Medical Definition of Condom
Condom: Although the word "condom" usually refers to the male condom, there is also a female condom. Both male and female condoms are barrier methods of contraception.
Male condoms: The male condom is a sheath placed over the erect penis before penetration, preventing pregnancy by blocking the passage of sperm. It is a barrier method of contraception.
A condom can be used only once.
Although some condoms have spermicide added (the spermicide is usually nonoxynol-9 in the United States) to kill sperm, spermicide has not been scientifically shown to provide additional contraceptive protection over a condom alone.
Because they act as a mechanical barrier, condoms prevent direct vaginal contact with semen, infectious genital secretions, and genital sores and discharges.
Most condoms are made from latex rubber, while a small percentage are made from lamb intestines (sometimes called "lambskin" condoms). Condoms made from polyurethane have been marketed in the United States since 1994.
Except for abstinence, latex condoms are the most effective method for reducing the risk of infection from the viruses that cause AIDS, other HIV-related illnesses, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).(It does not protect against transmission of the human papilloma virus (HPV).
Some condoms are pre-lubricated. These lubricants do not provide more birth control or STD protection. Non-oil-based lubricants, such as water or K-Y jelly, can be used with latex or lambskin condoms, but oil-based lubricants, such as petroleum jelly (Vaseline), lotions, or massage or baby oil, should not be used because they can weaken the material.
Female condoms: The Reality Female Condom was approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April 1993. It consists of a lubricated polyurethane sheath shaped similarly to the male condom. The closed end, which has a flexible ring, is inserted into the vagina, while the open end remains outside, partially covering the labia.
The female condom, like the male condom, is available without a prescription and, like the male condom, is intended for one-time use.
A female condom should not be used together with a male condom because they may not both stay in place.
Quick GuideChoosing Your Birth Control Method
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter