As far as male birth control goes, male condoms are it (although a male birth control pill is in the works). However, they have been around a long time and are probably one of the oldest forms of birth control still in existence today. In fact, illustrations of condoms dating back 3000 years have been found in Egypt. Over the years, condoms have been made out of everything from linen to animal intestines and even tortoise shells (ouch!). In the 1840s, though, vulcanized rubber condoms began to be produced and it wasn't long before condoms took on the moniker "rubbers".
Nowadays, the most popular type of condom is made out of latex rubber, but it is also possible to purchase condoms made from polyurethane as well as from animal tissue (usual known as "natural skin" condoms). They can come in a variety of styles, colors, textures and even flavors. Since the 1960s, people have been able to purchase condoms without a prescription, making them even more convenient and easy to use. In addition to helping prevent pregnancy, condoms also offer protection against many sexually transmitted diseases (also known as sexually transmitted infections).
Condoms and Pregnancy
Condoms are considered to be a barrier method of birth control. The condom itself is a type of thin shield that is worn on an erect penis. It is put on before sex occurs and is taken off immediately afterwards in order to avoid leakage. When the condom is on, sperm are trapped in the tip of the condom when a man ejaculates, thereby preventing the sperm from coming into contact with the vagina. A new condom must be used every time you have sex.
On average, condoms are effective at preventing pregnancy 85% of the time every year. If condoms are used perfectly, that is, properly and consistently every time, only two out of 100 women will become pregnant per year. However, with typical use, 15 out of 100 women will become pregnant each year. Additionally, it is possible for condoms to break during sex. Lubricants that are oil-based (i.e. Vaseline, massage oil and baby oil) are not suitable for use with condoms since they can weaken the latex as can yeast infection medications. To keep your condoms in top form, store them in a cool, dry place.
Side Effects of Condoms
The majority of people don't experience any side effects from using a condom. However, people with an allergy to latex may find condoms to be irritating. If you are using a condom with spermicide and have a latex allergy, this discomfort may be even worse. Using condoms without spermicide and/or using polyurethane or natural skin condoms should help you avoid an allergic reaction.
It is important to note, though, that polyurethane condoms are more likely to break while natural skin condoms are more expensive than other types of condoms. They also do not protect against any sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Additionally, condoms, particularly those that contain spermicide, can increase your risk of a urinary tract infection.
Although it is not really a side effect, many men find that using a condom reduces their sensitivity during sex and therefore prefer not to use them. Other men find it difficult to maintain their erection while putting on a condom or during intercourse. In some cases, both partners can feel that using condoms can ruin the spontaneity of sex.
Condoms and STDs
The only way to completely avoid sexually transmitted infections is to abstain from sex, whether it is oral, vaginal or anal. If you are sexually active, though, it is necessary to use a condom every time you have sex to help prevent STDs. However, condoms do not offer total protection against all STDs.
Some STDs can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact and condoms offer little protection against these STDs. Additionally, it has been found that using condoms that contain spermicide may actually increase your risk of certain STDs, including HIV. For this reason, it is not recommended to use spermicidal condoms. It is important to note that condoms containing spermicide have not been found to be any more effective at preventing pregnancy than those condoms without spermicide.
To Use or Not to Use
Condoms that look old, worn, dry or brittle should be thrown out. Any condoms that have obvious damage should also be put into the garbage. Since heat can weaken latex condoms, store your condoms out of direct sunlight or near other sources of heat. All condoms come with an expiration date (marked as "Exp") and should not be used after this date. If you cannot find the expiration date on the box, then look for the date of manufacture (marked as MFG). Latex condoms that contain spermicide should not be used more than two years after the manufacture date. Condoms that do not contain spermicide can be used up to 5 years after the manufacturer's date.
A new condom must be worn each and every time you have oral, vaginal or anal sex as well as when you change the type of sex you have. For example, if you choose to suck on a condom-clad penis (and using flavored condoms may make the experience more enjoyable), you should put on a new condom if you switch from oral sex to vaginal sex.
Learn more about condoms in our forum.
To read more about condoms, visit Contraception Information Resource.