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Your Questions About Condoms

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 9 Aug 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Condoms female Condom using A Condom

Condoms are arguably the most popular form of birth control in the world. They are inexpensive, they are portable, they can be carried by both men and women and they can be bought over the counter without a prescription. However, even though condoms are popular not everyone knows all about them. Below are some basic answers to frequently asked questions about condoms.

What Are Condoms?

Condoms are sheaths, usually made of thin rubber such as latex, that are worn over an erect penis in order to prevent pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

How Do Condoms Work?

Condoms are a barrier method of contraception. This means that condoms create an actual barrier between the individuals engaging in sexual intercourse. When a male ejaculates his semen is "caught" in the condom and thus should not have the chance to reach a woman's egg and the risk of pregnancy is lowered. The condom also theoretically provides a barrier between skin-to-skin contact, so the risk of transmission of STIs is lowered as well.

How Effective Are Condoms?

Several different studies have published statistics about the effectiveness of condoms. In general it is accepted that condoms are effective anywhere between 85% and 97% of the time in preventing pregnancies ,and almost 100% of the time in preventing STIs except for crabs/pubic lice.

Why Aren't Condoms 100% Effective?

Condoms are not 100% effective in preventing pregnancies for three main reasons. The first is that condoms can break or fall off. It is estimated that about 5% of condoms will break or fall off during sex. The second is that condoms are susceptible to oil based lubricants and can actually be broken down if used together. Finally, some condoms may not have been stored properly and may have deteriorated while in storage due to exposure to heat or light. Condoms that feel sticky, dry or have passed their expiration date should not be used. If a condom does not work as expected, the morning after pill can be taken to help avoid pregnancy. Using condoms in conjunction with another method of contraception will also help prevent pregnancy in the event of a malfunction.

When Should Condoms Be Used?

Condoms should be used during any form of sexual intercourse: oral, vaginal or anal. During anal intercourse a thicker condom should be used as there is more pressure exerted and a thinner condom could be more likely to break.

What Kind of Condom Should Be Used?

There are many different kinds of condoms on the market that come in an abundance of shapes, sizes, textures, colours and even flavours. As long as a condom has passed certain safety tests and carry the British Standard kite mark or the EEC Standard mark then it should be safe. If you are anywhere else in the world condoms that are ISO approved should be safe.

Can Women Use Condoms?

Women can, and should, carry condoms so that they are prepared whenever, and wherever, they choose to have sex. Many women do not carry condoms because they believe that it makes them look "easy". This is not true. Carrying condoms makes anyone, man or woman, seem prepared and mature. Women can also use female condoms, which are sheaths that are worn inside the vagina.

Where Can I Get More Information On Condoms?

For more information on condoms, visit a medical professional, health counsellor or a reproductive health centre such as Marie Stopes (www.mariestopes.org.uk).

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