Are Condoms All They're Cracked Up to Be?
Oh, birth control! Such a love-hate relationship. Condoms are no exception. They’re arguably the most readily available method of birth control, but do they actually deliver results you can trust?
As you learn about different forms of birth control to find what works best for you, here’s what you should know.
Reasons people avoid condoms
Condoms can get a bad rap, and it seems like everyone has very strong opinions about this form of birth control in particular. Whatever you think about condoms, the bottom line is that it’s up to you to protect yourself from STIs and unplanned pregnancies. Don’t be afraid to stand up for your needs.
They’re ineffective. False. That’s just not true. With perfect use, condoms ranks right up there with other forms of birth control like the pill and IUDs. But as with most birth control, perfect use is hard to obtain so effectiveness is generally held to be 82%. Still quite good for the little effort they require.
They’re not as fun. Another false here. Men in particular say condoms aren’t as pleasurable, but that’s not supported by medical research. Condoms actually can be just as pleasurable and maybe even more so. They’re designed to increase pleasure with the different textures, bumps, and grooves.
They’re just for men. Nope. Female condoms are a thing and can be just as comfortable and effective as male condoms. But even if you decide to go the male condom route, both you and your partner share responsibility for safe sex. Meaning you should carry condoms, too.
Some women give in when their partner says no to condoms. But protecting your reproductive system isn’t their call. It’s yours. And let’s face it: a person who is willing to put you at risk for unplanned pregnancy and STIs just for a little more stimulation probably isn’t the best person to be partnering up with. ALWAYS protect yourself. Don’t worry about being uncool.
Afraid of the impression it gives
Some women are afraid avoid asking to use a condom conveys a lack of trust in their partner. But just like with peer pressure, your reproductive health is your responsibility.
What you need to know about condoms
The list of benefits is quite long mostly because condoms offer added protection. While IUDs, pills, surgeries, and natural methods can protect you from unplanned pregnancy, they can’t protect you from STIs or HIV. But condoms can.
Consistent condom use has shown great results in preventing transmission of HIV even among partners where one has HIV. They also are effective at limiting STI transmission since they block semen and mucus from direct contact with genital surfaces. When it comes to preventing STIs, no other form of birth control is as effective as condoms.
When should you start using a condom when the mood strikes? There may not be an exact right moment, but you don’t want to wait too long. Sperm can be present even in the initial male secretions. Pregnancy is a possibility even at this stage, and STIs are always a threat whenever bodily fluids are involved. So do yourself a solid and get that thing on sooner rather than later.
Different types of sex
Different types of sex still require a barrier. That’s why you still should use a condom for anal and oral sex. STIs and HIV are very much a problem even when you’re not being “traditional.” If the taste of latex bothers you, there are other options for oral sex. But the point is that you should have a barrier no matter the kind of sex.
Tips on use
Before using, check your condom for its expiration date and for any rips or tears. And above all don’t try to reuse a condom. These puppies are one-time-use only.
When using a condom, the greatest concern is that it will break. If it does, immediately remove and use another condom. You can decrease your risk of it breaking by using some spermicide as an added lubricant. Other lubricant options are water based or silicone based.
To avoid leaking from the top, make sure to leave extra room at the bottom of the condom when putting it on. You can do this by pinching the bottom and rolling the condom the rest of the way up.
When you’re done having sex, remove the penis before it shrinks to avoid any leakage. Anchor the top of the condom in place while removing the penis from the vagina to avoid any spillage.
Condoms give you peace of mind about birth control and disease prevention. So whether you’re new to this or not, here’s to safe and happy sex!
This is a multi-part series looking at different types of contraception, how they work and what to consider before choosing that particular method. See earlier articles on the pill and the birth control shot.
Hatcher et al. "Contraceptive Technology 2oth revised edition”NY, NY 2011.
Hendricks, Sara. "7 Condom Myths Everyone Needs to Stop Believing, According to a Doctor." Insider(blog), February 9, 2018. Accessed June 20, 2018. http://www.thisisinsider.com/condom-myths-debunked-2018-2.
"What Is the Effectiveness of Condoms?" Planned Parenthood. Accessed June 20, 2018. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/condom/how-effective-are-condoms.