Latex and polyisoprene condoms prevent pregnancy by covering the penis to keep sperm from entering the uterus and fertilizing an egg. They also provide protection from sexually transmitted infections.
When used consistently and correctly, condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy. Condoms are also the only way, besides choosing not to have sex, to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
"Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In addition, correct and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce the risk of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including discharge and genital ulcer diseases. While the effect of condoms in preventing human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is unknown, condom use has been associated with a lower rate of cervical cancer, an HPV-associated disease."
Fact Sheet for Public Health Personnel: Male Latex Condoms and Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention; Centers for Disease Control. Revised May, 2007.
Condoms come in a variety of shapes, textures, colors, and sizes. The key to condom effectiveness is choosing a condom that you and your partner like to use. For some men, a large size condom is more comfortable; for others, ribbing or extra lubrication is important. All condoms available in the United States are tested prior to sale and are considered equally effective at preventing pregnancy and infection.
The majority of condoms for sale are pre-lubricated; adding extra lubricant inside the condom and out can increase sensation for both partners and reduce friction that can cause condom breakage.
Condoms can prevent STIs, like herpes, HPV, and gonorrhea, which can be transmitted during oral sex. For oral sex, flavored or nonlubricated condoms are best.
Spermicide condoms are not recommended for use. According to the Food and Drug Administration, condoms with the spermicide Nonoxynol-9 provide no further protection against pregancy and can increase the risk of some STIs because of irritation to sensitive genital tissue.
Condoms (both lubricated and flavored nonlubricated) and lubricant are available for free in the Health Promotion Resource Center and for sale in the Forty Acres Pharmacy.
The female condom is a sheath made of nonlatex nitrile material that is placed into the vagina before sex. The female condom has two flexible rings; one to hold the closed end in place near the cervix (the entrance to the uterus), and one at the open end to hold the condom in place outside the opening of the vagina.
When used consistently and correctly, 5% of women will become pregnant over the course of one year. Twenty-one out of 100 women will become pregnant over the course of one year with typical use. The female condom is considered equally effective as latex male condoms in preventing both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
Female condoms are sold at most drugstores and at some supermarkets.