Condoms are the best defense against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They are also an effective form of contraception. Contrary to what many may believe, condoms have been around for a very long time. In 3000 B.C., the Egyptians used sheep intestines to protect themselves against STIs. Although not as well known, dental dams are another form of protection. A dental dam consists of a thin sheet of latex used during oral sex.
A condom is a very thin cylindrical sheath that is placed on the penis to contain and collect sperm. As soon as there is penetration, the condom acts as a shield between the partners. There are several types of condoms on the market:
- Latex condoms
Latex condoms are the most popular, most affordable and most widely available type of condom on the market.
- Polyurethane condoms
For those with latex allergies, polyurethane condoms are the answer. When it comes to protecting you from STIs and pregnancy, they are just as effective as latex condoms. The only difference is that they are slightly more expensive than latex and there is not as much of a variety. Contrary to latex condoms, polyurethane condoms can safely be used with oil-based lubricants. Furthermore, they conduct heat, which means that they warm to body temperature. Avanti® by Durex® and Microsheer Supra® by Trojan® are examples of polyurethane condoms on the market.
- Natural membrane condoms
These types of condoms are made from animal membrane. Although they can be used as a means of contraception, they are not recommended for protection against STIs. Some men prefer natural membrane condoms because of their loose-fit and for the fact that they provide more sensitivity during intercourse. Naturalamb® by Trojan® is an example of a natural membrane condom on the market.
The male condom is very effective, easy to use, inexpensive and is only used when the need presents itself. It also offers excellent protection against STIs if you choose the one in polyurethane or in latex. As a contraceptive, it is 85% effective. This means that over the course of one year, 15 out of 100 women who rely on male condoms as the only means of birth control, will become pregnant.
You have to remember to use it and it can dampen the mood somewhat. Also, some people may be allergic to latex or to the spermicide found on certain brands of condoms. Furthermore, they do not fully protect against the human papilloma virus (HPV) and hepatitis B, two very common STIs.
Firstly, to avoid ripping the condom, it is important that you carefully tear open the wrapper. Then, once the condom is out of the wrapper, simply follow the steps below:
- Pinch the air out of the tip of the condom to leave space for semen collection;
- Unroll the condom as far as it will go on the erect penis;
- After ejaculation, pull out of your partner while the penis is still erect. To prevent sperm from leaking out of the condom, hold it firmly against the base of the penis;
- Tie a knot at the open end and dispose of in the trash, not the toilet.
To prevent irritation, you can use a water-based or silicone-based lubricant. Condoms must never be reused. Always use a new condom each time you have intercourse.
Condoms are very thin and therefore break easily. To prevent tearing, open the wrapper carefully with your fingers. Do not use your teeth to open the wrapper. Avoid having broken nails or rings on your fingers when putting on the condom as these can rip the condom. Never put on two condoms at the same time. The friction between the two could cause them to break. If using a lubricant, always remember to use a water or silicone based lubricant. Other types of lubricants such as oil-based lubricants, like Vaseline, for example, weaken the latex and could cause it to break.
The female condom is a very thin polyurethane sheath that is inserted into the vagina prior to intercourse. One end covers the cervix, while the other end covers the vulva. Flexible rings hold the condom in place at each extremity. Reality® is an example of a female condom on the market.
The female condom is a type of birth control that offers good protection against most STIs. Since it covers the vulva, it is more effective than the male condom in protecting against certain STIs such as herpes and HPV. Since the female condom is made of polyurethane, it can be used by those with latex allergies. The failure rate is higher to the one of male condom: over the course of one year, 21 out of 100 women who rely on female condoms as the only means of birth control, will become pregnant. When used perfectly, the female condom has a failure rate of 5%.
It can be difficult to insert and, if improperly inserted, can tear or slip. Some couples have also complained about the noise it makes during intercourse.
The female condom can be inserted up to eight hours in advance. To do so, simply follow the steps below:
- Carefully tear the wrapper open without ripping the condom;
- Insert the end with the smallest ring as far as possible into the vagina. The other end must remain outside the vagina to protect the vulva;
- Use a lubricant to prevent irritation and tears.
To safety remove, simply twist the outside ring so that the sperm stays inside the condom, and carefully remove.
To prevent tearing, it is important that you always handle the condom as carefully as possible. Avoid having broken nails or rings on your fingers when inserting. The male and female condoms must not be used at the same time. The friction from both will cause them to rip.
Lastly, remember that you must use a new condom each time you have intercourse.
Dental dams are used during oral sex as protection from STIs. A sheet of latex is used to cover the vulva or anus, creating a barrier between the genitals and the partner's mouth. Although dental dams are available in pharmacies or specialized shops, you can also make your own using a condom.
To make a dental dam, simply cut off the tip of a male condom, then cut the condom lengthwise. This will provide the latex rectangle that you need.
When used properly, a dental dam is as effective as a condom in protecting against STIs in oral sex.
The use of plastic wrap (ex. Saran Wrap™) is not recommended because its effectiveness has not been proven. Furthermore, plastic wrap designed for microwave use is much too porous and therefore offers no protection against STIs.
Using a dental dam is the only way you can protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections such as herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis and hepatitis B during mouth-to-genital contact. Since flavoured condoms are widely available, using a dental dam can add an element of fun.
They do not hold in place all that well.
For the dental dam to be effective, it is important that it be used properly. Here are a few tips:
- To help keep the dam in place, place a few drops of water-based lubricant between the vulva or anus and the dam itself;
- Use hands to help keep the dam in place;
- Never reuse or use the other side of the dam. Throw out after use.
Handling instructions are the same as for the male condom. In other words, handle the dental dam carefully and do not use your teeth to tear open the wrapper. It is also important to always use a water-based lubricant.
If you have any questions or need further informations concerning those contraceptives, don't hesitate to communicate with your pharmacist.
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Sexuality and U