"And then, the Condom Broke…”

"And then, the Condom Broke…”

This article is part II of a series on “Contraceptives” by POKA app.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever used a condom… Okay, keep it up if you’ve ever had a condom ‘break’. What about a ‘stuck’ condom? Or a pregnancy despite using a condom? Sigh.

Let’s talk about it!

Condoms, sometimes called "rubbers", are one of the most widely used, easily accessible forms of contraceptives. Often made of latex, and at times of polyurethane, they are thin sheaths worn over the penis to create a physical barrier between partners during sexual intercourse. They are one of the few contraceptives that have the dual function of preventing unintended pregnancies while also providing protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

When used correctly and consistently, condoms are very effective, with an estimated efficacy of 98% for perfect use1. However, because we do not live in utopia, it is unlikely that we will all achieve perfect use. Condoms break, and may sometimes come off; hence typical use often has a 15% failure rate2.

Condoms have evolved over many centuries, from what they were made of, and even from what the focus of wearing them was.

The Condom Timeline 

The primary focus of early condom use was disease prevention. Ancient Egyptians were known to have used linen sheaths, to prevent contact with body fluids during sexual intercourse. Some Ancient Chinese were also known to have used oiled silk paper for a similar a purpose 3.

Later in the 16th century, an Italian anatomist, Gabriele Falloppio, talked about using linen sheaths soaked in some chemicals, to prevent syphilis. At the time, condoms were not common or widely used, and were not even considered for contraceptive purposes3

Some centuries later, condoms in the form of sheep or lamb intestines became quite common3, especially among the wealthy and elite.

By the mid 19th century, rubber condoms were invented! In 1839, Charles Goodyear discovered how to vulcanize rubber, and that’s when the mass production of more affordable and accessible condoms began3. Years later, rubber was swapped out for latex, because it was more elastic and less likely to break.

The focus of the condom being only for prevention of STIs started to shift in the 1900’s with cultural shifts in sexuality. It was known that condoms could also prevent pregnancy, hence, condom advertisement started focusing more on contraception than disease prevention. Today, manufacturers have advanced condoms into a much more exciting option, with lubricants for comfort, flavoured and textured options, aimed at making condom use more appealing to both partners 4.

Condoms have many advantages, the most important of which is the  dual protection it offers, working both as a contraceptive and to prevent STIs. Other advantages are that it is relatively cheap, easy to use, doesn’t require any expert interventions, and is readily available all over the world!

There are a few drawbacks, however that we do need to pay attention to. First is that proper use is essential for it to be effective. Next is that many abandon its use because they find that it reduces their sexual pleasure. Luckily for us, in this modern day, this can easily be fixed by experimenting with different brands and types of condoms – thin or extra-thin, or some with chemicals for extra sensitivity.  there is also the fact that some people are allergic to latex. This is no longer much of a problem as there are many other options, e.g.,  polyurethane or polyisoprene1,4.

Condoms are a very important form of contraception that play a crucial role in public health, especially in preventing the transmission of STIs. Many international organizations distribute condoms as part of public health campaigns to promote safe sex practices. 

**In Ghana, most sexual and reproductive health centers such as Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG), distribute free condoms. 




  1. WHO. Condoms. WHO Fact Sheets. Published July 20, 2023. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/condoms
  • Majra JP. Correct and consistent use of condoms. Indian J Sex Transm Dis AIDS. 2009;30(1):53. doi:10.4103/2589-0557.55487
  • Khan F, Mukhtar S, Dickinson IK, Sriprasad S. The story of the condom. Indian J Urol. 2013;29(1):12. doi:10.4103/0970-1591.109976
  • Planned Parenthood. Condom. 2023. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/condom/what-are-the-benefits-of-condoms


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