculation.
  3. After ejaculation and before the penis gets soft, hold onto the condom at the base of the penis. Carefully withdraw the penis from your partner, making sure that the condom does not slip off and spill any sperm.
  4. Throw away the used condom. Do not reuse it. Use a new condom each time you have sexual contact. This is very important.

Lubricants may help prevent condoms from breaking during use. They may also help prevent irritation and so might help decrease the chance of infection. Water-based lubricants, such as KY Jelly, are a good choice to use with any condoms. Do NOT use oils, lotions, or Vaseline (petrolatum, or petroleum jelly) with latex condoms as a lubricant. Oil-based substances can make latex condoms break. It is OK to use oil-based lubricants with polyurethane condoms.

Responsible Use

Condoms are the only contraceptive that allows the male partner responsibility for birth control instead of the female partner.

Never assume your partner is using some form of birth control. If you don't know, ask her. If she isn't using birth control, use a condom. Even if she is using birth control, condoms are the only method that provides protection against many infections. Use a condom to protect against disease even if your partner is using another method of birth control.

The best relationships are based on good communication. If you and your partner haven't spoken seriously yet about your relationship, now is the perfect time to start. Making babies is easy, but raising them is one of life's most difficult challenges. Think about it.

Should I use a spermicide with the condom?

You can use a spermicide foam or jelly with a condom to help prevent pregnancy if the condom breaks. However, some spermicides can irritate the skin around the vagina, penis, or rectum if you use them a lot. If you have an irritation on your skin, then you are at a higher risk of getting sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV. If you have sex several times in 1 day or have anal sex, it is probably better to not use spermicides, including condoms lubricated with spermicide. Use a new condom each time you have sex plus a backup birth control method in case the condom breaks.

What are the benefits?

Male condoms have a variety of benefits:

  • They are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy if always used properly.
  • Latex and polyurethane condoms provide protection against the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Condoms are the only form of birth control that helps prevent the spread of disease.
  • They can be bought in drug and grocery stores without a prescription.
  • They are a relatively inexpensive method of birth control.
  • They are small, easy to carry, and disposable.
  • There are no side effects from using a condom.

What are the disadvantages?

The disadvantages of condoms are:

  • A condom must be put on the penis BEFORE any genital contact. If both you and your partner are not able to exercise this willpower EVERY time, this is not a good form of birth control for you. Even if you forget just one time, you could get pregnant.
  • They can leak or break during intercourse, releasing sperm into the vagina and possibly causing pregnancy.
  • They may slip off when the penis is withdrawn from the vagina and spill sperm into the vagina, again possibly causing pregnancy.
  • Lovemaking is interrupted to put the condom on. However, the process of using the condom can become a pleasurable part of foreplay for both partners.
  • A man might have decreased sensation with condoms. This is less likely with lubricated condoms.
  • If a condom is exposed to heat for a long time (for example, from being carried in a back pocket), it may weaken and break.
  • A rare disadvantage of latex condoms is that you might have or develop a latex allergy, which may be mild or severe. Symptoms of latex allergy range from mild itching and redness of the skin to life-threatening anaphylactic (allergic) shock. If you are allergic to latex, you can use polyurethane condoms instead.

Developed by David W. Kaplan, MD, and Phyllis G. Cooper, RN, MN.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-02-11
Last reviewed: 2008-02-25

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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