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Contents of this page:


Male reproductive anatomy
Male reproductive anatomy
The male condom
The male condom
Condom application - series
Condom application - series

Alternative Names    Return to top

Prophylactics; Rubbers; Male condoms

Definition    Return to top

A condom is a type of birth control (contraceptive) that is worn during intercourse to prevent pregnancy and the spread of some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as:

See also: Female condoms

Information    Return to top

Other than a vasectomy, the condom is the only available method of birth control for men.

A condom blocks sperm from coming in contact with the inside of the vagina, where it could reach an egg. (If sperm reaches an egg, pregnancy can result.) A condom also prevents disease-causing substances from spreading from one person to another.

Until recently, the condom was used only by men. A female condom is now available.

The male condom is a thin cover that fits over a man's erect penis. Condoms are made of:

For the best protection, the condom must be put on before the penis comes into contact with or enters the vagina (because pre-ejaculation fluids carry both sperm and disease). Remove the condom carefully right after ejaculation so that no semen leaks out.

The female condom fits inside the vagina. It has two rings to keep the condom in place -- one ring is placed over the woman's cervix and another one is placed over her vulva. This placement prevents the condom from being pushed up into the vagina. It also creates a protective covering over the outside of the vagina, which prevents sperm from contacting the area.


If a condom is used regularly and correctly, it should prevent pregnancy 97% of the time. The actual effectiveness among users, however, is only 80 - 90%. This is due to:

How well a condom works to prevent STDs also depends on the factors mentioned above.

Only latex and polyurethane condoms, but not those made of natural animal skin, effectively prevent the spread of viral infections such as HIV.

Condoms that contain spermicides may slightly further reduce the risk of pregnancy. However, they are no more likely to reduce the risk of HIV or STDs than condoms lubricated with other substances.




Update Date: 9/12/2008

Updated by: A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Greg Juhn, MTPW, David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Peter Chen, MD, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (2/19/2008).

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