Condoms are one of the most popular and effective forms of contraception worldwide. When used properly, they can prevent pregnancy and reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). However, there are some common myths and misconceptions about condom safety and efficacy. This article will provide comprehensive, factual information on how to choose, use, and dispose of condoms correctly.
Condom Standards and Safety
All reputable condoms sold in the UK and EU must meet specific safety and quality standards. Official certification marks to look for include:
- CE mark – Indicates compliance with EU standards on safety, quality, and performance. Legally required for all medical devices like condoms sold in the EU.
- BSI Kitemark – Issued by the British Standards Institution. Products displaying this mark have passed regular independent testing.
These marks offer assurance that the condoms have been properly tested and will be effective barriers against pregnancy and STIs when used correctly.
Checking the expiration date and package integrity are also essential before use. Avoid condoms that are damaged, discolored, brittle, or past their use-by date.
With perfect use, condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy. However, typical use lowers that rate to around 85% due to human error. To increase effectiveness:
- Use the correct condom size – ill-fitting condoms are more prone to breakage and slippage. Measure width and length to find your optimal fit.
- Check for defects and damage before use.
- Follow the usage instructions precisely every time. Even a small mistake can render a condom ineffective.
- Use a water-based lubricant designed for condoms – oil-based lubes break down latex.
- Use condoms correctly from start to finish during all types of sex.
- Consider combining condoms with a second contraceptive method like the pill or IUD for maximum protection.
No contraceptive is 100% effective, but condoms are one of the best options to prevent unwanted pregnancy when used consistently and correctly.
Allergies and Material Options
Natural rubber latex allergies are relatively rare but can cause severe reactions in some individuals. Symptoms may include localized swelling and redness, hives, congestion, and difficulty breathing. Those with latex sensitivity should use synthetic condoms instead, including:
- Polyurethane – Made of thin plastic, offers protection against pregnancy and STIs. Can be used with any type of lubricant.
- Polyisoprene – Similar to natural latex but without allergenic proteins. Stretches well and is biodegradable.
- Lambskin – Made from lamb intestines so not suitable for vegans/vegetarians. Prevents pregnancy but not STIs due to porous material.
If an allergy is suspected, avoid latex condoms and see an allergist for diagnosis and advice on alternatives.
To get the full protective benefits of condoms, it’s vital to use them properly every time. Key tips include:
- Put on the condom before any genital contact occurs. Pre-ejaculate can contain sperm.
- Carefully open the package – sharp nails or teeth can damage the condom.
- Check the direction – condoms only unroll one way.
- Pinch the tip while rolling on to remove extra air and leave space for ejaculation.
- Unroll all the way down to the base of the erect penis.
- Add water-based lube to the outside if desired for comfort.
- Hold the base during withdrawal before erection is completely lost to prevent slippage.
- Use a new condom for each act of sex from start to finish.
- Carefully remove and dispose of the used condom.
Following instructions properly every time prevents condom errors that can lead to breakage or leakage.
The Bottom Line
Condoms can provide reliable protection against pregnancy and STIs when chosen carefully, stored properly, and used consistently and correctly every time. Checking for quality certifications, avoiding damage, using the right size, and following usage directions are key to getting the maximum benefits of barrier contraception. Consider combining with a secondary method for added peace of mind. And if any mistakes or concerns ever arise, emergency contraception and medical advice are available.