Condoms are the most common form of birth control used today. They are a great way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
What is a condom?
The male condom (external condom) is usually made of thin latex that can stretch over the penis. Condoms also come in non-latex versions in case you or your partner are allergic to latex. They can come in various flavors, colors and types of lubricant, but condoms that are flavored should only be used for oral sex. Condoms can be lubricated with a spermicide. Spermicide is a chemical that kills sperm (only for vaginal sex). It is suggested to use water-based lube when using condoms.
How do I use a condom?
Condoms are relatively straight-forward to use, but there are some important guidelines to follow to make sure they don’t break or lose effectiveness.
- Storage: Keep condoms in a cool and dark place, like a drawer. Don’t keep your condoms in your wallet or your car! If condoms get too hot, they might break or snap.
- Expiration Date: All condom packages have a date printed on them. Double-check the date before you use a condom, every time. If the expiration date has passed, don’t use it! The condom is no longer safe for protecting you from STDs or pregnancy.
- Opening: To open a condom package, gently tear the top open with your fingers. Don’t use scissors or any other sharp edge—that could puncture the condom.
- Technique: Pinch the tip of the condom before you put it on—this allows space for semen. Then, roll the condom down the penis.
What do condoms protect you from?
Condoms are a cheap and easy birth control that protects you from pregnancy and STDs. Condoms prevent body fluids from mixing. Semen and vaginal fluid are considered bodily fluids. Semen is a fluid that comes out of a penis after orgasm. Vaginal fluid is from the vagina to prepare for sex. Condoms are not 100% effective; there is the possibility of the condom breaking from using it wrong. Condoms also don’t protect against STDs (like herpes and HIV) that are spread from skin to skin contact.
Learn more about condoms:
January is Cervical Cancer Awareness month … but did you know there are other cancers that affect women’s reproductive organs, too?
Breaking It Down
So what are “reproductive organs,” anyway? Women’s reproductive organs include the cervix, ovaries, uterus, vagina and vulva. Cancers that start in these places are called gynecologic cancers. (Woah… did you even know you could get cancer there?)
How Do I Know if I Have Cancer?
Every cancer is unique with its own signs, symptoms, and risks. All women are at risk for gynecologic cancers and the risk only increases with age. Of all these cancers, the only one that is routinely screened for is cervical cancer with a pap smear starting at age 21. Yearly exams with a gynecologist or trained health care provider are important to screen for any early signs of cancer and many other health problems. Remember to get your pap starting at 21 and come in yearly for an annual exam regardless of age.
How to Prevent Cancer
It’s hard to actually prevent anything … but you can always make smart decisions to try to avoid cancer. Most gynecologic cancers are caused by the Human Papilloma virus (HPV), so the best thing you can do is avoid getting HPV. But how?
Using condoms for safe sex are a great start, because they’ll help protect you from HPV and other STDs. Or, if you’re under 21, you can get the HPV vaccine! The HPV vaccine is just 3 shots over six months. Although there’s no 100% guarantee that you’ll avoid cancer, the HPV vaccine can greatly reduce your risk.
Want to know more about gynecologic health and cancers? Check it out: