The male condom is a thin sheath that fits over an erect penis. It is made of latex, polyurethane, Tactylon, or natural membranes ("lambskin" condoms). By creating a physical barrier that prevents semen from entering the vagina, the male condom is very effective in preventing pregnancy. Latex and polyurethane condoms (but NOT condoms made of natural membranes, which contain microscopic holes) also act as a barrier to the viruses and bacteria that cause sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.Effectiveness
The male condom is very effective in preventing pregnancy, with effectiveness rates as high as 97 percent, if used correctly every time you have sex.Advantages
If you are sexually active, condoms provide excellent protection against HIV and some protection against other sexually transmitted diseases. Condoms are widely sold at pharmacies and grocery stores. They do not require a prescription and are inexpensive. There are very few health risks or side effects associated with condoms.Drawbacks
A small percentage of people are allergic to latex or to spermicides used to lubricate some condoms. Those allergic to latex can use polyurethane condoms, while those allergic to spermicides can use non-lubricated condoms. Some men complain that using a condom reduces their pleasure, but others find that condoms enable them to maintain an erection longer.Availability
Condoms can be purchased over-the-counter without a prescription at drug stores and supermarkets.Costs
Condoms range in cost. Latex condoms can be found for less than $1 each. Non-latex condoms are more expensive. Many health centers and clinics give condoms away for free.Information Resources
For more information, check out this book:
- Winikoff, B. & Wymelenberg, S., The Whole Truth About Contraception: A Guide to Safe and Effective Choices. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press, 1997.
Related Fact Sheet
From the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association Copyright 2003. All rights reserved.