condom
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Condom

A rubber sheath that fits over the penis and stops sperm from getting into the vagina. It's like a very thin and stretchy tube-shaped bag, with a teat at the closed end to collect the sperm.

Condoms are the only birth control method that protect against both pregnancy and STDs.

They come in different sizes, styles, and shapes. Condoms can be made out of latex, polyurethane, or lambskin. You can get them lubricated or unlubricated. Sometimes they contain spermicide. You can also get flavoured, coloured, or ribbed condoms. There are also female condoms that go inside the vagina.

There are also female condoms that go inside the vagina, but here we're talking about male condoms.

How well does it work?

Failure rate:
Typical use: 14 per cent
Perfect use: 3 per cent
(Read more about what 'failure rate' means in how well does it work? (link))

Pros:

  • Prevents pregnancy and also protects against STDs
  • You don't need to see a health care provider or get a prescription
  • Easy to get – you can buy them at most pharmacies and supermarkets
  • Few side-effects – a few people are allergic to latex and need to use another type
  • Easy to use
  • You can stop using condoms to try to get pregnant whenever you like
  • Lightweight and disposable
  • May help a man stay hard longer

Some people say that they have better sex when they use condoms because they’re able to focus on sexual pleasure without worrying about pregnancy or STDs. Putting on condoms can even be part of foreplay.

Cons:

  • You’ve got to use a condom each time you have sex.
  • You've got to get the man to co-operate.
  • You can't use them without your partner noticing.
  • Roughly six people out of 100 who use condoms are allergic to latex. If you’re allergic to latex, you can use polyurethane condoms or ask your female partner to use a female condom.
  • Men may feel self-conscious and embarrassed about using condoms, so practise if you think you may be one of them. Putting on condoms can be very sexy and included as part of foreplay!

How do condoms work?

Condoms prevent pregnancy by keeping sperm out of the vagina.
You can also use them to protect against STDs when you’re having oral sex or anal sex.

Allergic?

Latex condoms are best at preventing pregnancy and protecting against STDs. But if you’re allergic to latex, you can use condoms made of polyurethane.

Polyurethane is the best option after latex. These condoms are slightly thinner and more expensive. One advantage is that you can feel your partner's warmth through them more easily. This can make sex feel more intimate.
Polyurethane condoms prevent pregnancy and protect against STDs about as well as latex ones. But because they are thinner, they’re slightly more likely to break and slip off during sex than latex condoms.

Lambskin condoms only prevent pregnancy. They won't protect you against STDs.

The most common and mildest type of allergic reaction is dryness and itchiness. The worst forms range from a serious rash to a life-threatening shock reaction.

How do you use condoms?

There are usually instructions on the package to show you how to put on a condom. Read them carefully if you're not sure.

  • Use a condom only once.
  • Condoms have an expiration date on the package. Make sure the condom isn't out of date.
  • If the condom is brittle or stiff, throw it away and use another one, because brittle or stiff condoms are more likely to slip or break during sex.
  • If you'd like extra lubrication, use a water-based lubricant. Spit can also work well. Avoid using oil-based lubricants because they can damage latex condoms.

See below for a list of safe and unsafe lubricants under 'How do I take care of condoms?' below.

How to put on a male condom:

1. Carefully tear open the package, starting from the serrated edge. The condom won't tear because it's flexible. But go gently, and don't use your teeth, or anything sharp, like scissors. Don't use the condom if the package is damaged or it's out of date.
Check which way the condom unrolls. If it's the wrong way round it won't roll over the penis. If you accidentally start putting the condom on the wrong way round, throw it away and use a new one.
2. Pinch the tip of the condom to keep the air out so there's room to collect the semen.
3. Unroll the condom all the way to the base of the penis
Taking off a male condom:
1. Take your penis out before it gets soft.
2. Hold the condom at the base as you pull out so no semen spills.
3. Wrap the condom in a tissue and throw away it away in a garbage bin. If you prefer you can tie a knot at the base to stop the sperm coming out. Don't put the condom down the toilet.

What happens if my condom breaks?

Sometimes condoms break. This can happen if the condom doesn’t fit properly or just because of bad luck.  
Luckily this hardly ever happens. If used properly, on average latex condoms only break four times out of every 1,000. Polyurethane condoms break four times out of 100.

If a condom breaks, it’s less effective at preventing pregnancy, STDs, and STIs.

If this happens to you, pull out quickly and replace it. If a condom breaks and any fluid could have got inside the vagina, think about using emergency contraception.
Emergency contraception – the 'morning after pill' – can prevent pregnancy up to five days after having sex. The sooner you take it, the better it will work.

What happens if a condom slips off and I can’t get it out of my vagina?

Try not to panic. You can usually reach it with your finger in your vagina. If not, contact your nearest health care provider for an appointment. Because sperm might have leaked out of the condom you should think about using emergency contraception – the 'morning after pill'.

How do I take care of condoms?

Store condoms in a cool, dry place. Avoid keeping them in a back pocket, wallet, or glove compartment for long periods because the heat could damage them.
Use water-based lubricants with latex condoms. 

Safe lubricants for all condoms:

  • Astroglide
  • Glycerin
  • KY lubricating jelly
  • Silicone lubricant
  • Water
  • Saliva

Unsafe lubricant for latex condoms include baby oil, butter, cream, body lotions, massage oil, mineral oil, Vaseline (petroleum jelly), rubbing alcohol, suntan lotions, certain kinds of yeast infection creams, cooking oil – and whipped cream!

How often do I have to use a condom?

Simple – every time you have sex!

How much do condoms cost?

Between 5 and 35 Kenyan Shillings per condom. But often you can get them free from family planning clinics.

Where do I get condoms?

You can buy condoms at most drug stores, some supermarkets, and at family planning clinics. Sometimes condoms are sold in vending machines at bars or in public toilets. Sometimes health clinics will give you condoms free of charge.

Nervous?

If you feel a bit nervous or embarrassed to buy them, you could try:

  • Buying them in a store you normally never go to, so the staff don’t know who you are.
  • Going to the shop at a quiet time, maybe very early in the day, or during a weekday, so you won’t run into people you know.

Buying condoms with a friend or your partner

If you’re too scared to buy condoms at a shop, you could try ordering them online or asking a friend or someone older whom you trust to buy them for you. Depending on where you live, you might be able to get condoms from a health clinic nearby.

How do I talk to my partner about using condoms?

Talking about condoms with your partner is important. You might feel nervous, but think about it – if you're a girl, wouldn’t you be even more nervous telling them you’re pregnant? And telling them you've got an STD is hard for both boys and girls. It’s so worth it to talk about condoms beforehand.
You can practise what you’re going to say beforehand. Think about what your partner will say about using condoms. If you need help, read more in talking about condoms.

No glove, no love

Many people make lots of excuses to not wear condoms. They might say they feel condoms reduce pleasure or make sex less intimate, but it could just be because they're embarrassed to use them.
If your partner makes excuses, make sure you’re ready with reasons that can explain the benefits of using a condom when you have sex.

Here are some tips for talking about condoms with your partner:

‘You don’t trust me’
Your partner says:
‘You don’t trust me.’
‘If you really loved me, you would trust me enough not to want to use a condom.’
You can say:
‘I can enjoy sex more if I know we’re both protected from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. It’s not about trust, it’s about peace of mind.’
‘I do, but I’m not risking my life to prove it to you. Instead I’d like to have some hot sex!’
‘If you really loved me, you’d help us protect ourselves.’
‘It’s uncomfortable’

Your partner says:
 ‘It’s uncomfortable.’
‘It doesn’t fit properly.’
‘It comes off during sex.’
You can say:
‘Let’s try a different brand or size. I heard that certain brands fit better than others.’
‘Wearing a condom puts me out of the mood.’

Your partner says:
‘Wearing a condom puts me out of the mood.’
You can say:
‘Why don’t we try something sexy with a condom, like say I can put one on using my mouth?’ (Check out tips for putting on male condoms.)"
‘Having unsafe sex can put you out of the mood for good!’
‘I’ll pull out in time.’

Your partner says:
‘I’ll pull out in time.’
You can say:
‘Even if you do, I can still get pregnant. One little sperm is all it takes. Who knows your sperm could be super potent!’
‘Even if you do, I could get a sexually transmitted disease from your pre-come.’
‘It doesn’t feel as good with a condom.’

Your partner says:
‘It doesn’t feel as good with a condom.’
‘I won’t enjoy sex if we use a condom because there’s no skin-to-skin contact.’
You can say:
‘I’ll enjoy sex if it’s safe. Anyway, I heard there are great ways to make it feel like skin to skin. We could try putting an extra bit of lubricant on the inside of the condom, so you’ll get this extra sensitive feeling on the tip of your penis.’
‘If you use a female condom or a condom made out of polyurethane with lubricant, you’ll be able to get that great skin-to-skin feeling because polyurethane can transmit body heat.’
‘I feel more relaxed knowing we’re safe. And if I’m more relaxed, we can have more fun together!’
‘You’re on the pill, so why would you need to use a condom?’

Your partner says:
‘You’re on the pill, so why would you need to use a condom?’
You can say:
‘Well if we use a condom with the pill, we can be even safer because they pill isn’t 100 per cent effective against pregnancy. Also, wearing a condom can help protect us from infections that we don’t even know we’ve got. Didn't you know - it's called “Double Dutch!”’
‘Putting it on interrupts the mood’

Your partner says:
‘Putting it on interrupts the mood.’
You can say:
‘Not, if I help put it on… I can make it worth your while!’   (See below for tips for putting on male condoms.)

Tips for male condom use

Put it on with your mouth
Put the condom in your mouth, gently suck on the condom tip (teat) between your teeth, put the condom over the end of the penis in your mouth, then take the penis into your mouth to roll the condom down it. Try licking the condom all the way down.
If you want some extra practise before doing this on him, try practising on a cucumber or a dildo. This is a good technique to use if he says that wearing condoms or putting them on is awkward.

Give him the green light
Think of ripping open a condom packet as a ‘green light’ for sex. Taking a condom packet out and confidently ripping it open is a sexy way to show your partner that you’re ready for some penetrative action.
Use this on your partner especially if he’s not keen on the idea of using a condom. And add a bit of water-based lubricant on the inside of the condom so it slides on easily – not too much though, or the condom could slip off.

Tease him
Slowly slide a condom on him, gently caressing his penis, testicles or anus. To add some variation, ask him to put on a condom and show you how he likes to be touched. Let him know it turns you on.

Use thin condoms for a skin-to-skin feeling
Thinner condoms are no more likely to break than thicker or regular condoms when you’re having sex, even if you’re having anal sex. So to feel extra close, try using some thinner ones next time. This is a good option if you and your partner want to feel even closer during sex.

Messy is sexy
If you like sex that’s messy, and watching your partner come, get him to pull out before he ejaculates. He can take off the condom and come all over your chest, breasts or back.

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