You probably often see messages like, “Use a condom when you have sex,” or, “Always wear a condom,” and know that when used properly condoms can be effective up to 98% of time at preventing pregnancy and the spread of Sexually-Transmitted Infections. You know condoms work, but one question we don’t always ask is how exactly do they work?
At its most basic, a condom can be described as a barrier method. They create a literal protective barrier so as to prevent direct skin-to-skin contact. Through these thin layers of latex, polyurethane, etc. areas that can become infected with STI’s never touch, and the various fluids created by bodies during sex also are blocked out–be it vaginal secretions, semen (thanks to built-in reservoirs designed to capture it) or any other fluid. Also, as STI’s can be transmitted via blood, condoms present any exposure from one partner to another via micro-tears in the mouth, vagina, anus, or penis(micro-tears are tiny rips in the skin that can’t always even be seen by the human eye).
Thanks to continuous advances in design, condoms these days can be extremely thin or flexible and still allow partners to enjoy all forms of sex while still being protected and feeling everything they enjoy. As our bodies can be prone to micro-tears or leaking out fluids even when we don’t realize it (pre-ejaculate, for example) condoms should be used for all forms of sex–vaginal, anal, and oral.
It also should be discussed how the material a condom is made out of can dramatically impact how protected you are. There are condoms made specifically for oral sex, and ones made out of lambskin which can prevent pregnancy but offer no protection in regards to sexually transmitted infections. There are many lists that can be found online about kinds of condoms (such as here, or at this link), that we recommend you examine so that you can be informed and possibly find a new favorite kind of condom!
As always, we here at Williams and Associates provide free condoms and other safer-sex supplies and encourage you to come visit us at our office for that as well as free testing and health information at no cost.
General condom information found at these sites:
Information on sex and micro-tears in the body:
Discussion about pre-ejaculate and risks it poses:
Facts about types of condoms: