Condom, Uses, Functions

Condom is a sheath-shaped barrier device, used during sexual intercourse to reduce the probability of pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection (STI).[rx] The condom has been known as the wetsuit, the rubber, the jimmy, and even the nightcap. The utilization of condoms for various purposes has led to its dynamic development into the conventional latex type that is widely used today. There are both male and female condoms.[rx] With proper use—and use at every act of intercourse—women whose partners use male condoms experience a 2% per-year pregnancy rate.[rx] With typical use, the rate of pregnancy is 18% per year.[rx] Their use greatly decreases the risk of gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, hepatitis B, and HIV/AIDS.[rx] They also to a lesser extent protect against genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), and syphilis.[rx]

Condoms are a form of barrier contraception that also prevent the spread of certain STDs. Most condoms are latex consisting of a reservoir tip and base ring that is connected by a thin latex tube. There are a top side and a downside to each condom. When the condom bag is opened, the side where the reservoir tip is pointing up, unimpeded, is the top. To apply, the tip of the reservoir is pinched between two fingers, while the ring is then rolled over the erect penis. To remove grasp the base ring and pull the condom off before erection is lost. Wrap the used condom in a tissue, or tie it off, and dispose of the used condom. Female condoms consist of two rings, one with a closed end, connected by a tube of latex to the opposite open, larger ring. The index finger is placed in the closed end, which is inserted into the vagina pushing the closed end in as far as possible. This discussion will solely focus on male condoms.


Condoms function as barrier contraception preventing contact between semen and the opposite genitalia. It also prevents direct skin to skin contact of the penile glans and penis shaft and prevents contact from penile, vaginal, or anal secretions. Male condoms come in many different types, sizes, materials, colors, textures, odors, and flavors. Some include reservoir tips, special lubricants, or spermicides. Condoms come in various sizes from snug to medium to large.

Reservoir tips are designed to allow for ejaculate pooling. Condoms without reservoir tips may carry the risk of semen leaking around the sides to the back of the condom.

The vast majority of condoms consist of rubber latex (80%). Other materials used are synthetic (mostly polyurethane) (15%), and natural membrane (mostly lamb intestinal cecum, 5%).

Condoms can come in a variety of textures such as ribbed, studded, located on in the inside, outside or both sides of the condom. Condoms can also come bulb-shaped. These different textures and shapes are proposed to try and provide extra sensation to either the male or female partner.

Issues of Concern

Although rare, the risk of condom slippage or breakage during sexual intercourse has been reported in roughly 2% of cases. Latex condoms should only be used with water-based lubricants such as K-Y, saliva, and glycerin. Oil-based lubricants (e.g., baby oil, hand and body lotions, massage oil, mineral oil, edible oils, whipped cream) have been shown to interrupt integrity of latex condoms and should not come in contact with latex condoms.

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