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The CONDOM User's Guide

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Some tips for
purchasing and using

  • Latex condoms — when used consistently and correctly — are highly effective barriers against pregnancy and STDs. Latex condoms are the only condoms that prevent transmission of HIV.

  • The newer plastic condoms have been proven in recent, limited laboratory studies to be an effective barrier against HIV, but less is known about their practical use except that they make a good alternative for people who are allergic to latex. (There is some concern about plastic condoms slipping off during use because of their rigidity; they do not adhere to the body in the same manner latex condoms do).

  • Animal skin (lambskin) condoms do not offer an adequate barrier of protection against STDs even though they do work as a contraceptive; viruses and bacteria (not sperm) can pass through naturally occurring "holes" in these condoms.

  • The new female condom (basically a plastic condom in reverse that is inserted into the vagina), like the male plastic condom, has been shown to be an effective barrier against HIV in laboratory studies. Although its practical use is still being studied, it provides women a choice that offers protection against STDs.

  • Avoid novelty condoms; warnings on the package usually indicate these do not protect against STDs.

  • Vending machine condoms are fine to use if they are made of latex, are marked "for disease prevention," and have not been exposed to direct sunlight in the machine.

  • Condoms marketed as "stronger" or more "sensitive" do not offer more or less protection; just be aware that thinner condoms may be more prone to tearing.

  • When it comes to condoms, size does matter; if a condom is too tight, it's more likely to break. If it's too loose, it's more likely to slip off.

  • Ribbed condoms are as effective at protection as non-ribbed; it's a matter of personal preference.

  • It makes sense that a condom lubricated with a spermicide (a contraceptive chemical) would offer slightly more protection against pregnancy than one without.

  • Proper lubrication may reduce the risk of the condom tearing.

  • If the condom is not lubricated and lubrication is necessary, use a water-based lubricant, such as K-Y jelly, on the outside of the condom.

  • Do not use petroleum or mineral-based lubricants, such as petroleum jelly or baby oil, which can weaken latex condoms, causing them to break.

  • Do not use condoms that are brittle, gummy or discolored. Always check the expiration date of a condom.

Proper use of condoms

  • To be fully protected, use a condom during any sexual activity, whether vaginal, oral or anal.

  • Tear open the package carefully.

  • Gently press out air at the tip of the condom before putting it on. An air bubble may cause the condom to tear or come off.

  • Place the tip of the rolled-up condom over the firm penis. (The rolled rim should be on the outside).

  • Make sure that as you unroll the condom down over the entire penis, you leave ample room — a half-inch space — at the tip for semen to collect unless the condom comes designed with a "reservoir" tip.

  • Smooth out any air bubbles to ensure the condom fits securely.

  • If you are uncircumcised, make sure the foreskin is pulled back before you put on the condom.

  • After intercourse of any kind, remember to hold on tight to the condom at the rim and pull out slowly while the penis is still hard, to prevent spillage.

  • Never reuse any condom; if you put a condom on backwards and it does not unroll easily, don't flip it over since there may be semen in it. Use another.

  • Store condoms in a cool, dry place because extreme temperatures can damage them. Body heat will cause latex to deteriorate, so it's not a good idea to keep condoms in a wallet.

  • When used consistently and correctly, condoms offer reliable protection

  • Most condoms fail because of user error. Remember the three C's when it comes to condoms: use them carefully, correctly and consistently.

  • Remember, too, that condoms cannot protect you from every STD, such as genital warts or herpes in cases where an open sore or wart at the base of the penis cannot be adequately covered by a condom and skin-to-skin contact between partners occurs.

Source: Courtesy of Mayo Clinic.



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