Dear Dr G,

My name is Sam and I am 22 years old, and about to embark on a sexual relationship with my girlfriend.

I understand the importance of safe sex and intend to use condoms as a form of protection.

I have been to the pharmacist quite a few times and have been rather perplexed with the range of condoms that is available in the market.

I understand there are variations in the thickness, sizes and textures of condoms. I recently discovered there are even flavours, ribs and studs to enhance pleasure.

I enquired at the counter about the options, and I was rather embarrassed by questions such as sizes and degree of pleasure I desire for myself.

Needless to say, when confronted by a young trainee pharmacist on these personal issues, I left the chemist red faced with no condoms.

Actually, how necessary and how safe are condoms?

My needs are simple. I only want to have maximum protection with minimal risk with the rubbers. Is that too much to ask?

Thanks for your help,

A condom is a sheath-shaped barrier device used during sexual intercourse to reduce the probability of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

The use of condoms is popular as a form of contraception. The typical use of condoms among couples is 18% per year, and women whose partners use condoms properly will experience a 2% per year pregnancy rate.

The uses of condoms have also been proven to give protection against sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis B and HIV.

Although the protection against HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) and syphilis may not be as good, the overall protection against the pathogens are well studied.

Condoms have been documented even in the 15th century. In China, the use of glans condoms (only covering the head of penis) that is made of silk oiled paper or lamb intestine in quite popular, while the Japanese utilised tortoise shell or animal horn for the same purpose.

Rubber condoms were only made available in 1855 and latex contraception was introduced in the 1920s. In the 21st century, the global use of condoms as birth control is estimated at 10%, which equates to six to nine billion a year.

The uses are more prevalent in developed nations and condoms are now on the list of essential medicine of the World Health Organization (WHO) as the most effective and safe medicine needed in the health system.

The latex is material of choice when it comes to condoms due to its extraordinary tensile strength. The condoms can withstand eight folds of stretching before breaking. Therefore, it is not that easily breakable, no matter how big you think your manhood is.

In addition, each condom is tested for water leaks, airburst and holes before packaged. Although excellent for elasticity, latex condoms are damaged when used concurrently with oil-based lubrication. Contacts with oil and lotions make the condoms breakable and easily slip off.

The thickness of the condoms has been used to enhance protection. In addition, some latex condoms are lubricated by manufacturers with a small amount of spermicidal chemical for additional protection against pregnancy.

However, such application has a shorter shelf life and may cause urinary tract infections in women. On the other hand, the textured material including studded and ribbed condoms have also been shown to heighten sensation of both partners during intercourse.

The studs and ribs can be located both inside and outside the condoms. Other manufacturers also position the studs at specific locations to direct stimulation to G Spot and frenulum.

According to recent studies, many women actually found the textured condoms irritants instead of pleasurable.

Of course, what is sex without fun? The emergence of fun condoms such as glow-in-dark condoms are also available for additional dimension of sex, in addition to the protection and pleasure.

The non-toxic condoms need to be exposed to ordinary light for 30 seconds before giving “rise” to surprises in the dark.

Condom manufacturers also “rolled” out the tantalising-flavoured condoms to add extra spices in the bedroom. Many flavoured condoms are coloured and matched to the tastes, including banana (naturally), chocolate, mint, vanilla and even cola!

Just a word of caution for the extra adventures in between the sheets – the sugar in the flavour may be tasty for the mouth, but is shown to lead to yeast infections in the vagina!

Dr G is rather amused when put on the spot this week to discuss his views on the use of condoms to maximise pleasure without compromising protection.

This reminds him of his youth when he was also lurking around the chemists with embarrassment, while purchasing the merchandise.

While exploring what is available for condom users, Dr G is pleased to discover all the new introductions in the market. This can only mean Dr G is “forced” to try them out in days to come! (for research purposes, of course!)

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