The Male Condom: A Man’s Wingman or Best Bro

Did you know there are FOUR types of male condoms?


Male condoms can be made of latex, polyurethane, polyisoprene, or sheepskin. Here’s what you need to know about each type:

  • Latex condoms are the most widely available and the most effective at preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and infections.
  • Polyurethane condoms are thinner than latex condoms so they provide increased sensitivity. These condoms also protect against STDs and are a great option if you are allergic to latex condoms.
  • Polyisoprene condoms can be used if you have an allergy to latex or polyurethane. These condoms have a softer and more natural feel compared to polyurethane while providing the same protection against STDs.
  • Sheepskin condoms transmit body heat well and prevent pregnancy but not STDs.  The pores are small enough to prevent sperm from passing through, but not small enough to keep viruses and bacteria from passing through.

While male condoms are fairly effective* as contraceptives, male condoms (other than sheepskin) are very effective at preventing transmission of diseases and infections transmitted by genital fluids, like gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis and HIV. Just remember that the condom only covers the shaft of the penis, so other infections that are primarily transmitted by skin-to-skin contact could still occur from areas not covered by a condom, such as genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), syphilis, and chancroid.

These are the most popular type of birth control currently out there. Not only are condoms readily available at your local drugstore, they are also fairly easy to use.

There is a fifth type of condom…the female condom! More to come on that product in an upcoming post.

Ask yourself! How many other names can you list for “condom”? Find out some of the condom slang in this Guy’s Guide to Condoms video:

* Male condoms are only considered fairly effective at preventing pregnancy since 18% of women relying on male condoms will have an unintended pregnancy in the first year of use.

About the Author: Kevin Vu is a third-year pharmacy student at the University of California San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Reference:  “Condom Fact Sheet In Brief.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013.  (Photo credit: meddygarnet via Flickr)

Remembering Your Birth Control

Many popular birth control methods are very effective if taken perfectly, but that effectiveness goes down drastically with typical use.  Perfect use means that the method is used consistently and correctly.  This is not as easy as it sounds for many people despite their best intentions.  For this reason, medical researchers have studied the effectiveness and failure rates of the various birth control methods.  For example, birth control pills are 99.7% effective with perfect use.  But in fact, 9% of women will become pregnant within the first year of using the pill and only 91% of women using the pill will have the desired effect of not becoming pregnant with typical use.  Even more drastic is the difference between the reported 98% effectiveness of male condoms with perfect use when the reality is that 18% of women using male condoms will become pregnant within the first year and only 82% will not become pregnant with typical use.  Many women and their partners may not be aware of these differences.

This distinction is important for two reasons:

First, you will want to consider this when selecting the right birth control method(s) for you.  To select the right birth control method(s) for you, prospective users (women and their partners) should be aware of the effectiveness of all the available methods.  In addition, you will want to be aware of how long the method works/how frequently you have to use it and potential side effects.  More information to come on this to help you make important decisions.

Second, you will want to use your selected method(s) of birth control consistently and correctly.  Now you may be wondering what it means to consistently and correctly use your birth control method.  Let’s use the most popular methods of birth control as examples again.

For birth control pills, this means taking a pill consistently every day and not missing days between pill packs.  Pills are taken correctly if taken at the same time every day.  Studies have shown that women may be missing up to 5 pills per cycle, on average, and many women have gaps between pill pack refills at the pharmacy.  It’s important to look at your daily routine and find a time when it would be easy to take your pill at the same time every day.  Is it easiest to take your pill… First thing when you wake up? As your morning coffee is brewing?  When you’re feeding the dog?  When you brush your teeth in the evening? Right before bed?  If you don’t have a daily routine or can’t find a time to consistently take your pill at the same time, the pill may not be a good birth control choice for you and there are other options that don’t require daily action on your part.  Once you find a time that works, you can set up convenient reminders.  Bedsider offers a free service to send you convenient text message reminders for your pill, patch, ring, or injectable birth control method.  Set up your reminder now.  Not only are these messages helpful reminders, they are also very entertaining:

Bedsider Text Message Reminders

Bedsider Text Message Reminders

For condoms, you need to be sure to use a condom consistently with each act of sex and correctly following these instructions from Planned Parenthood:

Hopefully this information will help you use your birth control to maximize its effectiveness!  As always, I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions for future posts.


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  2. Hou MY et al. Using daily text-message reminders to improve adherence with oral contraceptives: a randomized controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol 2010;116:633-40.
  3. Castaño PM et al. Effect of daily text messages on oral contraceptive continuation: a randomized controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol 2012;119:14-20.
  4. Pittman ME et al. Understanding prescription adherence: Pharmacy claims data from the Contraceptive CHOICE Project. Contraception 2011;83:340-5.