The condom is a barrier method of birth control. The condom is a latex rubber or animal-skin sheath that is unrolled onto the erect penis before intercourse takes place. Condoms are not only contraceptives but are also a method for minimizing sexually transmitted diseases.

Since sperm can be released before ejaculation, the condom must be unrolled onto the erect penis before any genital contact takes place. When the male ejaculates, the sperm is trapped in the closed end of the condom. Before using a condom, make sure it is free of tears. To prevent contact of sperm with vaginal tissue, the condom should be removed while the penis is still erect, and promptly held at the base to prevent it from slipping off and releasing the sperm. Do not reuse condoms – they are for single use only. Nor should you use an old condom as the latex may have weakened over time. Use only a water-based lubricant and those with spermicide. Using a petroleum jelly product as a lubricant can eat away at the latex leaving holes that reduce effectiveness.

There are several advantages to using condoms. They are inexpensive and easily available without a prescription. No medical exam is necessary before they can be used, nor are there any side effects, except for those allergic to rubber or spermicide. The disadvantages include possible allergic reactions to rubber, a loss of sensation, breakage, and the condom must be applied before intercourse.

Visit The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website for more information on this topic.