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Condoms

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Condoms are great at preventing both pregnancy and STDs. If you follow the instructions and use them every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex, there’s very little chance of pregnancy, or getting or giving an STD.

Condoms are typically made of latex, natural membrane (read lambskin), or synthetic materials, like polyurethane. Here’s what to know about each:

Latex (Rubber):

  • Some people have sensitivities or allergies to latex

  • Not compatible with oil-based lubricants or medications

  • Well documented protection against STIs and HIV

 

Synthetic:

  • Low risk of allergic reaction

  • Compatible with oil and water-based lubricants

  • Have a longer shelf life

  • Believed to provide similar STI protection as a latex condom


Lamb Skin:

  • Better tolerated for those with sensitivities to other condoms

  • Compatible with oil and water-based lubricants

  • May not be effective at preventing STIs or HIV

How effective are condoms against pregnancy?

If you use condoms perfectly every single time you have sex, they’re 98% effective at preventing pregnancy. But people aren’t perfect, so in real life condoms are about 85% effective — that means about 15 out of 100 people who use condoms as their only birth control method will get pregnant each year.

 

How can I make condoms more effective?

The best way to make condoms work as well as possible is to use them correctly every single time you have vaginal, oral, and anal sex. That means wearing it the whole time, from start to finish. Make sure the condom is rolled on your penis the right way before there’s any skin-to-skin genital contact. 

Using condoms + another form of birth control (like the pill, IUD, or shot) is a great way to get extra pregnancy prevention AND protection against STDs. Using withdrawal (“pulling out”) while also wearing a condom can help keep sperm out of the vagina and lower the risk for pregnancy.

You shouldn’t use a condom worn on the penis together with an internal condom. Condoms are designed to be used on their own, and doubling up won’t necessarily give you extra protection. One condom used correctly is all the protection you need. Also, make sure your condoms aren't expired — check the date on the wrapper or box.

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