Common and convenient, condoms are one of the most popular methods of birth control. With an average price of $1 each, condoms are inexpensive and readily available at convenience stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, and even vending machines.

What Is It?

A condom is a sheath made out of latex or polyurethane that covers the penis during intercourse. Condoms come in many varieties, including different textures, sizes, styles, colors, and even flavors. Many condoms come prepped with lubrication and/or spermicide.

How Does It Work?

Condoms prevent pregnancy by physically containing semen and preventing sperm from entering the vagina during intercourse. Condoms also prevent the spread of sexually transmitted disease, including HIV/AIDs.

How Do I Use it?

Condoms are relatively easy to use, but may require some practice to ensure they are applied correctly. Out of the package, condoms are typically rolled up into a ring shape. Before sexual activity, unroll the condom onto the man’s erect or semi-erect penis, making sure to smooth out any pockets of air. To maximize effectiveness, follow the package instructions and handle the condom carefully to avoid tearing while applying.

If the condom is not prelubricated, you may want to add lubricant to the outside of the condom to improve comfort and reduce the risk of tearing. Do not use oil-based lubricants with latex condoms, as the oil can weaken the latex, resulting in tears and leaks. Use water-based lubricants only, or purchase prelubricated condoms. Immediately following intercourse, remove the condom before the penis softens completely and throw it away, being careful not to spill any semen. Condoms cannot be reused.  

Effectiveness

Condoms are a very effective form of birth control when used properly. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), condoms are 85 to 98 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, depending on how consistently and correctly they are used.

Benefits

The popularity of condoms as a birth control method is mostly due to convenience and affordability. Condoms are easy to find and inexpensive and make it easy for nearly anyone to find reliable birth control. With proper use, condoms are also very effective and (along with the female version) are the only birth control method that also guards against sexually transmitted diseases. Condoms generally have no medical side effects unless one of the partners is allergic to latex. While it varies by person, condoms may also improve the sexual experience, prevent premature ejaculation, and boost stimulation.

Disadvantages

While condoms have no medical side effects, people with latex allergies cannot use the most common type. Fortunately, polyurethane condoms are a healthy and effective alternative. Condoms are user-friendly, but they are still vulnerable to improper use and tearing. If a condom breaks and sperm enters the vagina, emergency contraception is the only available option for preventing pregnancy. With regards to the sexual experience, some people find the act of putting on a condom actually interrupts intercourse or that the condom reduces stimulation during intercourse.