How effective are condoms?
While condoms are an important part of anyone’s sex life, you may still wonder how effective they are and how exactly they work. Today, we break down everything you need to know about condoms.
What is a condom?
Condoms are a form of contraception that helps reduce the risk of pregnancy and protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). There are two main types of condoms: regular condoms (commonly referred to as male condoms) and internal condoms (also known as female condoms). Regular condoms are the most common type and are rolled over the penis to prevent ejaculate from entering your partner. Internal condoms are inserted into the vagina and prevent ejaculate from entering. Both condoms are effective methods to prevent pregnancy and they also lower the risk of STIs.
Condoms are typically made of latex, but there are also non-latex options for people with latex allergies. Most people with latex allergies get hives, itching, or a tight chest within minutes of touching a latex product. If this sounds like you, see your primary care physician and only use latex-free condoms.
How do condoms work?
Condoms work by preventing ejaculate from entering the uterus. This helps prevent pregnancy by reducing the chances that sperm cells enter the body and reach a mature egg in the uterus. This can also help prevent STIs by decreasing the transmission of direct genital contact and direct bodily fluid contact.
While condoms reduce the chances of pregnancy and STIs, they are not 100% effective in doing so. When used correctly, regular condoms are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy. They can break, expire, or slip off and result in pregnancy. Some things that might cause a condom to break include too much friction, not enough lubrication, and if it’s expired. This is why it’s important to check the condom for holes after sex and check the expiration date before. Additionally, condoms help reduce the risk of STI transmission but don’t eliminate it completely. STIs can be spread through oral, anal, and vaginal sex and condom error is always a possibility. Condoms help reduce the risk of STIs by decreasing the amount of skin to skin contact during vaginal and anal sex, but not for oral sex.
How often do condoms break?
Condoms can break (i.e. rip and allow fluids to be transmitted) before or during sex and you might not even realize. A condom might break because it is expired or because it was put on incorrectly. To prevent this, be sure to check the expiration date on the package and read the instructions for proper usage. Condoms should be removed from the package, placed on the head of an erect penis, and unrolled all the way down the penis. Additionally, latex condoms often break when using oil-based lubes like lotion. Always stick to water-based lubricants when using condoms.
If you’re unsure if your condom broke during sex, you can fill the used condom up with water afterward to check if there are any holes. If you realize that the condom did break, there are plenty of emergency contraceptives that can be bought over the counter at stores like CVS. Most brands recommend taking emergency contraception within 72 hours after unprotected sex for it to work best and prevent pregnancy.
Most reliable condoms
Condoms sold at a drugstore are FDA approved and should be reliable, as the FDA has many standards to ensure they are safe. This said, every brand is different, so be sure to read the instructions on your condom for proper usage and check the expiration date every time. Most condoms are made with latex but if you have a latex allergy, there are plenty of latex-free options.
Birth control and condoms
While many forms of hormonal birth control are over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy, hormonal birth control offers no protection against STDs and STIs. This means that even if you are taking birth control, using condoms is still important for your sexual health. Additionally, there is always a chance of human error with hormonal birth control, whether that means you forgot to take your birth control one day or haven’t gotten your IUD checked in a while, so better safe than sorry.