Condoms are a very popular choice of contraception, but how much do you actually know about them?
How Condoms Work
Condoms are a type of barrier contraception, which means that they work by blocking the path between sperm and any eggs that are available for fertilisation. The semen is trapped in the condom before it can get past the cervix, so none of the sperm should be able to reach the eggs where they’re waiting in the fallopian tubes.
Male and Female Condoms
When most people hear the word condom, they think about the male condom. However, there is another type of condom that works in a similar way. The female condom is another type of barrier contraception that works by blocking the entry of sperm. However, rather than bring placed over the penis it is inserted into the vagina before sex. Some people find this kind of condom more comfortable, but female condoms aren’t as widely available as male condoms, so they can be harder to buy. You can learn more about female condoms by asking for contraception advice at the 132 Healthwise clinic. Female condoms could be the right option for you if you want to use barrier contraception but you’ve had problems using male condoms.
How Effective Are Condoms?
Both male and female condoms can be very effective at preventing pregnancy and they are the only form of contraception that can prevent STIs.
- Male condoms are more than 98% effective when used perfectly
- Male condoms are about 82% effective for the typical user
- This means that out of every 100 women who use male condoms for a year, 18 will get pregnant
- Female condoms are 95% effective with perfect use
- Female condoms are about 79% effective with typical use
- This means that about 21 women out of 100 will get pregnant if they use female condoms for a year
- Both male and female condoms can prevent STIs that are spread through fluids, including HIV
- Condoms can’t protect your against STIs that are spread by skin-to-skin contact (for example if your partner has a sore that is not covered by the condom)
Tips for Using Condoms Correctly
- Make sure your condom is the right size. If a male condom is too tight it could split and if it’s too loose it could slip off.
- Read the instructions. Using a condom might seem straightforward, but it’s important to follow all the steps to get the best protection. For example, you should squeeze the air out of a male condom after putting it on and always guide the penis carefully into a female condom to ensure it hasn’t slipped past the side.
- Put the condom on at the right time. Female condoms can be inserted up to 8 hours before sex, although you may need some extra lubrication. Male condoms should be put on when the penis is erect but before it comes in contact with your partner.
- Use the right lubrication. Lubricants can make condom use more comfortable and reduce the risk of tearing. Always check that the lubricant is suitable for use with condoms as oil-based lubricants can break down latex condoms.
- Be aware of latex allergies. Symptoms such as swelling, redness and wheezing could be an allergic reaction. Consult a doctor and switch to latex-free condoms. Female condoms are usually latex-free.
- Store condoms correctly. Keep your condoms in a safe and accessible place where they will be cool and dry. Check the expiry dates to ensure they’re still OK to use.
- Dispose of the condom carefully. Remove the condom carefully to prevent any leaks, tie it up, wrap it in tissue and put it in the bin. It’s best to move away from your partner before removing a male condom, just in case you spill anything.
Are Condoms Right for Me?
Condoms are the only form of contraception that can protect against STIs so it is important to use one if there is a risk of infection. You should always use a condom unless you are sure that you and your partner are both STI free. Condoms can also be an effective choice for preventing pregnancy, as long as you are using them correctly.
If you want to learn more about condoms and your other contraceptive options, then you should make an appointment to talk with Mr Michael Stafford at the 132 Healthwise clinic in London.