As you all know I’m a big supporter of safe sex, the kind that leaves you free of worries about an unwanted pregnancy or possible transmission of an STI. As such, I hope this “beginners guide: condoms” post will give you further insight to the options available when it comes to safer sex practices and help you find a method of protection that’s right for you.
What are Condoms?
Condoms are a flexible sleeve made of latex, lambskin, polyisoprene, or polyurethane, and are meant to be worn over the erect penis as means of a prevention against unintended pregnancies and/or to help stop the transmission of STI’s.
Readily available in different colors, textures, and flavours, condoms have come a long way since the days when they were made of sheeps intestines.
For those in need of a condom more specific to size, they also come in a small variety of options, from Snugger fit to Magnum. On average condoms are 7.5 inches long, 2 inches wide at the shaft and a little more than 2 inches wide at the head
Types of Condoms
Latex: Latex condoms can only be used with water based lubricants, anything oil based like Vaseline, natural oils (almond, coconut etc), lubricants, or cold cream, will break down the latex causing it to tear or fall apart completely. If you find latex condoms leave you feeling sore, raw, red and rashy, itchy, or swollen, it may be due to an allergic reaction to latex (some people have them), in that case I’d suggest using polyurethane or sheepskin condoms instead.
Polyurethane: Compared to latex condoms, polyurethane condoms are often the go-to material for those with latex allergies. They’re often thinner and stronger than latex, and have been found to be a little less constricting size wise. Polyurethane condoms also transfer heat much better than latex, which for some may make the experience more pleasurable.
Polyisoprene: If latex and polyurethane condoms don’t work for you, polyisoprene may be the way to go. They tend have a softer, more natural feel, and will conform to skin in a similar way to latex. Since they’re the newest material on the market there aren’t too many manufacturers making them, with LifeStyles (SKYN) and Durex (Avanti Bare) brands being your only options.
Lambskin: Lambskin condoms are made from the intestinal membrane of a lamb. Yes, you read that right, the intestinal membrane of a lamb. Due to small pores within the membrane, lambskin condoms are ineffective when it comes to protecting against viruses that cause STIs. Fortunately they do protect against pregnancy, since the pores are too small for sperm to pass through. It’s been said that they have a more “natural” feel (when compared to latex and polyurethane), in the case of polyisoprene they’re fairly similar.
There’s also the female/internal condom; a sheath placed inside the vagina up to 8 hours before intercourse, designed to protect against STI’s and unintended pregnancies.
Lubrication on condoms also varies; some are not lubricated at all, some are lubricated with a silicone base, others have a water-based lubricant. The lubrication on condoms aims to make the condom easier to put on and more comfortable to use and can also help prevent condom breakage.
Ultimately, it’s up to you which type of condom you choose. Just remember, it’s important to always use either a male condom or female condom to avoid the possibility of transmitting and STI, as other methods of protection only offer protection against unintended pregnancies.
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“Birth Control” by definition relates to the use of any practices, methods, or devices that are employed to prevent pregnancy from occurring. The main goal of any birth control method is to either prevent fertilization of an egg, or implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus.
When I speak of Reversible Birth Control Methods I am referring to any practice of birth control that protects a person from pregnancy at any point in their life, while still preserving the option to have children at another time.In most cases the ability to become pregnant, returns shortly after the reversible method is discontinued. The rate at which fertility returns will vary with each method.
Technically there are 4 methods of Reversible Birth Control; barrier, behavioral, hormonal and emergency.This page will specifically cover the Barrier and Hormonal methods. If you would like to learn about the others please go back to the Contraception and STI page and select the corresponding category.
Safer Sex Practices
Barrier Methods of Protection
Condoms: What is the right type of material for your needs?
Condoms Sizing: Are you wearing the proper size? Let's make sure.
How To Put On A Condom: Stay safe, practice makes perfect. (*v)
The 'Female' Condom: The internal condom has you covered. (*v)
Spermicide: Even though it works, it's not the best option. Find out why here.
Diaphragm: Everything you need to know about diaphragms.
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My partner has been saying that we dont need to use condoms if we use spermicide since it kills the sperm, is this true? if so what kind of spermicide do you suggest?
First, let my just say that it is ALWAYS safer to use more then one type of protection, and when it comes to sex, I ALWAYS suggest you use condoms to help prevent against not only pregnancy, but STD/STI's as well.
As for spermicidal lubes, though they do kill sperm, I'm sad to say there isn't a brand that I would recommend. Most spermicidal lubes contain a substance called "nonoxynol-9". For those of you who don't know what "nonoxynol-9" or N9 is; N9 is a surfactant that's used as an ingredient in various cleaning and cosmetic products, it's also a form of birth control for its spermicidal properties.
I'm sure most of you read that and went wtf is a 'nonoxynol surfactant'?
Nonoxynols are non-ionic surfactant mixtures varying in the number of repeating ethoxy groups. They're used as detergents, emulsifiers, wetting agents, de-foaming agents etc. - taken from Wikipedia
Surfactants are wetting agents that lower the surface tension of a liquid, allowing easier spreading, and lower the interfacial tension between two liquids. Also, Surfactants are usually amphiphilic meaning they have "tails" and "heads"; think of what sperm or a tadpole looks like. If that isn't clear enough, the best way for me to describe it is to say that surfactants work by disturbing the cell membrane.
**However due to the toxicity of these mixtures they are no longer allowed for anything that can be poured down the drain (think of chemical cleaners) or in laundry detergent. So I can't pour it down the drain, but I can put it in my vag? are you kidding me?!
To put surfectants into perspective, think of the everyday products that they can be found in like;
Emulsifiers and Emulsions
Ski wax, snowboard wax
Deinking (particularly during the enzymatic deinking of used paper during the recycling and repulping process)
Quantum dot coating
Hair conditioners (after shampoo)
Used as an additive in 2.5 gallon fire extinguishers
Pipeline, Liquid drag reducing agent
Alkali Surfactant Polymers (used to mobilize oil in oil wells)
Anti fogging? inks? snowboard wax? PAINTS? FABRIC SOFTENER? ...are you kidding me?! why would anyone want to put an ingredient that's found in paint or snowboard wax near their vagina!?
As for N9 itself, it was originally thought that it could be used for the prevention of STD's/STI's however about 10 years ago it was discovered that spermicides actually INCREASE the chances of contracting infections like HIV by creating lesions on the layers of skin cells in the vagina or rectum walls, which can potentially facilitate infection. **remember what I said above, they "work by disturbing the cell membrane"
Not only that but there are other downfalls or potential dangers to using N9:
Nonoxynol-9 offers no protection against sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea or chlamydia.
Nonoxynol-9 can damage the cells lining the rectum providing entry for HIV and other STD/STI's
If used regularily Nonoxynol-9 can increase a womans chances of contracting Bacterial Vaginosis
If used regularly there are increased chances of developing a yeast infection
There have been reports of vaginal bleeding after intercourse due to misuse of spermicides containing Nonoxynol-9
Increased chances of vaginal dryness or itching after use of spermicides.
The product is so bad for you that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) issued a final rule in 2007 that requires manufacturers of spermicidal products containing nonoxynol 9 to post the following warnings to its products; "N9 can irritate the vagina and rectum, which may increase the risk of getting HIV/AIDS from an infected partner"
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) conducted their own study to research the effects of N9 and found that it was ineffective in the prevention of STD's and in fact increased the risk of transmission by 50% *report can be found here: CDC N9 Aids research
As you can see, with all of the above information there is no way that I could recommend such a product to any person at any time.
hope that helped
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As you all know I’m a big supporter of safe sex, you know, the kind that leaves you free of worries about an unplanned pregnancy or possible transmission of an STD. That said I hope this post will give you further insight to the options available and help you possibly find a method of protection thats right for you.
What are Female Condoms or Internal Condoms?
Female Condoms are condoms designed to be worn by those with vaginas and are a valuable option for those who want to prevent sexually transmitted infection or unintended pregnancy.
The Female Condom (also known as 'internal condom') is a soft, loose-fitting plastic pouch that lines the vagina and has a soft ring at each end. The ring at the closed end is used to put the device inside the vagina and holds it in place, while the other ring stays outside the vagina and partly covers the vulva. They'll often come lubricated and are made from polyurethane or nitrile, making them 40% stronger than latex condoms. As an added bonus, polyurethane transfers heat readily which will allow the user to feel their partner on a new level if all they've previously used are latex condoms.
Unlike the traditional condom, the female condom gives users the control they need when it comes to applying and removing the product, they also have the advantage of not requiring a partner to maintain an erection during use to keep it in place.
Although you don't have to worry about getting pregnant when it comes to anal sex, there is still the possibility of contracting an STD/STI. This in mind, the internal condom can be a valuable asset. Insertion is the same as vaginal use, although I would highly suggest using a good lubricant before inserting it (the anus doesn't self lubricate) to help make it more comfortable and further prevent possible tearing of the condom.
Unfortunately the female condom does have its drawbacks; for starters it's rather large and bulky, can often be heard during intercourse (a 'crinkling' noise that can be distracting), has a tendency to shift around during use (which may require re-positioning it), is higher in price compared to traditional condoms and isn't the easiest product to apply/insert or remove.
Aside from that, because the outer ring sits outside the vaginal opening, some users may feel self-conscious about the appearance. Just keep in mind that traditional condoms can also be seen externally and with the various types available, be it ribbed, colored or otherwise, they certainly can make a penis look pretty funny - balances out the score a bit if you ask me.
Because of the above issues, I highly suggest practicing inserting and removing the product before attempting to use it with a partner. Not only will this hopefully make the process quicker and easier with time, but it will also allow you to feel confident and prepared when the moment arises.
Length= 6.69 in.
Width= 3.15 in.
Thickness=.048mm .002 in.)
Outer ring dia.= 2.56 in.
Inner ring dia.= 1.97in.
Width: 3.70 inches
Length: 6.69 inches
The typical use of female condoms, which is the average way most people use them, has a failure rate of 21%. This means that 21 people out of every 100 will become pregnant during the first year of use.
Issues often found with 'typical' use:
Incorrect insertion or removal
Use of a non-compatible lubricant which can weaken the condom and cause it to break
Not checking that the product remained in place during intercourse
Re-using the condom (which is not suggested)
Using an expired condom (always check the expiration date)
With perfect use, which is what should be the aim, the percent drops dramatically to 5%. So 5 out of 100 will become pregnant with perfect use
Steps for perfect use can be found through this link.
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As you all know I’m a big supporter of safe sex! You know, the kind that leaves you free of worries about an unintended pregnancy or possible transmission of an STD. As such, I hope this page gives you the insight you need to help find a method of protection that's right for you.
What is a diaphragm?
The diaphragm is a dome shaped cup with a flexible rim. It’s made of silicone or latex and is designed to stop sperm from entering the uterus and fallopian tubes in order to prevent an unintended pregnancy. To be more specific, it's a reversible barrier method of birth control.
I personally suggest silicone because it lasts longer, is easy to care for, and won’t absorb odors, bodily fluids, or bacteria. The other reason I suggest silicone is that it is latex free, so for those of you that have latex allergies, or for those of you not sure if you have a latex allergy, it’s a good option.
Where can I get a diaphragm ?
Unfortunately you’re not able to buy them at a store or online like condoms. Instead, you need to get fitted for one by your health care provider to make sure that it’s the right size for your body and won’t allow any room for sperm to pass.
During your fitting your health care provider should show you how to use it properly and allow you to practice in the office, checking once inserted, to make sure you did it correctly.
If they don’t offer, please know there is nothing to be embarrassed about and you have every right to ask. The effectiveness of any birth control method always stands in using it perfectly. That said, it’s always better to be safe then sorry.
When it comes to using your diaphragm there are a few things that I suggest:
Always make sure your hands are clean before handling it, you don’t want to transfer any bacteria which could cause an infection.
Hold your diaphragm up to a light or place a small amount of water in it to check for cracks or holes before use, if you do find any don’t use it.
If you're using a silicone diaphragm do not use a silicone lubricant and make sure your hands are free of any silicone as it may break down the product.
If you're using a latex diaphragm do not use an oil based product and make sure your hands are free of anything that may cause the latex to break down. Remember, latex diaphragms are the same as latex condoms (only thicker) so treat them with the same respect.
Diaphragms do not offer protection against STD’s so you will need to either add another method of protection (like condoms) or choose something that fits your specific needs.
How do I insert the diaphragm?
Inserting your diaphragm and using it perfectly is something that will take some practice. More likely then not, using your diaphragm will be uncomfortable, awkward, and annoying when you first start. I highly suggest taking some time inserting it and removing it before you use it during intercourse. Now I know it sounds a little overwhelming but trust me, once you get the hang of it, it's a piece of cake.
Step 1.) After you've washed your hands, hold the diaphragm dome side down. Squeeze a teaspoon of spermicide cream into the center of the diaphragm and spread a bit of the cream around the rim with your finger. If you have long nails be gentle as you don’t want to accidentally pierce it.
Step 2.) Squeeze the diaphragm so that it's boat-shaped. Then, while using your free hand to separate your inner labia, insert the folded device into your vagina. To do this use whatever position you use when inserting a tampon; standing with one foot propped up, squatting, or while lying on your back in bed are all fine, just do whatever is most comfortable to you. Keep in mind that the position of the cervix and the walls of the vagina will differ depending on your position.
Step 3.) Push the diaphragm as far as it goes and use your index finger to tuck it behind your cervix. Run the index or middle finger over the diaphragm’s dome to verify that it is covering the cervix; if the device is in the correct position, the cervix should be easily felt through the rubber. Some say it feels like the end of a nose, and that's what it's felt like for me, so I'm going with it. It shouldn’t be too hard to tell since it is normal to detect folds in the diaphragm when it is in place.
One thing that I do want to note is that for the Diaphragm to be its most effective it must remain in place for 6 hours after intercourse, but no longer 24 hours, as there is an increased risk of toxic shock syndrome if you do.
How do I remove the diaphragm?
To remove it insert the index finger inside the vagina and place it behind the front rim of the diaphragm then pull the diaphragm downward and out of the vagina. Fortunately getting it out is a lot easier then inserting it.
How do I clean my diaphragm?
As for cleaning it, just wash the diaphragm with non-perfumed soap and warm water, rinse it well and dry it carefully; I suggest letting it air dry. Then return it to its original container and store it in a dry, cool place.
How effective is the diaphragm?
In regard to its effectiveness when used typically 20 out of 100 women will get pregnant. However when use perfectly only 6 out of 100 women will get pregnant. That in mind, as I said before it’s always better to get guidance from your health care provider since practice makes perfect!
Pro’s of using a diaphragm
It can be discretely carried in your pocket or purse.
It can be used during breastfeeding without risk of affecting your baby.
It usually can’t be felt by you or your partner.
It has no effect on a persons natural hormones unlike other methods.
It is immediately effective and reversible.
There is no interruption of sex play and can be inserted up to 6 hours ahead of time.
Cons of using a diaphragm
While I do think that the diaphragm is a great method of protection, the only downfall is that it in order for it to be effective it must be used in conjunction with spermicide. If you are curious as to why I feel this way I suggest you watch my video on spermicide and check out my article on the subject.
That said if you plan on having sex again within a three hour span of time you need to add more spermicide. If you do choose to use this method of protection I suggest keeping a tube ready just to be safe.
While it’s still up for debate some people suggest that it cannot be used during your period
may be difficult for some women to insert (again that just takes practice)
may be pushed out of place due to heavy thrusting, and certain sexual positions
must be in place every time a woman has vaginal intercourse and used in conjunction with spermicide
may need to be refitted due to giving birth or weight change.
Common Side Effects
Fortunately most women can use the diaphragm without any issues arising. Serious problems are very rare and not that common. But some women may experience these side effects;
Frequent urinary tract infections. To avoid infection, urinate before inserting the diaphragm and after intercourse which will help to flush out any bacteria from the urethra. If you get frequent bladder infections, ask your health care provider to check to see if your diaphragm fits correctly.
Vaginal irritation; this can be a sign of an allergy to latex or spermicide. If you have a mild reaction stop using the diaphragm until you speak with your health care provider. It’s always better to be safe then sorry.
As with other methods of protection I have covered I want to stress that for some of you this may work and for some of you it may not. However, since choosing a method of protection that is right for you is a very important step in being sexually active and responsible, I do feel it necessary to cover all of the options so you can see what’s available, how to use it, and make sure your using it correctly, which will of course increase the chances of effectiveness.
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I’m a sex-positive advocate, reviewer, vlogger, branding, media and publicity creation consultant. In 2007 I created a series on YouTube called Sex Ed 102 to educate on sex positivity, pleasure products, sex tips, tricks, & techniques, contraception options, and STI info. To date Sex Ed 102 has gained over 17 million views on YouTube alone! Keep reading...