The Truth about Birth Control Series: Part 1: The Awful Truth about Condoms

The oldest condom ever found was in an old English castle ruin, it’s believed that soldiers were issued condoms by King Charles I because his army was getting sick and dying due to deadly venereal diseases of the time like gonorrhea and syphilis.

Before the invention of rubber, condoms were made from a variety of substances, the most common being sheep or pig intestines, and goat bladders. Written and visual references to condoms appear as far back as ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. It’s said that knowledge of condoms was lost for a time after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century.

The emergence of syphilis in 1494 in Europe signaled dark times, sweeping rapidly through Europe to Asia in just 11 years, known as the “Great Pox” it decimating large portions of the population as it went causing death within just a few short months.

It didn’t take long for physicians to figure out that it was a sexually transmitted infection and in 1564 the man who our fallopian tubes are named after, published a book in which he recommended the use of linen sheaths soaked in a chemical solution and tied with a ribbon to prevent disease transmission. Condoms had been rediscovered!

It wasn’t long before the Church caught onto the condom’s ability to prevent pregnancy and declared them immoral in 1605, which didn’t stop them from being produced, sold and used. Two hundred years later, the first documented use of condoms occurred in America where they continued to gain in popularity in spite of unfavorable government laws and religious objections.

Rubbers Revolutionized

In 1855 the first condom made from rubber was manufactured and the condom industry was transformed. Each rubber was custom-made for the gentleman and only covered the head of his penis. Not surprisingly, they often fell off during use and it wasn’t until condom manufacturers made a one size fits all, full length condom that the problem was solved. Latex condoms were invented soon after.

So, what’s the awful truth about condoms? Like them or not, we need them! They save lives. Condom use became essential when sexually transmitted diseases flared up with life threatening consequences, like in the 1500’s when syphilis destroyed lives and later in the 1980’s when we became aware of the AIDs epidemic. Condoms are perhaps the single most important tool available to both men and women to avoid pregnancy and disease.

Other types of condoms that are not made from latex include:
  • lambskin – feel more natural than latex and polyurethane.
  • polyurethane – thinner and stronger, tend to have a less constricting fit. Transfers heat more efficiently which may help to increase pleasure.
  • polyisoprene.- said to have a soft natural feel that conforms to the skin (Brand: LifeStyles SKYN and Durex Avanti Bare)
  • Female condom – may be inserted in advance, made from nitrile (synthetic rubber). Use with water based lubricant. Can be noisy. Many guys say they like them once the new-ness factor wears off.


Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the 21st Century

sti_rates_newLots has changed since the syphilis epidemic in the 1500’s however, the sexually transmitted diseases and viruses are no less problematic than they were centuries ago.

Every year there are almost 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases are diagnosed putting men and women at risk for infertility, disfigurement, cancer and death.

It’s important to be aware that sexually transmitted viruses are common, unpleasant, can be deadly and are for life.

Things to Know about Male Condoms

  • Having dry sex while using a condom increases the risk of breakage and creates an unpleasant experience, adding lubricant improves the situation.
  • Type of lubrication matters, oil based lubes can damage latex and can make condoms ineffective. Note: Vaginal use of certain medications such as miconazole or econazole can damage latex.
  • Condoms must be put on correctly and removed promptly after use to be effective.
  • Condoms that have uneven color, feel brittle, dried out or very sticky are not safe to use. Discard and use a new one. Male condoms are sensitive to heat, light and moisture.
  • Different brands fit differently and have different thicknesses. Experiment to see which brand you and your partner like best.
  • Using two or more condoms at once or combining male and female condoms can increase the risk of them breaking due to friction.
  • Lamb skin condoms do not provide protection from sexually transmitted viruses.
  • Condoms are not 100% protection from sexually transmitted diseases, but they do provide a high degree of protection. It’s the best option we have.


Female Condoms

Female-CondomFemale condoms offer many of the same advantages against sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy prevention as male condoms, but they also offer several unique features which may be worth considering.

One major advantage is that they offer better protection from STDs because they cover more outer surface area than male condoms.

For those who are sensitive to latex, female condoms are an excellent alternative; they are made from soft supple plastic. It’s good to know that when used correctly, female condoms are just as effective as male condoms.


Things to know about female condoms:

  • They can be inserted up to 8 hours in advance.
  • If the condom makes noise just add some extra lubricant.
  • You may use any type of lubricant including oil based as the integrity of the plastic of the female condom is unaffected.
  • Add extra lubricant to the penis to reduce friction if he experiences irritation.
  • They offer greater protection from skin on skin sexually transmitted viruses than male condoms.
  • Protect against all sexually transmitted infections including HIV.

Some women like the female condom over the male condom because the soft moist material feels more natural than latex male condoms and the outer ring provides some additional clitoral stimulation. The female condom can also be placed up to 8 hours beforehand so that it doesn’t interrupt lovemaking.

Men say they like the female condom because it’s not tight and constricting like male condoms, plus it doesn’t affect his sensitivity. Female condoms also don’t have to be removed immediately after ejaculation. Men also appreciate not having to interrupt lovemaking to put a male condom on the erect penis.


The Biggest Reasons Why Condoms Fail

Woman with results to pregnancy testOne of the biggest reasons they fail is because they were not used or were not used the whole time. Condoms can fail for other reasons, like breakage, improper use and incorrect removal after use.

To reduce the risk of breakage, be sure to put the condom on correctly. Male condoms are more likely to tear while female condoms are more likely to slip. Manufacturing defects are pretty rare.


Talking to Your Partner about Using Condoms

Depositphotos_3302745_XLIn order for condoms to be an effective method of contraception and disease prevention both partners must agree to consistent use, because without consistency, condoms can’t prevent sexually transmitted disease.

For best results in a new relationship, have these conversations with your partner prior to engaging in sexual activity. How can you get your partner to agree to using condoms every time?

  • Taking a personal stand for yourself and protecting your health is the most powerful. Women who consistently use condoms are:
  • At reduced risk for cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer
  • Less likely to become infertile due to silent STD infection
  • At reduced risk of STDs which can put a future baby at risk, such as herpes or HIV
  • If male condoms aren’t an option or are objectionable, female condoms are an excellent alternative and resolve many of the complaints while providing STD protection. (Or work with me for a more natural solution)
  • Get tested for sexually transmitted diseases and do the blood tests to check for sexually transmitted viruses like Hepatitis, HIV, and Herpes 1 and 2.
  • The very common, sexually transmitted virus HPV puts women at risk for cervical cancer and men at risk for oral, throat and penile cancers. At this time it is not possible to test men for this virus and women under 30 are only tested if the Pap smear is abnormal or if they ask.

What about when you don’t want to use condoms anymore? If you’ve gotten a clean bill of health from the doctor and you don’t want children, you might be wondering what your options are. Many long-term couples start using less reliable methods like timing cycles on a calendar or withdrawal which often leaves one or both partners fearful of unintended consequences. Are you struggling to find a solution? I can help!


Talking with your Teen about Using Condoms

Mother and daughterIs your daughter dating an older boy? Did you know that for each year older he is there’s an 11% chance your daughter won’t use condoms with him (3 years = 33% risk). The more sexually experienced he is, the more likely they will have sex. How do you protect your daughter?

Some of the most powerful messages you can give your daughter are:

  • She is in control of her body and she doesn’t have to do anything she doesn’t want to and she can say no at any time.
  • That you are there for her, that even if you’re upset, angry or disappointed with her, that you would move past all those emotions to help her, because she is what is most important to you.
  • You want her to make thoughtful, empowered decisions by helping her to logically think out hypothetical scenarios without being attached to the outcome. Possible scenarios might include:
  • What if he pressured you not to use a condom, what would you say?
  • What if you had sex with a boy and he told everyone at school the next day. What if people were being mean? How would you feel? What would you do and say?
  • What if you caught an STD like herpes and you had to tell a new partner, how would you bring it up?
  • What if you got pregnant, what would you do? What if you and your boyfriend broke up? What if he did/n’t want the baby? What if he was angry? How would you feel?

These conversations can be quite enlightening for you both and help her identify why using a condom is important to her. Practice role-playing so she can gain experience sharing why she wants her partner to use a condom. Why it’s non-negotiable. You’ll help her gain important skills that will keep her safe in the years to come.


Ever notice how doctors seem to push hormonal birth control?

Join me next time as we explore The Truth about Hormonal Birth Control, hormones are often pushed on young women. Is it safe? What options are out there? Is hormonal contraception a smart choice? We’ll look at all this and more.

In the meantime, if you are confused about what birth control method is best for you, or are sick of condoms or worried about relying on withdrawal, I would love to chat and learn more about what’s going on for you and see how I can help.


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