Planned Parenthood

What is a condom?

Condoms are thin, stretchy pouches that you wear on your penis during sex. Condoms provide great protection from both pregnancy and STDs. They’re easy to use and easy to get.

What's a condom and how does it work?

Condoms are small, thin pouches made of latex (rubber), plastic (polyurethane, nitrile, or polyisoprene) or lambskin, that cover your penis during sex and collect semen (cum). Condoms stop sperm from getting into the vagina, so sperm can't meet up with an egg and cause pregnancy.

Condoms also prevent STDs by covering the penis. This prevents contact with semen and vaginal fluids, and limits skin-to-skin contact that can spread sexually transmitted infections.

Lambskin condoms do not protect against STDs. Only latex and plastic condoms do.

Do condoms help protect against STDs?

Yes! Using condoms every time you have oral, anal, or vaginal sex is the best way to lower your chances of getting or spreading sexually transmitted infections. Condoms protect you and your partners from STDs by preventing contact with bodily fluids (like semen and vaginal fluids) that can carry infections. And because condoms cover your penis, they help protect against certain STDs like herpes and genital warts that are spread through skin-to-skin touching (but they don't work as well to prevent these skin-to-skin types of STDs, because condoms don't cover all of the skin near your genitals).

Condoms aren't just for penises — you can use condoms for safer oral sex on a vulva, too. Just cut the condom up the side, open it up, and lay it over the vulva. There are also female condoms (sometimes called internal condoms) that you wear inside your vagina or anus to help prevent pregnancy and STDs. Condoms are helpful for everyone!

Condoms are the only type of birth control out there that also help protect against STDs. So even if you're using another form of birth control (like the pill), it's a good idea to also use condoms to help prevent sexually transmitted infections.

Keep in mind that condoms made of lambskin or other animal membranes DO NOT protect against STDs — they only prevent pregnancy. Only synthetic condoms (latex or plastic) prevent the spread of STDs.

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What is a condom?