Condoms, Foam & Vaginal Inserts

The condom is made from thin rubber (latex), polyurethane, or animal tissue. The condom covers the penis and stops sperm from entering the vagina. Condoms are available with or without spermicide and lubricants. Foam and vaginal inserts are placed into the vagina before intercourse and stop or kill sperm.

How Condoms, Foam and Vaginal Inserts Work

Condoms prevent sperm from entering the vagina so fertilization cannot occur. Some condoms have spermicide which also kills the sperm. Foam and vaginal inserts have a chemical in them that stops the movement of most sperm. These methods kill most sperm and are intended to block any remaining sperm from swimming into the uterus.


Condoms alone:
88-92% effective in preventing pregnancy

Foam Alone

  • 72-97% effective in preventing pregnancy
  • Condoms used with Foam or Vaginal Insert:
  • 98-99% effective in preventing pregnancy.
  • Provides some protection against sexually transmitted infections

How to Use a Condom

  1. Put a couple of drops of water-based lubricant (like K-Y® jelly) in the tip of a condom.
  2. A condom is put on the erect penis before it goes in or near the vagina. Some space must be left at the tip to catch the sperm.
  3. Place rolled condom on top of a hard penis, leaving about a half-inch space at the tip.
  4. Pull back foreskin and roll condom down over the penis -- be sure to smooth out any air bubbles.
  5. The condom must be held against the penis when withdrawing from the vagina. A new condom is needed for each act of intercourse.
  6. How Foam and Vaginal Inserts Are Used
  7. There are many varieties of this method: foam, which looks like shaving cream and is inserted with an applicator; and suppositories and vaginal films, which are placed in the vagina a few minutes before intercourse.


It is not necessary to have an exam before starting to use condoms, foam or vaginal inserts. However, it is recommended that all women who are sexually active or over the age of 18 receive complete gynecological exams every year.

Who Can Use Condoms, Foam or Vaginal Inserts

Just about anyone can use a condom, including people who:
  • Want a form of birth control that offers some protection against sexually transmitted infections and/or diseases
  • Want inexpensive birth control
  • Do not want to take a pill daily
  • Do not want to use a hormonal method of birth control
  • Do not want a change in menstruation Benefits of Using Condoms, Foam or Vaginal Inserts
  • Latex and polyurethane condoms provide some protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Available at many stores and anyone of any age may buy condoms, foam or vaginal inserts
  • Inexpensive and a prescription is not needed
  • Only need to be used during sexual intercourse
  • No change in menstruation  there are many varieties
  • Almost no side effects

Possible Problems

  • Must be used every time you have sexual intercourse (a new condom must be used every time you have sexual intercourse)
  • Must be comfortable inserting foam, sponge, suppository or vaginal film into your vagina
  • Some men feel certain kinds of condoms dull sensation
  • It takes some practice to use a condom correctly and easily every time
  • May have allergies to spermicide
  • Some lubricants make latex condoms ineffective (do not use oil-based products, like Vaseline®).
Where You Can Get Condoms, Foam or Vaginal Inserts
You can go to a drugstore, visit your health care provider, go to a family planning agency or to a Planned Parenthood Clinic.

Planning A Pregnancy
Once use of condoms, foam or vaginal inserts is discontinued, you have the same chance of getting pregnant as before.

Warning Signs

A man should withdraw immediately if it feels like a condom is breaking or not in place.