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National Condom Week: Everything You Need To Know About Condoms


February is celebrated as the National Condom Month in the US. It was started by the students of the University of California in 1978 and from then on, it became an educational event in schools, colleges, AIDS groups, organizations and sexually transmitted disease awareness groups.

In the US and UK and some parts of India, the National Condom Week is celebrated from Feb 14 to 21. It is a leading sexual health campaign organized to raise awareness regarding the risks involved in having unprotected sex, educating young adults about safer sex and how condom protects against both STIs and unwanted pregnancies.

What Are Condoms?

Condoms are made of latex, polyurethane or polyisoprene which effectively prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) [1] . They work by preventing the semen from entering the vagina, and comes under the barrier method of contraception.

Types Of Condoms

  • Male condoms - They are made from very thin latex, a type of rubber. It is also made from polyurethane or polyisoprene. Male condoms are worn to stop a man's semen from coming in contact with his sexual partner [2] . Male condoms are 98 per cent effective which means chances are 2 out of 100 women will become pregnant when male condoms are used as contraception.
  • Female condoms - They are made from soft thin plastic called polyurethane which is worn inside the vagina to prevent semen from getting into the womb [3] . Female condoms are 95 per cent effective and protect from pregnancies and STIs [4] .

Advantages Of Using Condoms

Both male and female condoms are very much effective in preventing protection against sexually transmitted infections. STIs are easily transmitted through bodily fluids like semen, blood and vaginal fluid. And condoms act as a barrier for all the fluids that increase the chances of infections like HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhoea and trichomoniasis [5] , [6] , [7] , [8]

Research has also shown that consistent condom use is linked to reduced risk of cervical cancer, and HPV (Human Papillomavirus infections) associated disease [9] .

Another biggest advantage of using condoms is it prevents pregnancy and you should use them during vaginal, oral and anal sex. Using condoms alongside other forms of birth control methods such as the IUD, pills, shot, ring and implant is a great way to get extra pregnancy and STD protection [10] .

Disadvantages Of Condoms

As most condoms are made of latex, some people can be allergic to them [11] . It is said that women are more likely to experience a latex allergy while wearing a latex condom. The mucous membranes of the vagina make it easier for the latex proteins to enter the body and during intercourse the woman may experience itching and vaginal swelling, a sign of latex condom allergy [12] . Other signs are redness, bumps and hives. Instead, go for polyurethane condoms.

Condoms do not provide protection against STIs like genital warts and herpes because these infections are transmitted through skin to skin contact. This affects the inner thighs, labia, and scrotum.

Another disadvantage of condoms is the excess friction during intercourse that can lead to tearing and weakening of the condom [13] , [14] .

Reasons For Condom Failure

1. Condoms have passed expiry dates

2. The condom is damaged or not manufactured properly.

3. Condom breakage during sex

4. Using lubricants

How To Choose The Best Condoms

Quality testing is mandatory for all latex and polyurethane condoms. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calls for condom manufacturers to spot-check their products. In addition to that, the FDA inspectors pick random samples from manufacturers and perform the 'water-leak' test. An average of 996 out of 1000 condoms should pass this test before they are considered safe for use.

Here are some tips to choose the safest condoms:

1. Read the label carefully to confirm whether the condom meets all safety standards.

2. If needed, use a lubricated condom or a separate water-based or silicone-based lubricant. Lubrication reduces friction during sex and prevents the condom from tearing.

3. Avoid novelty condoms that are used for stimulation rather than protection.

4. Avoid using any oil-based lubricant like baby oil, petroleum jelly and lotions as the condom can break [15] .

5. Condoms have an expiry date so, always check the packaging before using.

6. Do not use condoms that were stored in extreme hot or cold temperatures as it makes them less effective.

7. Condoms with spermicide can irritate the penis and vagina, so avoid using it.

Tips For Using Condoms Safely

  • Inspect the packaging for expiry date and holes.
  • Before using, open the packet carefully and avoid using sharp things.
  • Put the condom on before the penis comes in contact with the female genitals.
  • To prevent tearing of the condom, use water-based lubrication on the outside of the condom.
  • Wrap the condom in a tissue and throw it after use.
View Article References
  1. [1] Holmes, K. K., Levine, R., & Weaver, M. (2004). Effectiveness of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted infections.Bulletin of the World Health Organization,82(6), 454-461.
  2. [2] Stover, J., Rosen, J. E., Carvalho, M. N., Korenromp, E. L., Friedman, H. S., Cogan, M., & Deperthes, B. (2017).The case for investing in the male condom. PLOS ONE, 12(5), e0177108.
  3. [3] Sapire, K. E. (1995). The female condom (Femidom)-a study of user acceptability.South African Medical Journal,85(10).
  4. [4] Mome, R. K., Wiyeh, A. B., Kongnyuy, E. J., & Wiysonge, C. S. (2018). Effectiveness of female condom in preventing HIV and sexually transmitted infections: a systematic review protocol.BMJ open,8(8), e023055.
  5. [5] Niccolai, L. M., Rowhani-Rahbar, A., Jenkins, H., Green, S., & Dunne, D. W. (2005). Condom effectiveness for prevention of Chlamydia trachomatis infection.Sexually transmitted infections,81(4), 323-325.
  6. [6] Pinkerton, S. D., & Abramson, P. R. (1997). Effectiveness of condoms in preventing HIV transmission.Social science & medicine,44(9), 1303-1312.
  7. [7] Koss, C. A., Dunne, E. F., & Warner, L. (2009). A systematic review of epidemiologic studies assessing condom use and risk of syphilis.Sexually transmitted diseases,36(7), 401-405.
  8. [8] Warner, L. (2004). Condom Effectiveness for Reducing Transmission of Gonorrhea and Chlamydia: The Importance of Assessing Partner Infection Status. American Journal of Epidemiology, 159(3), 242–251.
  9. [9] Lam, J. U. H., Rebolj, M., Dugué, P. A., Bonde, J., von Euler-Chelpin, M., & Lynge, E. (2014). Condom use in prevention of Human Papillomavirus infections and cervical neoplasia: systematic review of longitudinal studies.Journal of medical screening,21(1), 38-50.
  10. [10] Zhao, R., Wu, J. Q., Li, Y. Y., Zhou, Y., Ji, H. L., & Li, Y. R. (2014). Efficacy of a combined contraceptive regimen consisting of condoms and emergency contraception pills.BMC public health,14, 354.
  11. [11] Levy, D. A., Khouader, S., & Leynadier, F. (1998). Allergy to latex condoms.Allergy,53(11), 1107-1108.
  12. [12]
  13. [13] Hensel, D. J., Selby, S., Tanner, A. E., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2016). A Daily Diary Analysis of Condom Breakage and Slippage During Vaginal Sex or Anal Sex Among Adolescent Women.Sexually transmitted diseases,43(9), 531-536.
  14. [14] Crosby, R. A., Yarber, W. L., Sanders, S. A., Graham, C. A., McBride, K., Milhausen, R. R., & Arno, J. N. (2006). Men with broken condoms: who and why?.Sexually transmitted infections,83(1), 71-75.
  15. [15] Steiner, M., Piedrahita, C., Glover, L., Joanis, C., Spruyt, A., & Foldesy, R. (1994). The impact of lubricants on latex condoms during vaginal intercourse.International journal of STD & AIDS,5(1), 29-36.

Read more about: condom safety benefits
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