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Condoms:
Answers to Your Questions

What are condoms?
Are they effective?
How do they work?
How do I use a condom?
Condom instructions
Lubricating the condom
Other instructions
What are the advantages and disadvantages of condoms?
Are condoms the right method for me and my partner?


What are condoms?

A condom is a thin sheath made of latex or other materials. Latex condoms protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV infection. Condoms that are made of other materials may not protect against HIV infection and other STIs.

Are they effective?

Condoms are very effective if they are used correctly every time the man has sexual intercourse.

How do they work?

The man puts the condom on his erect penis before he puts his penis inside the woman's vagina. The condom holds the semen so it does not pass into the woman's vagina. After sex, the man carefully takes off the condom so that it does not leak. Each condom can be used only once.


How do I use a condom?

View our illustrated guide to correct condom usage.

As with any other method, you should talk to your doctor or a family planning counselor at a local clinic or hospital about your contraceptive options before you decide to use condoms as a contraceptive method. The following instructions are provided to help you decide whether condoms may be right for you.

Condom instructions

  • Use a new condom every time you have sexual intercourse.
  • You or your partner should put the condom on the penis as soon as the penis is erect, before the penis is near the vagina.
  • Place the unrolled condom on the tip of the penis. Roll the condom all the way to the base of the penis. Leave about one-half inch of empty space at the tip. Hold the tip of the condom when putting it on so that it does not fill with air and burst.
  • After intercourse, hold onto the condom at the base of the penis as you withdraw from the vagina. Remove the penis from the vagina soon after ejaculation, taking care not to spill semen near the opening of the vagina. If you lose your erection, the condom may slip off.
  • Discard the used condom in a waste basket. Do not use it again.

Lubricating the condom

  • Some couples lubricate the outside of the condom to make it easier for the penis to enter the vagina. If you choose to lubricate a latex condom, do not use oil-based lubricants (such as petroleum jelly or vegetable oils). Oil-based lubricants can cause the condom to tear. Instead you may use contraceptive foam or jelly, saliva, or water-based lubricants.

Other instructions

  • When they are used with spermicides, condoms offer more protection against pregnancy and against some sexually transmitted infections.
  • Try not to carry condoms near your body. Body heat can damage the rubber.
  • If condoms are stored in a cool, dry, dark place, they can last more than three years.
  • Talk to a health care provider if
    • You are not happy with the method
    • Your partner thinks she is pregnant
    • You want information about or want to start using another family planning method
    • You think there is any chance you may have been exposed to HIV infection or any other STI

What are the advantages and disadvantages of condoms?

Advantages:

  • You can discontinue using condoms on your own at any time
  • Aside from abstinence, latex condoms offer the best protection against HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections
  • Condoms are available without prescription or medical examination

Disadvantages:

  • Condoms can sometimes tear or leak
  • Putting on a condom interrupts lovemaking
  • Very rarely, condoms can cause an allergic reaction

Are condoms the right method for me and my partner?

There are a number of factors that you should consider before deciding whether condoms are right for you and your partner. These questions can help you determine whether condoms might be an effective contraceptive method for you.


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