Throughout the ages people have tried to find ways of preventing conception and disease. Methods such as withdrawal, the rhythm method, douches and sponges were used, as were the predecessors of today’s condom.

In ancient times Egyptians used a linen sheath, the Chinese wrapped oiled silk paper around the penis and the Japanese had leather and tortoiseshell sheaths. The Romans used tampons that had been dipped in herbs and condoms made of a goat’s bladder.

The history of condoms in Europe begins in the Middle Ages when syphilis reached epidemic proportions. In 1964, Italian doctor Gabriele Falloppio (for whom, coincidentally, the female fallopian tube was named) wrote that a linen bag drenched in a solution of salt or herbs formed a protection against disease.  In the eighteenth century linen and silk condoms were used, as well as sheaths made of lambs’ and goats’ gut.

The word condom is probably derived from the Latin “condus” meaning receptacle. Another explanation is that the gut condom was invented by the English army doctor Colonel Quondam in around 1645 and the word is a corruption of his name.

In 1839 Charles Goodyear discovered a way of processing natural rubber, which is too stiff when cold and too soft when warm, in such a way to make it elastic.  This had advantages for making condoms; unlike the sheep’s gut condoms, they could stretch and did not tear so quickly. Those early condoms had a seam and were as thick as an inner tube, so they could not have been comfortable.  Men were advised that these rubber condoms could be washed and reused until they crumbled.

In 1912 the introduction of latex made condoms cheap and disposable. Thus, the single-use condom was born. By Wold War II, latex condoms were mass produced and given to troops all over the world.

Although condoms played a vital role in the 1960’s and 70’s in protection from sexually transmitted diseases, like syphilis and gonorrhoea, the main use of the condom remained for contraception purposes. However, the use of condoms got a severe jolt with the popularity of the oral contraceptive pill as more and more women were using it.

The condom was once a source of embarrassment and absolutely forbidden from being advertised in print or television, however the emergence of HIV as a sexually transmitted disease took the condom into the mainstream in the 1980’s.

The global condom industry has been forecast to his a market value of US $5.4 billion by 2018.