One of the oldest and most used forms of birth control is the condom. Condoms are known as prophylactics, rubbers, sheaths, or French letters. They work well to prevent pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). This protection, however, is not perfect and is less effective than birth control pills, IUDs, or progesterone implants at preventing pregnancy. Condoms fail most often because they are not being used, rather than from actual mechanical failure. The failure rate is about 3-6% with actual use.
Most condoms are made of latex, have a blunt or reservoir tip, and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, textures and colors. They may be lubricated and have a spermicide applied. They will last for over two years in their foil wraps. Recently, plastic condoms have been approved for use. Old-fashioned condoms made of lambskin do not provide protection from sexual diseases. Never use oil-based lubricants with condoms as it weakens the latex and may cause condom failure. Check the label to make sure the lubricant is water-based.