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Condoms are an effective barrier method of preventing pregnancy and avoiding sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

There are two types of condoms, the male condom and the female condom.

What is a male condom?

The male condom is a thin covering made of latex, polyurethane or animal membrane that is rolled over an erect penis. The covering prevents semen, the fluid that contains sperm, from entering a woman's vagina.

What are male condoms made of?

Most condoms are made of a type of rubber called latex. For people who have latex allergies, polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms are available which carry a lower risk of causing an allergic reaction.

What types of latex condoms are there?

Condoms come in all shapes, sizes and materials. Make sure condoms have the European safety standards CE mark on the packet. Here are some things to consider when buying condoms:

  • Size. The standard size will fit most men. Extra-large condoms are available, as well as "snug" sizes that are a little smaller and fit tighter than the standard size.
  • Shape. Some condoms come with a tip in the end to hold the fluid when the man ejaculates. Others have a rounded end.
  • Thickness. Extra-strength condoms are available. These are stronger and are especially useful for anal sex and for men who have problems with condom breakage. Extra-thin condoms also are available, but these are not recommended because they may break more easily.
  • Lubrication. Many condoms come pre-lubricated. This lubrication can be a substance that kills sperm ( spermicide) and many disease-causing germs. Lubrication may give some extra protection in preventing pregnancy, especially if the condom breaks. Lubricated condoms taste bad and are not recommended for oral sex.
  • Flavoured. These condoms are meant for the male to wear when receiving oral sex. They are not lubricated and come in a wide range of mild flavours.
  • Colour. Condoms come in many colours. The colour of the condom doesn't make it any more or less effective.

When should a man use a condom?

A man should wear a condom any time he inserts his penis into the body of another person, if there is even the slightest risk that either person may have a sexually transmitted infection. Men can become infected with STIs when receiving oral sex, so a condom should be worn then, too. A man should wear a condom to prevent pregnancy when this is not desired and his partner is not using any form of contraception. The condom should be put on before there is any contact, and should be removed and thrown away promptly after the man has ejaculated.

How is the male condom used?

Take caution when opening the wrapper to avoid tearing the condom with your teeth, fingernails or rings. Gently pinch the air out of the tip of the condom before putting it on. The condom is rolled over the erect penis before sexual activity begins.

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