When most people think of safe sex, they think of condoms or rubbers. Don’t you? But maybe you’re wondering if using a condom is really practicing safe sex. Do they protect you from pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
Condoms and Pregnancy
Most any resource you find states that condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy. The problem is that not everyone uses them consistently and correctly. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/contraception/unintendedpregnancy/pdf/contraceptive_methods_508.pdf], 18% of women (18 out of every 100 women) experiences an unintended pregnancy within the first year when using a condom. That means almost 1 out of every 5 couples who use condoms experience an unintended pregnancy.
Condoms and STIs
Specific statistics about the effectiveness of condoms in preventing STIs are difficult to find. Most sources say that when used consistently and correctly, they are highly effective. But we know that they aren’t used consistently and correctly all the time. The pregnancy prevention rate is reduced from 98% to 82% because of user error. So, though they are highly effective at preventing STIs in theory, user error reduces that effectiveness as well. Probably the most important step is the most often overlooked step: a condom must be put on before any sexual contact.
Different types of male condoms offer different levels of STI protection. Latex condom use is 98-99% effective in preventing HIV transmission, when used correctly and consistently. Some STIs, like herpes, syphilis and HPV can be transmitted by sores on areas of the body not covered by a condom. That means even when used completely correctly and consistently, condoms cannot totally prevent transmission of those infections. Remember that STI’s do not always have physical signs.
Counseling and Complimentary Testing
Unless you are in a mutually monogamous relationship and you each have only ever had sex with each other, you may be at risk for an STI. And, any time you have sex, you could become pregnant.
We care about you and want you to enjoy relationships that are healthy physically and emotionally. If you want to talk about reducing your risk for unintended pregnancy or STIs or if you are interested in complimentary testing for pregnancy or STIs, we are here for you. Please call us to set up an appointment.
The content on this page has been reviewed and approved by our Medical Director.