Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Men's Health

Font Size

Condoms: A Virtual Orgy of Sizes, Shapes, and Tastes

10 Tips for Getting the Best Use From Condoms

continued...

How Effective Are Condoms?

Playfulness aside, using a condom if you're sexually active can be a matter of life and death. As part of safe sex, condoms have been shown to protect against HIV/AIDS, as well as a variety of other sexually transmitted diseases, including hepatitis B, gonorrhea, syphilis, and the virus that cause genital warts. They are also effective at preventing unwanted pregnancies, of course.

How effective? That's surprisingly hard to say, acknowledges Markus Steiner, PhD, MSPH, an epidemiologist at Family Health International and contributor of a chapter on condoms in the textbook Contraceptive Technology.

"Condoms only work if they are used consistently and correctly, and that's something that's very difficult to study in people," says Steiner. Studies estimate that of 100 couples using condoms consistently and correctly, 2% would become pregnant during the first year of use. In real life, however, people and condoms slip. The actual rate of unintended pregnancy among couples using condoms for contraception is closer to15%.

What about sexually transmitted diseases? Again, condoms only work if they are used properly and consistently. When they are, though, they can dramatically reduce the risk of serious infections. Health experts credit the widespread use of condoms for reining in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in many parts of the world. Some studies show that condoms are more than 90% effective at preventing HIV transmission.

10 Tips for the Best Condom Protection

Condoms would be even more effective if they were always used correctly. This is particularly an issue in teen condom use. What goes wrong? Dumb things, mostly. Not using a condom every time sexual intercourse occurs is the most common problem, according to Steiner. Another problem: failure to use condoms throughout intercourse. In recent surveys, some men admit to donning condoms well into intercourse or removing them prior to ejaculation. (How dumb is that?) The culprit most people blame --condom slippage or breakage -- is actually quite rare, according to Steiner, occurring only about 2%of the time.

Counting on a condom to protect you from sexually transmitted diseases or preventing unwanted pregnancy? Here are 10 tips:

  • Store condoms in a cool and dry place out of sunlight. Your wallet's fine for the weekend, but don't depend on a rubber you tucked away a year ago.
  • Check the expiration date. (Yes, condoms usually do have expiration dates, marked "exp.") If yours has expired, toss it.
  • Don't reuse condoms. (Come on, guys, there are other ways to save money). Use a new condom if you switch from vaginal sex to anal sex, and vice versa.
  • For latex condoms, use only water-based lubricants (K-Y and Astroglide, for instance). Don't depend on natural skin or lambskin condoms to protect against STDs. They have small pores that may allow HIV, herpes simplex virus, and hepatitis B virus to pass through.
  • If you're sensitive or allergic to latex, try a synthetic condom (usually made of polyurethane). These typically have a longer shelf life and can be used with both water- and oil-based lubricants. The downside: The ability of synthetics to fully protect against STDs hasn't been proved.
  • Avoid condoms with spermicide. These are no more effective than plain condoms at preventing pregnancy, and they have a shorter shelf life. What's more, they can cause irritation that may actually facilitate transmission of STDs, including HIV. Make donning of a condom part of the pleasure of foreplay. That way you're less likely to lose your erection.
  • Over too soon? Try a brand of desensitizing condoms, which are lined with benzocaine to slightly dampen skin sensitivity and prevent premature ejaculation.

Whatever you choose, remember the old Boy Scout motto and be prepared. The worst condom failure is not having one when you really need one.

1|2
Reviewed on December 16, 2009

Today on WebMD

Life Cycle of a Penis
Slideshow
Preacher Curl
Slideshow
 
testosterone molecule
Article
Xray of foot highlighting gout
Slideshow
 
Food Men 10 Foods Boost Male Health
Slideshow
Thoughtful man sitting on bed
Quiz
 
Man taking blood pressure
Slideshow
doctor holding syringe
Slideshow
 
Condom Quiz
Quiz
thumbnail_angry_couple_in_bed
Slideshow
 
man running
Quiz
older couple in bed
Video