Use Condoms Correctly to Prevent STDs and Prevent Pregnancy

Person Holding Condom

Using condoms correctly can reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and pregnancy. But they’re not 100 percent effective.

Role 1s’ condom use or nonuse reasons were evenly distributed across four motivations: self protection, relationship, social norms, and lust. The most common reason was concern about giving HIV to their partners.

1. Prevents pregnancy

Condoms act as a physical barrier during sex, which helps prevent STIs by stopping semen from coming in contact with the vagina. And they also help prevent pregnancy by stopping sperm from reaching the uterus.

Condoms can be effective at preventing pregnancy if used properly and consistently. However, there is always a small chance of getting pregnant with any method of birth control. And it is important to use emergency contraception as a backup in case the condom breaks, leaks, or slips off during penetration. With typical use, male condoms have about a 2 in 100 chance of failure and internal “female” condoms have about a 5 in 100 risk of failure.

Many people don’t realize that a condom may fail due to problems other than the user making mistakes. It’s important to use a lubricated condom, choose the right size (there are both regular and “snug” condoms available), and make sure it is completely on before you start penetration. And it’s also important to use the condom from the beginning to the end of penetrative sex.

Most women who report using condoms regularly say their partners are extremely willing to do the same. In the ACCORd study, most women who reported using condoms as their only form of contraception or STI protection said their partners were very willing to do so, even when they had casual sex.

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2. Prevents sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

Condoms can effectively protect against STDs, including HIV, when used correctly. However, many people still don’t use them correctly. And that leads to unprotected sex, which increases the risk of STD infection.

The level of protection provided by a condom depends on how the disease is transmitted. For example, discharge diseases (including herpes B and C, gonorrhea, and chlamydia) are transmitted when infected semen or vaginal secretions touch mucosal surfaces like the male urethra or the vulva or cervix. Condoms provide a high level of protection for these diseases because they block the transfer of fluids and prevent contact between the genitals.

In contrast, genital ulcer diseases (including herpes, syphilis, and chancroid) and human papilloma virus are transmitted when infected skin or mucosal surfaces come into contact with each other. Laboratory studies show that latex condoms create an essentially impermeable barrier to pathogens the size of those that cause these infections.

A recent study from Australia found that women’s satisfaction with and frequency of using condoms is linked to how much they believe their partners are willing to use them, and whether the woman or her partner has final say in their usage. This is important because, even when women are able to use condoms consistently with willing partners, they may be less likely to do so in certain situations, such as when they’re using substances or when their partners have previously failed to use condoms properly.

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3. Prevents miscarriage

Condom use prevents unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Preventing both helps protect teens and advances their human right to determine the number and spacing of children they wish to have (4).

The YRBS asked students whether they or their partner used any condoms at their last sexual encounter, as well as whether they used a primary method for pregnancy prevention. Students who said they had not used any method or only a condom were excluded from the analytic sample. Analyses separated results by demographic characteristics and sexual risk behaviors to provide insights into what strategies might be most effective in meeting the needs of sexually active adolescents for unintended pregnancy and STD/HIV prevention.

Overall, most students reported using a condom or a primary method for pregnancy prevention at their last sexual encounter (88.7%). However, a substantial proportion of students – especially those with the highest numbers of recent or lifetime partners – were more likely to report not using a condom or only using a less-effective method (i.e., highly or moderately effective methods, or withdrawal or some other method) than those with fewer partners.

These findings highlight the need to improve adolescents’ knowledge of and comfort with highly effective reversible contraceptive methods (such as IUDs and implants) and birth control pills, which are less than 99% effective for pregnancy protection when they are used correctly (5). Additionally, adolescents need to learn about long-acting reversible contraceptive methods (LARCs) that can be as 99% effective for pregnancy protection when they are properly used (15).

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4. Prevents HIV infection

In addition to HIV, condoms also prevent other sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis. However, the effectiveness of condoms depends on consistency and correct use. Studies show that consistent and correct use of condoms reduces the risk of STI transmission to less than 3%. However, when condoms are used incorrectly or inconsistently, the risk of STI infection can increase to more than 10%.

Many factors can contribute to condom failure, including broken, worn or improperly stored condoms. Additionally, using latex condoms can be challenging for people with sensitive sex organs, such as teens and women entering menopause. Inconsistent use of condoms can also lead to breaks in the barrier that allow bacterial contamination.

A recent study found that men with more intimate partners are more likely to experience condom errors, such as breakage and slippage. This is likely because of the number of fingers used to apply the condom and how much pressure is applied during sex. The researchers suggest that this study is a good first step towards understanding what factors influence condom errors and how they affect the risk of HIV transmission.

The study was conducted in general practice and relied on self-reports, which may be prone to recall bias. This limits the generalisability of the results to other settings. Further, the participants were well-educated and from a high socioeconomic status in metropolitan Melbourne. As such, the results may not be representative of other populations, particularly in emerging economies.

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