Sep. 19, 2007 The following article considers condoms that don't fit well, a brief and effective treatment for sexual problems that occur after treatment for gynecological cancers, and how to set health and fitness goals that really work.
Health professionals are regularly confronted by men's complaints that condoms do not fit, or that they are uncomfortable. Correct condom use is critical for preventing unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmissible infections (STI), yet an Indiana University study found that study participants who reported problems with the fit and feel of condoms were also among those who reported the highest rates of condoms breaking and slipping.
"Most recent research has focused on how people use condoms with little attention to the physical characteristics of condoms themselves," said Michael Reece, director of the Sexual Health Research Working Group and an associate professor in Indiana University Bloomington's Department of Applied Health Science. "Our recent research, however, indicates that sizes and shapes of the penis vary widely, but the range of condom sizes is rather limited; so it could very well be the case that there are aspects of the traditional condom that some men find too tight or too loose, influencing their ability or desire to use them during sexual encounters."
Discussing penis size or condom issues with a healthcare practitioner can be challenging, so Reece and his colleagues have developed a questionnaire that can help physicians and those working in sexual health programs such as HIV clinics engage men in these conversations. They might be able to direct the men to condoms that better meet their specific needs.
"Our 'Condom Fit and Feel Scale' offers a way for men to express in a confidential way to health care providers the exact concerns that they have with condoms related to length, width and tightness or looseness," said Debby Herbenick, associate director of SHRWG and research associate in the Department of Applied Health Science.
Reece, Herbenick and Brian Dodge, associate director of SHRWG and research associate in the Department of Applied Health Science, describe the scale in a recently published article in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.Background
Condoms remain one of the most effective means of preventing both unintended pregnancies and sexually transmissible infections (STI) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV. Ensuring that men and women use condoms consistently and correctly, however, is often a challenge.
One size doesn't fit all
In this study, a substantial number of men reported a variety of problems with the fit and feel of condoms. Specifically, 21 percent reported that condoms felt too tight; 18 percent reported that condoms felt too short; 10 percent reported that condoms felt too loose; and 7 percent reported that condoms felt too long.
From study to practice: Translating research into practice is a core mission of SHRWG. Reece said he and his colleagues would be glad to send the scale to healthcare practitioners -- particularly those working in HIV, STI and pregnancy prevention programs -- and to help them incorporate it into their practice. They also can direct agencies to resources that can help people find condoms in different sizes and shapes. Reece said their Condom Fit and Feel Scale also could be helpful to condom manufacturers, who continue to work to develop and market more comfortable condoms, which ultimately results in their more effective use.
SHRWG is part of the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.
"Experiences of condom fit and feel among African-American men who have sex with men," Sexually Transmitted Infections, 2007.
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