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Birth Control Methods
|What Is A Condom?
A male condom is a rubber (latex) sheath used to cover the penis during sexual intercourse. It prevents sperm that is ejaculated from entering the vagina. It is the oldest and most widely used method of barrier birth control. Although usually made from latex, condoms can also be made from lambskin (although these tend to be less effective and more expensive). In addition to being a relatively effective form of contraception, condoms also reduce the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STD) such as genital herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV virus (the cause of AIDS). There is some evidence that it may also reduce the woman's risk of cervical cancer. The female condom, a relatively newer form of contraception that lines the vagina, offers the same degree of protection.
Condoms are sold without prescription in most stores and pharmacies. Once removed from the packet they are rolled over the erect penis before penetration. In order to make sure the condom does not split, about half an inch of empty space should be left at the tip to hold the sperm after ejaculation. Some condoms are made with nipple-shaped tips for this purpose. Some condoms are prelubricated with spermicide - a sort of gel or lotion that kills sperm and possibly infectious bacteria. Others are lubricated with gels such as K-Y jelly to ease the passage of the penis into the vagina. This reduces the chance that the condom will slip off during intercourse. Vaseline (petroleum jelly) should never be used as a lubricant as it can break down the rubber in the condom. After ejaculation the man or his partner must firmly grip the base of the condom while he withdraws, taking care not to spill any sperm. The condom can then be taken off the penis and thrown away.
Diagram: How To Use Condoms
If the condom tears or breaks either during intercourse or when the man is withdrawing after ejaculation, the woman should immediately insert some spermicide. If this sort of accident occurs when the woman is ovulating and she is at her most fertile, she should consider taking emergency contraception. Used alone the male condom has an expected failure rate of 2 percent, but in reality it is more like 12 percent. That means, 12 percent of women who rely on condoms for birth control will become pregnant within a year. Many couples reduce this risk significantly by also using a spermicide, particularly when the woman is in her most fertile days. Using a lubricant can also reduce the risk of condom breakage.
Most standard condoms are about 19 cm or 7.5 inches long, although they also come in smaller and larger sizes. Most are prerolled and lubricated, ready for use. Durex, probably one of the best known condom manufacturers, carried out a survey on more than 3,000 men and discovered that 25 percent of them felt condoms were 'too tight'. 10 percent felt they were 'much too tight' and 15 percent felt they were 'too loose'. This highlights the lack of awareness in buying the correct size. When a man wants to work out the correct size he should measure the full length of his erect penis from base to tip. A condom should be slightly longer than this length. As the average penis (from base to tip) is 5 or 6 inches, then the standard condom (7.5 inches long) will suit most. If it pinches, try moving up to the next size. Or if it feels baggy, move down a size. Keep in mind when switching brands that sizes can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Condoms come in all sorts of colors and some even have exotic flavors which can be fun for couples to experiment with. Condoms are a highly affordable form of contraception, a pack of 3 costs about $3 on average. Although putting a condom on before intercourse can interfere with the spontaneity of the moment, some couples find it less troublesome if the woman puts it on as part of foreplay. They are also less messy than other forms of barrier contraceptive such as the cervical cap. In general condoms are not associated with any serious side effects although some men complain that they reduce the sensation of intercourse and some women find the latex irritates the lining of their vagina. Using a lubricant may help reduce friction. Condoms have no affect on future fertility. Couples who want to have a baby can simply stop using them.
Durex: have been making condoms for over 75 years and their products are rigorously tested (their condoms can expand to hold 40 liters of air without bursting!). Brands include Sensi Thin, Play Allure and Performax.
|Related Articles on Contraceptives
For more birth control issues, see the following:
• Contraceptive pill and contraceptive pill side effects.
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