Condoms are a popular method of birth control. If used correctly, there’s about a 2 percent risk of becoming pregnant while using a condom, but it’s a good idea to use another method of birth control along with it.
Condoms are a popular method of birth control since they are highly effective when it comes to preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). They also don’t contain any hormones. When condoms are used correctly, they have a very high rate of preventing pregnancy. Even so, they aren’t 100% effective, so it’s a good idea to use condoms along with another form of birth control to practice safe sex.
What are condoms and how do they work?
A condom is a barrier form of birth control that prevents you from directly touching your partner. This is the best way to protect both of you from STIs. It’s also an effective method of birth control since it stops the man’s sperm from reaching the woman’s eggs.
There are three different kinds of condoms:
- Male condom: goes over the penis and collects semen when the man ejaculates.
- Female condom: also called an internal condom, this kind goes inside the woman’s vagina to prevent sperm from reaching the eggs.
- Dental dam: a special condom you can use during oral sex to prevent STIs.
Condoms can be made of latex, polyurethane, or lambskin. Latex condoms are the best choice since they don’t break as easily and do a good job of preventing STIs. If you or your partner have a latex allergy, polyurethane condoms are the next best choice.
Some condoms are lubricated to reduce the friction created during sex. This helps to prevent the condom from breaking or tearing. Condoms may also be coated with spermicide, too. In case the condom does break, the spermicide can help slow the sperm down so it doesn’t reach the egg.
Effectiveness of condoms
No method of birth control has a 100% rate of preventing pregnancy. However, if you use condoms correctly, there is a very good chance of preventing pregnancy. Condoms have a 98% rate of effectiveness, meaning there’s still a 2% chance that you could become pregnant while using a condom. This can happen if the condom breaks and you don’t use a secondary form of backup birth control. There is also a small chance that pre-ejaculate, or pre-cum, could reach the egg before the condom is put on properly.
If condoms are your only form of birth control, they must be used every time that you have sex in order to prevent pregnancy. It must be put on correctly, right side out. You should also only use condoms that aren’t expired. Old condoms tend to break easier.
If a condom breaks during sex, most people don’t realize it until after. If you realize during sex that the condom broke, you should stop right away and put on a new one. If you know the condom broke and it was your only form of birth control, there is a possibility of becoming pregnant. To avoid pregnancy, you can call your doctor or health care provider to seek out emergency contraception.
If you used a condom but are worried there might be a chance of becoming pregnant for any reason, you should wait to take a pregnancy test until at least one week after your missed period. If taken too early, a pregnancy test can give a false negative result.
Tips for using condoms
When you use condoms correctly, your chances of preventing pregnancy increase.
Storage. Keep your condoms somewhere that isn’t too hot or too cold. They should also be kept somewhere away from sharp objects or other items that could puncture the condom. This includes not carrying condoms in your wallet where they can easily get broken before use.
Lubricants. If you use lubricants, avoid oil-based products. These products, like lotions or Vaseline, can break down the latex in condoms. However, you can use oil-based lubricants with polyurethane condoms. To be safe, stick to water-based lubes since they are safe to use with any kind of condom.
Timing. When practicing safe sex, a condom must be put on before sexual contact begins. As mentioned, it is possible that you could get pregnant if pre-cum enters the vagina before a condom is worn. Don’t think of putting on a condom as an interruption. Instead, just think of it as part of the process.
Also, remember that a condom can only be worn once. If you have sex multiple times, it’s important to put on a new condom each time.
Other forms of birth control
To fully prevent pregnancy, it’s important to use a backup form of birth control. For women, some hormonal options include:
Some barrier methods include:
Keep in mind that neither hormonal nor barrier methods are 100% effective against preventing pregnancy. Only condoms are effective at preventing STIs.
Even if you use a condom every time, knowing when you’re fertile and keeping track of when you have sex can help you better understand when you can get pregnant.
Medically Reviewed on 8/20/2021
Center for Young Women’s Health: “My pregnancy test was negative and I used protection, but my period is 9 days late. Should I be concerned?”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Contraception.”
Cleveland Clinic: “Condoms.”
Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Guy’s Guide to Safe Sex.”
TeensHealth by Nemours: “Are Condoms 100% Effective?” “What if the Condom Breaks?”