A condom is a barrier method of contraception that prevents male sperm from entering a woman's vagina. Condoms for both men and women are available without a prescription, although the male condom is much more popular. In addition to preventing pregnancy, condoms are an effective way to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Types of Condoms
Condoms can be used by both men and women to prevent pregnancy and the spread of STDs. Both forms of condoms are disposable, and should be discarded after one use. They should not be used together.
Condoms for Men
A male condom is a thin sheath or covering that is placed over the man's erect penis during sexual intercourse. Usually made of latex, polyurethane or lambskin, a condom catches the sperm after ejaculation, preventing it from entering a woman's vagina.
Condoms for Women
The female condom is a soft, loose-fitting pouch-like bag made of thin, flexible polyurethane or synthetic latex. The pouch has a ring on each end. The ring at the closed end is inserted into the vagina to hold the female condom in place. The ring at the open end of the condom remains outside the vagina. The condom catches the male's sperm and prevents it from entering the woman's body.
Both types of condoms may be used in conjunction with a spermicide, a substance that kills sperm.
Risks of Condoms
Using a condom has a number of risks, including the following:
- Allergic reaction to latex
- Condom may break
- Female condom may get pushed into the vagina during intercourse
- Allergic reaction to spermicides
Before using a condom, it should always be inspected for damage or tiny holes.
Condoms are a simple and effective form of birth control, and are the only method that provides protection against sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.