Skip to Content
Home > Wellness > Health Library > Male Condoms
Condoms can protect you against
sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and they can be used to prevent pregnancy. A male condom is placed over a man's
erect penis before sex. Condoms are also called "rubbers," "sheaths,"
Condoms are made of latex (rubber), polyurethane, or
sheep intestine. While latex and polyurethane condoms help prevent the spread
sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as
HIV, sheep intestine condoms do not.
The male condom is a
barrier method of
birth control. Condoms are currently the only male method of birth control besides
vasectomy. To more effectively prevent pregnancy, use
a condom with a more effective birth control method such as hormonal
contraception, an intrauterine device (IUD), a diaphragm with spermicide, or
another female barrier method.
Condoms don't require a
prescription or a visit to a health professional. Condoms are sold in
drugstores, family planning clinics, and many other places, including vending
machines in some restrooms. There are many different kinds of condoms. Some
condoms are lubricated, some are ribbed, and some have a "reservoir tip" for
holding the semen. You can also buy condoms of different sizes.
condom has a user failure rate (typical use) of
18%. This means that, among all couples that use condoms, 18 out of 100 become
pregnant in 1 year. Among couples who use condoms perfectly for 1 year, only 2
out of 100 will become pregnant.1
The most common reason for failure, besides not using a condom
every time, is that the condom breaks or partially or completely slips off the
penis. Slippage occurs more often than breakage, usually when a condom is too
emergency contraception as a backup if a condom breaks
or slips off.
Make sure to check the condom's expiration date, and do
not use it if past that date.
Male condoms reduce the risk of spreading sexually
transmitted infections, including the human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Condoms are often used to reduce the risk of STIs
even when the couple is using another method of birth control (such as
pills). For the best protection, use the condom during vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
"Natural" or sheep intestine condoms are as effective as
latex or polyurethane condoms for preventing pregnancy, but they
are not effective against STIs because the small
openings in the animal tissue allow organisms to pass through.
Condoms are most effective if you
follow these steps:
Trussell J, Guthrie KA (2011). Choosing a contraceptive: Efficacy, safety, and personal considerations. In RA Hatcher et al., eds., Contraceptive Technology, 20th ed., pp. 45–74. Atlanta: Ardent Media.
Other Works Consulted
Cwiak C, Berga S (2009). Contraception. In EG Nabel, ed., ACP Medicine, section 16, chap. 4. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.
Zieman M, et al. (2007). Condoms for men. In
Managing Contraception for Your Pocket. 2007–2009 ed.,
pp. 56–62. Tiger, GA: Bridging the Gap Foundation.
Zieman M, et al. (2007). Female-controlled barrier
methods. In Managing Contraception for Your Pocket,
2007–2009 ed., pp. 63–67. Tiger, GA: Bridging the Gap Foundation.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerFemi Olatunbosun, MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Current as ofAugust 8, 2014
Current as of:
August 8, 2014
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Femi Olatunbosun, MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
To learn more, visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.