What Are the Different Types of Condoms?

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How to have safe sex by using the right condoms.  

Condom use during sex is extremely important. Condoms work as a barrier to stop sperm and other bodily fluids from getting into the vagina, rectum or mouth. Using condoms can protect against pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV. Condoms are the only form of birth control that protect against STIs during sex.

The different types of condoms are external or internal. An internal condom looks similar to a loose-fitting pouch while an external condom looks more like a sheath. A dental dam is slightly similar to an external condom – but more on that later.

From left to right: an internal condom and an external condom

What are external condoms? 

External condoms are made to be used by anyone with a penis and work to collect sperm and other bodily fluids. Before use, external condoms are round with a pointed top. 

An external condom

To apply an external condom:

  • Make sure you’re using the right size for you/your partner
  • Make sure the rim is on the outside
  • Pinch the pointed top part while placing it on the top of the penis
  • Unroll it until it reaches the base of the penis

Most external condoms are made from latex, plastic or lambskin. If you’re allergic to latex or plastic, lambskin condoms are an alternative that are just as effective as other materials at preventing pregnancy. 

Be aware: Lambskin condoms don’t protect against STIs. There are tiny openings in the condoms that allow fluids to pass from one partner to another.  

There are a variety of different external condoms that come in different shapes, colors, textures and even flavors. Some even glow in the dark or come lubricated! If you’re not using any other form of birth control and condoms are how you’re preventing pregnancy, you can use spermicide for an extra layer of protection. 

Spermicide and lubricants are often used with condoms. Spermicide comes in the form of a cream, film, foam, gel or suppository. It has chemicals in it that stop sperm from moving through the cervix and uterus. 

Lubricant, or lube, is a liquid or jelly that is used to help prevent irritation during sex. Saliva is one example of a lubricant. When using lambskin condoms, make sure you avoid oil-based lubricants. Use a water or silicone-based lubricant instead. 

With perfect use, external condoms can be 98% effective at preventing pregnancy. With typical use, they are 87% effective. Expired, reused or use of multiple condoms may lead to breakage and condom failure. 

External condoms can be found at most drug stores, supermarkets and family planning providers. Sometimes, they can even be found in bars, clubs, college dorm lobbies or walk-in patient care centers.

What are internal condoms? 

Internal condoms go inside the vagina or anus to collect sperm and other bodily fluids. Since internal condoms are made from a synthetic non-latex material called nitrile, they can be used by those who are allergic to latex. 

An internal condom

Internal condoms are a great option if you don’t want to use an external condom. They can be inserted up to 8 hours before sex without causing any harm or discomfort and can be safely used with a lubricant.

Be aware: Internal condoms are not reusable – you MUST use a new internal condom every time you have sex. Additionally, don’t use an external condom and an internal condom together. This can lead to breakage and condom failure.

With perfect use, internal condoms are 95% effective at preventing pregnancy. With typical use, they are 79% effective. To increase pregnancy prevention, use spermicide or different types of birth control.

Internal condoms can be found through the FC2 website, your local health department or a family planning provider.

What is a dental dam? 

A dental dam, also known as an oral dam, is a thin latex or polyurethane sheet that acts as a barrier between you and your partner during oral sex. 

During oral sex, a dental dam can be placed over the vagina or anus to help protect against STIs. It’s important to use a dental dam during any oral sex as STIs can affect and spread through your mouth and throat, along with the genitals and anus. 

A dental dam, also known as an oral dam

Be aware: A dental dam isn’t a form of birth control that can prevent pregnancy. They are only to be used during oral sex to help prevent STIs.

Dental dams come in variety of colors and flavors. You can often find dental dams at most drug stores, online and sometimes through a family planning provider.

Find more information on condoms and the best family planning tools for you at KeepRelationshipsReal.com.