WHAT IS IT?
The external condom is a form of non-hormonal contraception that acts a barrier during sex to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy and reduce the spread of some sexually transmitted infections (STIs). External condoms are designed to be used by persons with a penis, and are worn over the penis during sexual intercourse or oral sex. They can also be used over dildos and sex toys. External condoms come in a variety of sizes, thinness, textures, and colours/flavours. They are made from a variety of materials including rubber (latex), synthetic membranes (i.e. polyurethane or polyisoprene), and natural membranes (i.e. lambskin).
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The external condom is worn over the penis or sex toy during sexual activity. It should be put on before any genital contact occurs.
The condom acts as a contraceptive barrier to prevent pregnancy by trapping sperm in the condom so it cannot fertilize an egg (if present). A condom also prevents direct contact with semen, penal lesions, and virus particles that may be present on, or shedding from, the head (glans) and/or shaft of the penis. It also prevents contact from any bodily fluids, virus particles, and dirt that may be on a dildo or sex toy.
External condoms can also reduce the spread of certain STIs by acting as a barrier to prevent bodily fluid contact (ie. penile, vaginal or anal discharges) between sexual partners.
Used condoms should be properly disposed of after sex. A new condom must be used for each repeated act of sex and between different partners.
HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT?
Condom effectiveness depends on the skill level and experience of the user.
Prevention of pregnancy – Couples vary widely in their ability to use external condoms consistently and correctly. For best protection, condom use is recommended in addition to at least one other effective method of contraception, such as the Pill.
- About 2% of people will become pregnant during the first year of perfect (ie, consistent and correct) use of the condom.
- About 18% (18 of every 100 personals with vaginas) will become pregnant during the first year of typical use.
Protection from STIs – In addition to preventing unintended pregnancy, external condom use is recommended as they play an important role in preventing the spread of STIs and HIV.
Condoms greatly reduce the risk of STIs transmitted primarily to or from the penile urethra, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, hepatitis B infection, and HIV. Consistent condom use reduces the risk of acquiring HIV by approximately 80%!
Condoms DO NOT provide full protection from STIs that can be spread through skin-skin contact with affected areas of the body that are not fully covered by the external condom.
Condoms DO NOT fully protect against the spread of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), Herpes (human simplex virus, HSV), or syphilis.
WHEN SHOULD I USE IT?
The use of condoms is strongly encouraged for all sexually active people that are not trying to conceive, as condoms are one of the only effective barriers to prevent the spread of HIV and certain STIs.
External condom use is strongly recommended for both oral and penetrative sex (with persons who have penises and on dildos and sex toys) to reduce the risk of infection and spread of certain STIs.
External condom use is especially important when engaging in sexual activity with new/unfamiliar sexual partners, or if you have been/are engaging in sexual activities with multiple partners.
External and internal condoms should not be used at the same time for penetrative sex as contact between the materials may make the condoms more likely to break.
HOW DO I USE IT PROPERLY?
- Handle the condom correctly! Store them in a cool, dry place, such as a drawer in your nightside table. If they are exposed to cold or heat, the latex may break down and be less effective. It is not a good idea to store condoms in cars, wallets, or pockets for a long period of time. Do not store condoms near sharp objects.
- Check the expiry date! Never use a condom that is expired as it may be weakened and more likely to break. The expiry date is typically on the edge of the foil package and on the condom box.
- Carefully open the foil package: Wash your hands before touching the condom and take care not to tear the condom. Be extra careful if you have long or sharp nails.
- Make sure the condom is not inside out: Hold the tip of the condom between your forefinger and thumb to make sure the rolled-up edge of the condom is facing the outside (see graphic).
- Put the condom on: While holding and lightly squeezing the tip of the condom, place the condom over the tip of the erect penis or sex toy and roll it down over the length (shaft). Make sure no air is trapped inside the condom tip as it may make the condom more likely to break. You should put the condom on after the penis becomes erect and before there is any sexual contact between the penis (or sex toy) and mouth, vagina, and/or anus. Penises often produce pre-cum, which is when a tiny bit of fluid comes out of the penis before ejaculation. Pre-cum carries risk of STI infections and pregnancy. If the condom won’t unroll it may be inside out – start again with a new condom as there may be fluids and viral particles on it.
- If you use lubricants: Use water-based lubricant to reduce friction and risk of the condom breaking. Some people like to place a few drops of latex-safe lubricant inside the tip of the unrolled condom, which may increase sensation for the person wearing the condom. Never use things like Vaseline, cooking or body oils, lotions, or other oil-based lubricants because they will cause damage to the condom.
- Remove the condom immediately after ejaculation, while the penis is still hard. If the penis stays inside the mouth, vagina, or anus while becoming softer, the condom will no longer fit tight, and fluid can leak out, increasing risk of STIs and pregnancy. It is also important to hold the base of the condom while pulling out, so that it doesn’t slip off and stay inside the partner.
- Tie the used condom up, inspect it for any tears or leaks, then throw it in the garbage. Do not flush it down the toilet.
- Use a new condom for every new or repeated sexual activity. Do not switch between vaginal, oral, or anal sex without also switching to a new, unused condom. Do not switch between partners without also switching to a new, unused condom.
- Never use more than one condom at one time. “Doubling-up” increases heat and friction, which can damage the latex and make it less effective.
ADVANTAGES VS DISADVANTAGES OF USING EXTERNAL CONDOMS:
ADVANTAGES: External condoms have contraceptive and noncontraceptive benefits:
- Widely available without any medical intervention and can be obtained from many sources, including drug stores, grocery stores, clinics, vending machines, gas stations, bars, and mail-order services.
- Do not affect future fertility.
- Safe and effective when used properly
- Among the most inexpensive and cost-effective sex-dependent contraceptives. Some programs offer them at no cost.
- Hormone free
- May reduce the risk of cervical cancer
- Condoms can be easily and discretely carried by all people
- For some users, condom use may help prevent premature ejaculation.
- Condoms provide protection against most STIs
- May be used with some other contraception methods to increase their contraceptive effectiveness.
DISADVANTAGES: External condoms also have disadvantages that may result in inconsistent use, incorrect use, or nonuse.
- Many users complain of reduced sensitivity when condoms are used.
- Foreplay is interrupted to put the condom on, although placing the condom can be incorporated into foreplay activity.
- May not be readily available when sex it desired, reducing spontaneity.
- Some users cannot consistently maintain an erection when wearing a condom.
- Some users feel embarrassed or uncomfortable when obtaining condoms or suggesting use of condoms.
- Using a condom requires partner cooperation. Some users will not accept wearing a condom, thus making external condom use impossible.
- Some individuals are sensitive to latex.
- Some users have difficulty finding a condom with a proper fit, which may decrease satisfaction and increase problems such as breakage and slippage
- Condoms can break.
- Condoms must be stored and handled properly.