How you prepare

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Male condoms are available without a prescription. They're sold in many stores and from vending machines in some restrooms. Condoms may be less expensive or may be free at family planning clinics such as Planned Parenthood. School nurses and university health centers often have condoms available for free.

Finding a type of condom that works well for you can take a little trial and error. Fit is important. If it's too tight, a condom is more likely to break. If it's too loose, it may slip off. Some men find that condoms decrease sensation or are uncomfortable to wear. You may prefer a certain type of condom because it's more comfortable for you or provides greater sensation during sex.

Some condoms are lubricated with nonoxynol-9, a substance that kills sperm (spermicide) and is meant to help prevent pregnancy. However, condoms without spermicide are a better option for several reasons:

  • Spermicidal condoms don't appear to be any more effective than other lubricated condoms at preventing pregnancy.
  • Nonoxynol-9 may irritate or damage skin cells in the vagina or rectum. This could potentially increase the risk of getting an STI.
  • Spermicide doesn't help protect you or your partner against HIV/AIDS or other STIs.
  • Spermicidal condoms cost more than other types of condoms and have a shorter shelf life.

Condom safety tips

Male condoms don't last forever, and they have to be used properly to protect against pregnancy and STIs. Follow these tips for safe and effective condom use:

  • Store condoms in a cool, dry place. Exposure to air, heat and light increases the chance that a condom will break. Don't keep condoms in a billfold or back pocket for more than a month. Don't store condoms in your glove compartment for an extended period of time. Friction and heat can cause condoms to break down and become less reliable.
  • Check the expiration date. Don't use a condom past its expiration date.
  • Check condoms for damage. Look for brittleness, small tears or pinprick holes before using one.
  • Be sure to use only water-based lubricants. Examples include Astroglide and K-Y jelly. If you use latex condoms, don't use oil-based lubricants such as petroleum jelly, baby oil, mineral oil, olive oil and other cooking oils, whipped cream, cold cream, sunscreens, moisturizers, or lotions. They can weaken a latex condom and may cause it to break.
  • Never reuse a condom. This increases the risk of pregnancy and passing on STIs.
  • Use only a latex or polyurethane condom to prevent STIs. Lambskin condoms don't protect against STIs as well as latex or polyurethane condoms do. Read the label on the package to see what the condom is made of and whether it's labeled for STI prevention.
  • Use a condom during any sexual activity. This will help protect you from STIs whether you have vaginal, oral or anal sexual contact.
Apr. 15, 2014