National Condom Week – get your rubber on

The nation celebrated the use of condoms as well as other types of birth control from Feb. 14 (just in time for Valentine’s Day) until Feb. 21 during National Condom Week.

To college students, condoms seem like common sense, but other forms of birth control may not be. Next time sex comes into play, consider some of the alternative options and know the unstretched truth about condoms.

Condoms are effective because they block contact between bodily fluids that cause pregnancy, disease and infection during sex.

Condoms are an effective form of birth control. They are inexpensive, easily accessible, simply disposed of, cause minimal side effects and prolong sex-play.

They were also the earliest form of birth control. The first known illustration of a man using a condom dates back to a French cave painting of 12,000-15,000 years ago. Condoms have since been used as protection against sexually transmitted diseases and infections (STDs and STIs, respectively) since the 16th century, and to prevent pregnancy since the 18th century.

Condoms can fail to prevent pregnancy when used incorrectly, inconsistently, are broken during sex, manufactured improperly, damaged after manufacture or expired. The majority of times a condom tears is due to human error, including microscopic rips by rings, or jagged fingernails. If used properly, they will fail only two out of 100 times.

Condoms help prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) by preventing the exchange of body fluids and prevent the transmission of bacterial infections. They are an especially effective defense against HIV. While condoms do not cover all areas which may be infected by human papilloma virus (HPV) or herpes simplex virus (HSV), they vastly decrease the risk of infection.

The most common condom materials are Latex, lambskin and polyurethane. Latex condoms are widely available and inexpensive, and come in a variety of sizes, colors, textures, shapes and flavors. While some are coated with the spermicide, Nonoxynol-9, the slight amount has proven ineffective in pregnancy protection and may facilitate HIV transmission.

New polyurethane condoms are thinner, stronger, fit less constrictively and are more resistant to deterioration. They also transmit heat better for increased pleasure and are available in male and female versions.

Lambskin condoms are the oldest on the market, made from intestinal membrane of a lamb. Small pores make them less effective in protection against STIs, but the pores are too small for sperm to pass through, so they do prevent pregnancy.

David Nostrant, junior international business major, said he uses condoms because they are “easily accessible and less expensive” than other forms of contraception.

Women have a number of contraceptive options as well.

Female condoms are a reversible barrier method. A pouch with flexible rings at each end, it is inserted into the vagina like a diaphragm. It collects semen before, during and after ejaculation, and it reduces risk of STIs and, if used perfectly, only five out of 100 women will become pregnant in one year of use.

The birth control pill is a more common alternative method for women.

The Pill is a monthly series in which one pill is taken daily with active ingredients of synthetic hormones, such as progestin and estrogen, similar to those made by the ovaries. Pills usually work by preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg.

It is the most effective means of birth control as less than 1 percent of women become pregnant in the first year with perfect use, 5 percent with typical use. It works best when taken at the same time every day, and can fail when the pill cycle is messed up. They offer no protection against STIs.

“Its easy to take everyday and you don’t have to worry about getting a condom,” Kara Andersen, sophomore open options major, said. “In addition to being birth control, it has medical benefits.”

The Pill offers advantages such as more regular periods, less menstrual flow and cramping, less iron deficiency, fewer ectopic (tubal) pregnancies, less pelvic inflammatory disease, acne and premenstrual tension. It offers a significant reduction of risk for ovarian and endometrial cancers, and may protect against osteoporosis.

Spermicide is available in number of forms including foams, creams, jellies, film and suppositories, which are liquids or solids that melt after they are inserted into the vagina. The chemical spermicide prevents the sperm from joining the egg by immobilizing them.

With perfect use, only six of 100 women will become pregnant in the first year of use, 26 with typical use. Using Latex condoms in conjunction is recommended to decrease risk, as well as to protect against STIs.

Its disadvantage is that it requires being insterted at least 10 minutes before intercourse.

Periodic abstinence and fertility awareness methods (FAMs) prevent pregnancy using the woman’s fertility pattern. Predicting ovulation, when the egg is released, can help you become pregnant or avoid it.

Women do not have sex or use other protection during unsafe days, or fertile periods, which last about nine days since sperm can live 2-7 days, and an egg 1-3 days. These nine days are approximately 6-7 days before, and 2-3 days after ovulation. Fertilization is most likely to take place during the six days that end in ovulation.

Out of 100 women, 25 will become pregnant using periodic abstinence, though perfect use decreases the number.

Advantages are the lack of medical or hormonal side effects, calendars, thermometers and charts are easy to get, and most religious groups accept these methods. Unfortunately, it requires months of training and can cause illness, lack of sleep and vaginal infection.

Also for condom week, Planned Parenthood is delivering condoms to Congress and Africa, in an effort to raise awareness about AIDS prevention. The organization estimates 1.1 billion condoms are needed in sub-Sahara Africa for AIDS/HIV prevention.

“Planned Parenthood is committed to ensuring full access to truthful information about condoms and their effectiveness in preventing unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections,” Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood, said.

– Information obtained from