How Effective are Condoms?

Condoms are a method of birth control. They are easily available to the public without the need of any prescription. This makes them a popular form of contraception. While there are condoms available in the market for both males and females, the male condoms are easier to use and are preferred. Condoms do not affect the fertility of the person but prevent conception.

No method of contraception is a hundred percent fool proof for sexually active partners. However, for reasons of their own, some people may not want to become pregnant but do not choose to restrict their sexual activity. The method of contraception that a person chooses will be based on multiple factors such as their health, gender, age, frequency of sexual encounters, family medical history.

Condoms offer more than birth control

The condom is a good fit for most people as long as the male is willing to take on the responsibility of handling contraception. It also offers the partners additional protection from sexually transmitted infections if they are not in a steady or monogamous relationship or have (currently or in the past) had sexual intercourse with multiple partners.

STIs or sexually transmitted infections are usually transferred with the exchange of bodily fluids. Common STIs include Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV, viral hepatitis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, Zika and Ebola. By using the barrier method during sex, partners may be able to greatly reduce the chance of picking up these STIs.

Effectiveness of condoms

An unintended pregnancy can be bothersome at any age. It can cause lives to be totally changed and not always in a good way.  Using an effective means of contraception is a good way to reduce the possibility of such an occurrence. If an individual begins to consider having intercourse with another partner, contraception should be prioritized.

The simplest way to prevent conception is to create a barrier between the semen expelled during ejaculation and the vagina. If the sperm can’t get to the egg, there will be no fertilization and ergo no pregnancy. This is exactly how condoms work. Both male and female condoms act as a receptacle for the semen and need to be disposed of after a single use.

When used properly, or under ideal conditions, female condoms are 79% effective. That is to say that if 100 women use female condoms as a contraception method for a year 21% of them will get pregnant. With male condoms the effectiveness is 86%. That means 14 pregnancies may occur despite the use of the condom as a contraceptive.

Tips for ensuring that condoms prevent pregnancy

Condoms may not be perfect but they are a good way to create a layer of protection for yourself. Teenagers who are reluctant to visit a doctor to get prescription for other contraception methods should consider using condoms every time they enter a sexual relationship. A number of STIs can be avoided as well as unwanted pregnancies if condoms are used properly and regularly.

Ensure that the condom is used properly. Half the time a condom fails to provide protection because the user has not put it on correctly. Pinch the bulbous end of the male condom to remove any excess air before rolling it on. For the female condom ensure that the inner ring reaches the cervix.

Always check the expiry date before using a condom. Condoms made of latex tend to dry up as they age. This means that they could rip during use. This is obviously counterproductive to the purpose of using them as a contraceptive method.

Store your condoms in a cool and dry place. Heat and light can cause them to dry up and crack while stored.

Don’t use your teeth to rip open the package. This could result in accidentally ripping the condom. Use your hands to remove the condom carefully from the package.

If the condom is worn inside out, remove it and throw it away. By reversing the same condom you stand the risk of letting some sperm enter the vagina. Also, a condom worn inside out is more likely to slip out of the vagina during sexual intercourse.

If using lubricants with the condom, ensure that they are water-based. Oil-based lubricants can cause the condom material to break down causing microtears. This can result in the rupture of the condom during use.

Once ejaculation has occurred, hold the base of the condom as the penis is withdrawn from the vagina. This ensures that the condom does not slip off when you remove the penis and does not spill any semen into the vagina.

Should a condom break or rupture during sex, consult a health care professional to obtain alternative emergency contraception. The same holds true if the condom slips.

Reviewed by Liji Thomas, MD.

References

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/condomeffectiveness/
  2. http://www.pamf.org/teen/sex/birthcontrol/condom.html
  3. http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/effective-condoms.html
  4. https://sexetc.org/info-center/post/do-condoms-work-whats-the-best-brand-and-which-type-of-condom-is-most-effective/

Further Reading

Last Updated: Apr 19, 2017

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