Condoms have been used for hundreds of years and remain one of the oldest of all birth control devices. Modern technology has increased the reliability, availability, and variety of barrier devices available to prevent pregnancy, but the humble condom remains a popular choice among sexually active couples. Today, condoms are distinguished from each other by material composition and also the types of condom chosen are based primarily on how they are used. Understanding the variety of materials used to make condoms as well as the reasons that condoms are used in the first place will help any person make smarter buying decisions.

Types of Condoms – Materials

Historically, condoms have been made from an incredibly varied number of materials. Everything from animal intestines and bladders, leather, linen, and silk paper was used in the past to make condoms. Today, nearly the entire market is dominated by latex with a small niche market remaining for those who have sensitivities to latex. For those users, there are polyurethane condoms, which work very well as a substitute for latex condoms, and all natural condoms.

Latex condoms

Latex condoms were discovered at far back at the turn of the last century, but were not produced on a wide scale until the 1930s. Innovations in manufacturing and the poor reception to rubber condoms made latex an instant success. Condom use remained steady with a brief decline in the 1960s. The AIDS scare of the 1980s and 90s again pushed condom sales upward. Latex dominates the market. The versatile latex condom can be studded, ribbed, colored, made to glow-in-the-dark, and even flavored. The strength, versatility, wide range of choices, availability and cost will keep the latex condom on top for a long time.

Polyurethane condoms

There are many people with latex allergies that make the use of those condoms impossible. For years, the only alternative was a natural condom. The 1990s have given rise to the polyurethane or "plastic" condom. The plastic condom has some advantages over latex. It is not susceptible to damage from oil based lubricants. Many users think it is more sensitive. Some prefer the less snug fit, too. It does have its problems, though. A polyurethane condom is more likely to break and may cost more than a latex condom. Still, it is a great alternative to latex and still protects against pregnancy and other sexual diseases.

Natural condoms

There are natural condoms still being made for those with religious or other issues with those made from synthetic materials. These contraceptives are called "lambskins" and are usually manufactured from real sheep intestine membranes. The primary concern with these natural condoms is they may not be as effective in stopping the spread of sexually transmitted disease due to their porosity. The pores are small enough to stop sperm, but may still allow the transmittal of viruses. Many men love the feel of lamb skin condoms and think they are the most natural feeling of all. The cost for these condoms is understandably higher than latex.

Types of Condoms – Usage

If there are not material concerns (either for health reasons or spiritual reasons) regarding condoms, the final step in choosing among the various types of condoms is how they will be used. If pregnancy is not a concern and they are only being used for the prevention of disease than the latex or plastic condom will be the best choice. Natural condoms are not as effective. If condoms are used to enhance pleasure for her, again, latex or plastic is a top choice since they can be molded with ribs, bumps, French ticklers and there are even novelty condoms. For pleasuring the male, plastic and naturals offer the best sensitivity with many claiming that naturals win easily. It is said that the natural condom allows for better feel of temperature, which increases sensation.

When condoms are used for pregnancy prevention, all three make great choices. The secret is to learn how to use and store them properly. Never store them in hot place as this may greatly decrease their shelf life. Never use latex condoms with oil based lubricants. Beware of breakage and slippage, as this is what results in the greatest number of pregnancies.

It is actually easy for couples to choose and shop for the right condom from the many hundreds of types of condoms on the market today. Top companies like Trojan manufactures all three varieties. Condoms can be purchased at any department store or pharmacy with ease. Evaluate the different strengths and weaknesses of the materials and decide if the prevention of pregnancy is a concern or if they will be used only to stop the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Experiment with several types of condoms for usage and feel before committing to a brand. These barrier devices have been used since the days of the Roman Empire and will be around for hundreds of years to come.