The facts about condoms unrolled.
What is a condom?
The most common type is a latex sheath that fits onto the penis when erect, and which catches semen on ejaculation. This prevents sperm from getting into the vagina and also stops body fluids from mixing during any kind of intimate sexual activity. When used correctly, the (male) latex condom is 98% effective against pregnancy and STIs. Condoms can also be used to practice safe oral and anal sex, to prevent the transfer of sexually transmitted infections.
What does a condom do?
Condoms are most effective when coated in a spermicide. They are often also lubricated (to make sex more comfortable) but spermicide/lubricant free condoms are readily available, as are flavoured, coloured or textured varieties.
"Always pinch the teat at the top of the condom before rolling it over the penis"
Condoms made from polyurethane offer the same level of protection, and provide an effective alternative for latex-allergy sufferers. The female condom is also made from polyurethane. It's a larger version of the male condom and can be fitted inside the vagina before sex. If used correctly, the female condom is 95% effective against STIs and pregnancy.
How to put on a condom. (Produced by Videojug.com)
Where can I get some condoms?
Condom availability is widespread. They can be bought in supermarkets, chemists, pubs, bars, public toilets and petrol stations. They are also available free from family planning clinics and some young people's centres. In every case, make sure there is a BSI kitemark or a CE mark on the packaging - this means they have been tested to a high safety standard.
How do you use a condom?
- A condom should always be unrolled onto an erect penis before sex, and preferably before any kind of sexual activity. This is because during arousal the penis may release a clear liquid (called precum) which can contain semen.
- Always pinch the teat at the top of the condom before rolling it over the penis. This will help to be sure that you're putting it on right (teat facing upwards) and expel any trapped air. This also reduces the risk of the condom splitting during sex.
- After sex, hold the base of the condom when withdrawing the penis to prevent it from slipping off. Dispose of it responsibly and if you're up for any more action be sure to roll on another one fresh from its foil packet.
Benefits of condoms:
- The only contraceptive that can also prevent sexually transmitted diseases, including the HIV virus;
- A chance for men to take responsibility for contraception;
- Widely available and free from some places.
Drawbacks of condoms:
- Condoms may slip or split, especially if handled roughly or torn by sharp fingernails or jewellery;
- Latex condoms are weakened by oil-based lubricants. Contact with body lotion, sun tan lotion, baby oil or Vaseline can quickly destroy the material;
- You have to interrupt sex to put a male condom on (but it's a small price to pay for protection from sexually transmitted infections, including HIV).
Safe oral sex
Remember, it's not just penetrative sex that transfers STIs. You can catch chlamydia, herpes, syphilis, LGV and gonorrhoea from having unprotected oral sex. The HPV virus, which can cause warts and (though rarely) cancer, can also be caught from having oral sex. Make sure you're protected and practice safe oral sex by using a condom or dental dam.
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