Birth Control: Condoms

Male Condoms



  1. Male condoms help prevent unwanted pregnancy and STIs.
  2. Condoms are highly effective when used correctly.
  3. Make sure the condom isn’t expired or damaged before using it.

Male condoms are one of the most popular methods of birth control. They’re common, convenient, and inexpensive. Their average price is $1 each, and they’re readily available at most convenience stores, supermarkets, and pharmacies.

Some health clinics frequently distribute them for free. Some bars and other venues also do this. You can even find them in some vending machines.

Both male and female condoms prevent pregnancy by physically containing semen. During intercourse, they block sperm from entering the vagina. You can also use them during oral or anal sex. They’re the only forms of birth control that can also help protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as HIV.

Male birth control options include condoms and vasectomy. Condoms are a reversible, temporary form of contraception. Vasectomy can sometimes be reversed, but it’s considered permanent.

What types of condoms are available?

The two main types of condoms are male and female condoms. A male condom is a sheath that covers the penis. A female condom is a sheath that’s inserted into the vagina. Male condoms are more popular and widely available.

Most condoms are made out of:

  • latex
  • polyurethane
  • polyisoprene, which is a synthetic form of latex

You can find many different varieties of male condoms. They come in a wide range of:

  • sizes
  • styles
  • textures
  • colors
  • flavors

Condoms also come in both lubricated and unlubricated varieties. Some lubricated condoms contain spermicide. This substance often contains the chemical nonoxynol-9, which kills sperm. Most doctors recommend that you use condoms that don’t contain spermicide

Read more: Female condom »

How do I use a male condom?

How to put a condom on

Male condoms are relatively easy to use. To put one on yourself:

  1. Wait for your penis to become fully erect.
  2. Carefully tear open the condom package.
  3. Unroll the condom by about 1/2 inch.
  4. Place the condom on your penis while pinching the tip of the condom to remove air and leave space for semen. This important step helps prevent the condom from breaking.
  5. Roll the condom all the way down your penis.
  6. Smooth out any air bubbles.

You can also use this method to put a condom on your partner. After you put the condom on, it’s a good idea to apply condom-safe lubricant to the outside. You shouldn’t use oil-based lubricants with latex condoms. They can damage latex and cause the condom to break. Instead, look for water-based options.

How to remove a condom

Hold the base of the condom as you withdraw your penis from your partner’s vagina, anus, or mouth. Carefully remove the condom and throw it away, without spilling any semen. Don’t flush the condom down the toilet.

Always remove your penis from your partner’s vagina, anus, or mouth while it’s still erect. Otherwise, your condom can slip off during withdrawal.

Check the expiration date first

It’s important to check the expiration date on a condom packet before using it. Avoid using condoms that are expired or damaged. You should also be careful about keeping condoms in your wallet. The regular use your wallet gets can cause the condom to deteriorate, dry out, and crack. Try a small case that’s made of hard plastic to store condoms instead. This will protect it from bending and friction that can cause it to deteriorate.

If you do find it helpful to keep a condom in your wallet, check it to make sure it isn’t dry or brittle before you use it. If you do store condoms in your wallet, replace them with new ones often because they may have tiny cracks that you can’t see. As a general rule, the longer it’s in there, the more likely it is to be damaged or defective.

How effective are male condoms?

Male condoms are an effective form of birth control when they’re used properly. According to Planned Parenthood, they’re 98 percent effective at preventing pregnancy if you use them perfectly. In reality, most people don’t use them perfectly every time. In practice, about 18 out of 100 women who use male condoms as their only form of birth control get pregnant every year.

Follow these tips for the most effective protection:

  • Make sure you or your partner put the condom on correctly.
  • If you put a condom on backward, use a new one.
  • Never reuse a condom.
  • Don’t use male and female condoms at the same time. This can damage the condoms and decrease their effectiveness.
  • Don’t use oil-based lubes and medications with latex condoms.
  • You can use oil-based products with synthetic condoms, such as polyurethane condoms.
  • You can lower your risk of pregnancy even further by combining condoms with other methods of birth control, such as hormonal birth control.

Some condoms contain a spermicide called nonoxynol-9. Most doctors recommend not using spermicide- coated condoms because they cost more money, don’t last as long, and can cause adverse health risks such as urinary tract infections. If you want to use spermicide as a backup, use vaginal spermicide rather than condoms that are pre-coated with spermicide.

In addition to preventing pregnancy, condoms also lower your risk of contracting or spreading STIs.

What are the advantages of male condoms?

The popularity of male condoms as a birth control method reflects their convenience.

thumbs up Pros
  • affordable
  • easy to access
  • effective at preventing pregnancy if used properly
  • effective at preventing STIs if used properly
  • helpful for preventing premature ejaculation in some men

The risks and side effects of using condoms are low.

Read more: Which method of birth control is right for you? »

What are the disadvantages of male condoms?

Using male condoms has a few risks and disadvantages.

thumbs down Cons
  • a moderately high failure rate when used improperly or inconsistently
  • the potential for diminished sensation
  • skin irritation, such as contact dermatitis, due to latex sensitivity or allergy
  • allergic reactions to spermicides, lubes, scents, and other chemicals in the condoms

Some condoms may contain spermicide. Using male condoms with spermicide has additional risks. Studies have found that there may be an increased risk of HIV transmission with the spermicide nonoxynol-9. Some people may also have adverse reactions to the spermicide, such as dryness or discomfort.

Using male condoms with a latex sensitivity or allergy

If you have latex allergies and want to use condoms, choose varieties made from polyurethane or polyisoprene. Polyurethane condoms are made out of plastic. While they feel different than latex condoms, they’re highly effective. Polyisoprene condoms are made out of synthetic latex. They’re safe for most people with latex allergies because allergic reactions are usually triggered by natural contaminants in latex, rather than the rubber itself. Polyisoprene condoms feel more like latex condoms than polyurethane options. 

If condoms trigger your allergy but not balloons or your doctor’s gloves, you may be allergic to something other than the latex. Different brands use different lubes, spermicides, and chemicals. It may help to try a different brand of condom.

The takeaway

Condoms are an accessible option for birth control for many people. However, both condoms and how people use them aren’t perfect. You may want to consider using additional methods of birth control, such as hormonal birth control, for more protection.

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