What is a male condom?

A male condom a contraceptive device made out of a thin sheath that covers the penis during intercourse. The condom is rolled over the erect penis to prevent direct contact between the penis and the vagina. Male condoms can vary greatly in color, size, and amount of lubrication and spermicide. They protect against infection and pregnancy by collecting the semen and preventing it from entering the vagina. The condom must be removed before the erection ends or the sperm can leak out. Use the condom once only, then throw it in the garbage. Do not flush it down the toilet.

What is a male condom made of?

A male condom is usually made of one of the following materials:

  • Rubber (latex)
  • Plastic (polyurethane): the best alternative for people allergic
  • to latex
  • Lambskin

Latex condoms can protect against STIs including HIV. Testing of the plastic, polyurethane condoms suggests that they also protect against infections; however, this is not definite. Lambskin condoms do not protect against HIV and other STIs.

How effective is a male condom in protecting against pregnancy and STDs?

A male condom, if used correctly significantly decreases the likelihood of pregnancy. Using spermicide in addition to the condom improves pregnancy prevention. For best protection, use the condom before any sperm — or pre-ejaculate — comes in contact with the vagina.

Under typical use, a male condom can prevent a pregnancy 85% of the time, and with perfect use over 95% of pregnancies are prevented.

  • The condom is the best method for reducing the risk of STIs for those who choose to have intercourse. (As always, abstinence is the only 100 percent guarantee).
  • It allows men to share responsibility for pregnancy prevention and protection against STDs.
  • It can be easily obtained and does not require a prescription.

One disadvantage is that some people are allergic to latex. Polyurethane condoms can be used as an alternative. Some individuals argue that condoms reduce sensitivity and pleasure during intercourse. Some people dislike interrupting sex to put it on. Condoms may break if they are put on incorrectly.

  • The male condom cannot be used in conjunction with the female condom.
  • Condoms should not be used with oil-based lubricants such as petroleum jelly, Vaseline, or mineral and vegetable oil. Such lubricants damage the condom or increase breakage.
  • Condoms (particularly latex ones) should be protected from the heat, which can weaken them or cause breakage.
  • Some condoms have a "shelf life" — after which they are too weak to use.

Learn more about other birth control methods in our Birth Control Guide!

Read More:
The Birth Control Pill
Female Condoms
Vaginal Ring
The Birth Control Patch