A rolled-up condom
Pronunciationm/ or UK: m/
First useAncient[1]
Rubber: 1855[2]
Latex: 1920s[3]
Polyurethane: 1994
Polyisoprene: 2008
Pregnancy rates (first year, latex)
Perfect use2%[4]
Typical use18%[4]
User remindersLatex condoms are damaged by oil-based lubricants[1]
Advantages and disadvantages
STI protectionYes[1]
BenefitsNo health care visits required[1]

A condom is a sheath-shaped barrier device, used during sexual intercourse to reduce the probability of pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection (STI).[1] There are both male and female condoms.[5] With proper use—and use at every act of intercourse—women whose partners use male condoms experience a 2% per-year pregnancy rate.[1] With typical use the rate of pregnancy is 18% per-year.[6] Their use greatly decreases the risk of gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, hepatitis B, and HIV/AIDS.[1] They also to a lesser extent protect against genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), and syphilis.[1]

The male condom is rolled onto an erect penis before intercourse and works by forming a physical barrier which blocks semen from entering the body of a sexual partner.[1][7] Male condoms are typically made from latex and, less commonly, from polyurethane, polyisoprene, or lamb intestine.[1] Male condoms have the advantages of ease of use, easy to access, and few side effects.[1] In those with a latex allergy a polyurethane or other synthetic version should be used.[1] Female condoms are typically made from polyurethane and may be used multiple times.[7]

Condoms as a method of preventing STIs have been used since at least 1564.[1] Rubber condoms became available in 1855, followed by latex condoms in the 1920s.[2][3] They are on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system.[8] The wholesale cost in the developing world is about 0.03 to US$0.08 each.[9] In the United States condoms usually cost less than US$1.00.[10] Globally less than 10% of those using birth control are using the condom.[11] Rates of condom use are higher in the developed world.[11] In the United Kingdom the condom is the second most common method of birth control (22%) while in the United States it is the third most common (15%).[12][13] About six to nine billion are sold a year.[14]

Medical uses

Birth control

The effectiveness of condoms, as of most forms of contraception, can be assessed two ways. Perfect use or method effectiveness rates only include people who use condoms properly and consistently. Actual use, or typical use effectiveness rates are of all condom users, including those who use condoms incorrectly or do not use condoms at every act of intercourse. Rates are generally presented for the first year of use.[15] Most commonly the Pearl Index is used to calculate effectiveness rates, but some studies use decrement tables.[16]:141

The typical use pregnancy rate among condom users varies depending on the population being studied, ranging from 10 to 18% per year.[17] The perfect use pregnancy rate of condoms is 2% per year.[15] Condoms may be combined with other forms of contraception (such as spermicide) for greater protection.[18]

Sexually transmitted infections

A giant replica of a condom on the Obelisk of Buenos Aires, Argentina, part of an awareness campaign for the 2005 World AIDS Day

Condoms are widely recommended for the prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They have been shown to be effective in reducing infection rates in both men and women. While not perfect, the condom is effective at reducing the transmission of organisms that cause AIDS, genital herpes, cervical cancer, genital warts, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and other diseases.[19] Condoms are often recommended as an adjunct to more effective birth control methods (such as IUD) in situations where STD protection is also desired.[20]

According to a 2000 report by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), consistent use of latex condoms reduces the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission by approximately 85% relative to risk when unprotected, putting the seroconversion rate (infection rate) at 0.9 per 100 person-years with condom, down from 6.7 per 100 person-years.[21] Analysis published in 2007 from the University of Texas Medical Branch[22] and the World Health Organization[23] found similar risk reductions of 80–95%.

The 2000 NIH review concluded that condom use significantly reduces the risk of gonorrhea for men.[21] A 2006 study reports that proper condom use decreases the risk of transmission of human papillomavirus (HPV) to women by approximately 70%.[24] Another study in the same year found consistent condom use was effective at reducing transmission of herpes simplex virus-2 also known as genital herpes, in both men and women.[25]

Although a condom is effective in limiting exposure, some disease transmission may occur even with a condom. Infectious areas of the genitals, especially when symptoms are present, may not be covered by a condom, and as a result, some diseases like HPV and herpes may be transmitted by direct contact.[26] The primary effectiveness issue with using condoms to prevent STDs, however, is inconsistent use.[27]

Condoms may also be useful in treating potentially precancerous cervical changes. Exposure to human papillomavirus, even in individuals already infected with the virus, appears to increase the risk of precancerous changes. The use of condoms helps promote regression of these changes.[28] In addition, researchers in the UK suggest that a hormone in semen can aggravate existing cervical cancer, condom use during sex can prevent exposure to the hormone.[29]

Causes of failure

Condoms may slip off the penis after ejaculation,[30] break due to improper application or physical damage (such as tears caused when opening the package), or break or slip due to latex degradation (typically from usage past the expiration date, improper storage, or exposure to oils). The rate of breakage is between 0.4% and 2.3%, while the rate of slippage is between 0.6% and 1.3%.[21] Even if no breakage or slippage is observed, 1–3% of women will test positive for semen residue after intercourse with a condom.[31][32]

"Double bagging", using two condoms at once, is often believed to cause a higher rate of failure due to the friction of rubber on rubber.[33][34] This claim is not supported by research. The limited studies that have been done found that the simultaneous use of multiple condoms decreases the risk of condom breakage.[35][36]

Different modes of condom failure result in different levels of semen exposure. If a failure occurs during application, the damaged condom may be disposed of and a new condom applied before intercourse begins – such failures generally pose no risk to the user.[37] One study found that semen exposure from a broken condom was about half that of unprotected intercourse; semen exposure from a slipped condom was about one-fifth that of unprotected intercourse.[38]

Standard condoms will fit almost any penis, with varying degrees of comfort or risk of slippage. Many condom manufacturers offer "snug" or "magnum" sizes. Some manufacturers also offer custom sized-to-fit condoms, with claims that they are more reliable and offer improved sensation/comfort.[39][40][41] Some studies have associated larger penises and smaller condoms with increased breakage and decreased slippage rates (and vice versa), but other studies have been inconclusive.[42]

It is recommended for condoms manufacturers to avoid very thick or very thin condoms, because they are both considered less effective.[43] Some authors encourage users to choose thinner condoms "for greater durability, sensation, and comfort",[44] but others warn that "the thinner the condom, the smaller the force required to break it".[45]

Experienced condom users are significantly less likely to have a condom slip or break compared to first-time users, although users who experience one slippage or breakage are more likely to suffer a second such failure.[46][47] An article in Population Reports suggests that education on condom use reduces behaviors that increase the risk of breakage and slippage.[48] A Family Health International publication also offers the view that education can reduce the risk of breakage and slippage, but emphasizes that more research needs to be done to determine all of the causes of breakage and slippage.[42]

Among people who intend condoms to be their form of birth control, pregnancy may occur when the user has sex without a condom. The person may have run out of condoms, or be traveling and not have a condom with them, or simply dislike the feel of condoms and decide to "take a chance". This type of behavior is the primary cause of typical use failure (as opposed to method or perfect use failure).[49]

Another possible cause of condom failure is sabotage. One motive is to have a child against a partner's wishes or consent.[50] Some commercial sex workers from Nigeria reported clients sabotaging condoms in retaliation for being coerced into condom use.[51] Using a fine needle to make several pinholes at the tip of the condom is believed to significantly impact on their effectiveness.[16]:306–307[32] Cases of such condom sabotage have occurred.[52]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Kondoom
Alemannisch: Kondom
العربية: عازل ذكري
asturianu: Preservativu
azərbaycanca: Prezervativ
বাংলা: কনডম
Bân-lâm-gú: Sak-khuh
беларуская: Прэзерватыў
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Прэзэрватыў
български: Презерватив
Boarisch: Kondom
བོད་ཡིག: སྲུང་ཤུབས།
brezhoneg: Stevell
català: Preservatiu
čeština: Kondom
Cymraeg: Condom
dansk: Kondom
Deutsch: Kondom
eesti: Kondoom
Ελληνικά: Προφυλακτικό
emiliàn e rumagnòl: Guldòun
español: Preservativo
Esperanto: Kondomo
euskara: Kondoi
فارسی: کاندوم
français: Préservatif
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Gaeilge: Coiscín
galego: Preservativo
ગુજરાતી: નિરોધ
한국어: 콘돔
հայերեն: Պահպանակ
हिन्दी: निरोध
hrvatski: Prezervativ
Bahasa Indonesia: Kondom
interlingua: Preservativo
íslenska: Smokkur
italiano: Profilattico
עברית: קונדום
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Kiswahili: Kondomu
Kongo: Kapoti
Kreyòl ayisyen: Kapot
kurdî: Kondom
latviešu: Prezervatīvs
Lëtzebuergesch: Kapëttchen
lietuvių: Prezervatyvas
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lumbaart: Goldon
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македонски: Презерватив
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مازِرونی: کاندوم
Bahasa Melayu: Kondom
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ကွန်ဒုံး
Nederlands: Condoom
नेपाली: कण्डम
日本語: コンドーム
norsk: Kondom
norsk nynorsk: Kondom
ଓଡ଼ିଆ: କଣ୍ଡୋମ
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਕੰਡੋਮ
پښتو: کانډوم
polski: Prezerwatywa
português: Preservativo
Ripoarisch: Kondom
română: Prezervativ
Runa Simi: Ullu islampu
русский: Презерватив
Scots: Condom
sicilianu: Prisirvativu
Simple English: Condom
slovenčina: Prezervatív
slovenščina: Kondom
ślůnski: Olik
کوردی: کۆندۆم
српски / srpski: Кондом
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Kondom
suomi: Kondomi
svenska: Kondom
తెలుగు: కండోం
Türkçe: Prezervatif
українська: Презерватив
اردو: کنڈوم
Tiếng Việt: Bao cao su
Volapük: Preservum
文言: 避孕套
Winaray: Kondom
ייִדיש: קאנדאם
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中文: 避孕套