Male latex condom was introduced 150 years ago. There have been modifications to it, including addition of spermicidal lubricants; changes to its shape, size, thickness and texture, yet the underlying material has remained the same. Male latex condoms are widely used to prevent not only pregnancy, but also to protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
Despite latex condoms’ popularity, there are some consumers who finds its use unacceptable. In addition to complaints about comfort, sensation, and smell latex allergy affect an estimated 1% to 6% of the U.S. population. Latex allergic reaction is cumulative and risk increases over time after prolonged exposure. For this reason, latex sensitivity among health care personnel is estimated to be between 10% to 17% due to their increased exposure.
Natural latex is derived from trees. And condoms made from natural latex are often contaminated with other proteins from the tree. With most people, it is these proteins that cause allergic reaction, not the latex itself. Manufacturers have been developing synthetic alternative to latex condoms for several years now and there are currently three alternatives.
Polyisoprene is a synthetic form of latex created in lab. Since it is created in lab, it doesn’t contain any of the contaminants that can cause an allergic reaction. It has all the same characteristics of natural latex condoms. Polyisoprene condoms are very soft, natural in color, flexible and comfortable to wear.
Polyurethane condoms are thinner than latex or polyisoprene condoms. It is able to transmit body heat better, is odorless, clear and compatible with oil or water based lubricants. But compared to polyisoprene condoms, it doesn’t stretch as well and does not conform well to body.
This is the original and oldest condom material. It is made from lamb intestines and compatible with water based lubricants.
But it’s major disadvantage is that, the pores in the natural material are big enough to let STD viruses and bacteria through. It should only be used to prevent pregnancy.