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Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Male Condoms

Male Condoms


What is a male condom?

A male condom is a tube of soft rubber or plastic with a closed end. It fits over the penis.

Condoms can be used to prevent pregnancy. They can also help protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You must use a new condom every time you have sex.

Condoms prevent pregnancy by keeping sperm and eggs apart. The condom holds the sperm so the sperm can't get into the vagina.

There are many kinds of male condoms. Some condoms are lubricated. Some are ribbed. Most have a "reservoir tip" for holding the semen. You can also buy condoms of different sizes.

How do you buy and store them?

  • Male condoms may be available for free at family planning clinics. You can buy them without a prescription at drugstores, online, and in some grocery stores.
  • Keep condoms wrapped in their original packages until you are ready to use them. Store them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
  • Don't keep rubber (latex) condoms in a glove compartment or other hot places for a long time. Heat weakens latex and increases the chance that the condom will break.
  • Don't use condoms in damaged packages. And don't use condoms that are brittle, sticky, or discolored, even if they are not past their expiration date.

How well do they work?

When male condoms are used exactly as directed, 2 women out of 100 have an unplanned pregnancy. When they are not used exactly as directed, 18 women out of 100 have an unplanned pregnancy. Male condoms can be added to other kinds of birth control, like birth control pills or shots or the IUD. Combinations are better at preventing pregnancy than using condoms by themselves.

A common reason for failure is not using a condom every time you have sex. Another common reason for failure is that the condom may break or partially or completely slip off the penis. Condoms slip more often than they break. If you use a lubricant, don't use an oil-based lubricant. Oil can weaken the condom so that it breaks. Use a water-based lubricant.

How do you use a male condom?

Condoms work best if you follow these steps.

  • Use a new condom each time you have sex.
  • Check the condom's expiration date. Do not use it past that date.
  • When opening the condom wrapper, be sure not to poke a hole in the condom with your fingernails, teeth, or other sharp objects.
  • Put the condom on as soon as the penis is hard (erect) and before any sexual contact with your partner.
    • First, hold the tip of the condom and squeeze out the air. This leaves room for the semen after you ejaculate.
    • If you are not circumcised, pull down the loose skin from the head of the penis (foreskin) before you put on the condom.
    • Hold on to the tip of the condom as you unroll the condom. Unroll it all the way down to the base of the penis.
  • After you ejaculate, hold on to the condom at the base of the penis, and withdraw from your partner while your penis is still erect. This will keep semen from spilling out of the condom.
  • Wash your hands after you handle a used condom.

What else do you need to know?

  • To protect yourself and your partner from STIs, use a condom during vaginal, oral, or anal sex. You can use a male condom at the same time as you are using another form of birth control.
    • You can use a condom with hormonal contraception, an intrauterine device (IUD), a diaphragm, a sponge, a shield, or a cervical cap.
    • Don't use a male condom with a female condom.
    • If you use spermicide with a condom, don't put spermicide inside the condom.
  • If the condom breaks or you think sperm may have leaked out into the vagina, you can use emergency contraception to help prevent pregnancy. The most effective emergency contraception is an IUD (inserted by a doctor). You can also get emergency contraceptive pills. You can get them with a prescription from your doctor or without a prescription at most drugstores.
  • If you or your partner gets a rash or feels itchy after using a latex condom, talk to your doctor. You may have a latex allergy.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of male condoms?

Here are some advantages of the male condom.

  • Rubber and synthetic male condoms help protect against STIs, such as herpes or HIV. Sheep intestine condoms don't protect against STIs.
  • Condoms don't use hormones. So you can use condoms if you don't want to take hormones or can't take hormones because you have certain health problems or concerns.
  • Condoms are safe to use while breastfeeding.
  • They can cost less than hormonal types of birth control.
  • You can buy them without a prescription.

Here are some disadvantages of the male condom.

  • Condoms don't prevent pregnancy as well as IUDs or hormonal forms of birth control do.
  • Condoms prevent pregnancy only if you use them every time you have intercourse.
  • Condoms may break or leak.
  • You may have to interrupt sex to put on the condom.
  • You must remove the condom right after intercourse.
  • You may have less sexual sensation when using a condom.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

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Related Links

Birth Control Sexually Transmitted Infections

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