What is an External Condom?

External condoms (sometimes called “male” condoms) are a covering designed to fit over an erect penis, almost like a second skin and can be used for oral, vaginal and anal sex. They are usually made of latex but are also available in non-latex materials like polyisoprene and polyurethane. 

How do condoms work?

  • For birth control, they prevent pregnancy by keeping the sperm away from the vagina.
  • For STI protection, they act as a physical barrier method that works to protect against STIs by reducing contact with partner(s) bodily fluid and skin.

How effective are external condoms?

  • When used as birth control they are approximately 87% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • When used as a birth control method, they are ideally used with another birth control instead of on their own.
  • They are very effective at preventing STIs
  • Easy to find and often free.
  • Available without a prescription.
  • Accessible by people with penises.
  • Can delay ejaculation and prolong some kinds of sex.
  • If allergic to latex may cause irritation in the vagina or on the penis.
  • May break if improperly stored or used incorrectly
  • Needs to be applied before each act of intercourse, reducing spontaneity
  • May reduce sensitivity during intercourse
  • Oil based products such as Vaseline, baby oil, massage oil or creams can cause latex condoms to tear or break.

Seems confusing? We’re here for you!

We know it can be confusing to choose a method. We are here to help. Our Options for Sexual Health Clinics are staffed by health care professionals who are there to answer your questions.  They can help you learn how to use the method you choose and bring you back to check in on how the method is working for you.

Between visits or anytime, our Sex Sense team is there to answer any questions you might have by phone (1-800-739-7367) or by email at SexSense.org

This is general information and should not be used in place of individual consultation with a qualified healthcare provider.

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