When we talk about condoms, we’re actually talking about two different forms of contraception. External condoms are worn on the penis, while internal ones are worn inside the vagina. Although external condoms tend to be more widely available and cheaper, internal condoms might be better suited to you.
Remember, although sex between same sex partners won’t result in pregnancy, it can spread sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Wearing a condom can reduce the risk of infection.
Are condoms an effective form of birth control?
No form of birth control - with the exception of abstinence - is a guarantee that you won’t get pregnant. Lots of things can impact the effectiveness of different types of contraception, so it’s important to use them exactly as directed to reduce the risk of pregnancy.
External condoms are 98% effective - if you use them correctly every time you have sex. Internal condoms are 95% effective . This means that if 100 couples used external condoms in a year, two of them might get pregnant, and five might if internal condoms were used instead. In real life, things are a little bit more complicated than that.
So what can reduce the effectiveness of condoms? Well, when opening the packet, you should be careful not to pierce the condom with sharp fingernails or jewellery - a barrier with a hole in it isn’t going to give full protection. You should also try to use water-based lubricant whenever needed - lube will help to prevent tears or rips, but oil-based lubes can increase the risk of splitting.
It’s also important to wear a condom for the duration of sexual activity. Sperm can leak from the tip of the penis before full ejaculation, so any contact between the penis and another person’s genitals can risk both pregnancy and infection. After sex, you should remove the condom, being careful not to spill fluids, and put it in the bin. Condoms should not be flushed down the toilet.
Should I use condoms while on the contraceptive pill?
Since the contraceptive pill relies on hormones and condoms work by creating a physical barrier, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use them together. They won’t affect each other’s effectiveness in preventing pregnancy. If you’re new to the pill, or if you think you may have missed one, using condoms as well can help make sure you’re protected.
Whether you use the combined pill or the progestogen-only pill - including Lovima®’s desogestrel pill - this alone will not protect you against STIs. Condoms are the only form of contraception that can. Even if you think the pill is enough to protect you against pregnancy, using condoms with sexual partners will help to prevent you getting an STI.
Remember, condoms are the only form of contraception that give protection against getting an STI. Although taking the pill as well - or using other types of contraceptive - can help prevent pregnancy in the event of the condom splitting, you’ll still be at risk of getting an STI. If there’s any chance you could have an STI, or if your sexual partner might have one, it’s important to get tested and treated.
Do condoms protect against all STIs?
Although condoms protect against most STIs, they don’t protect against them all, and they’re not a total guarantee of protection. Anything that increases the risk of pregnancy - such as a split in the condom or contact with semen prior to ejaculation - will also increase the risk of transmission of bacteria or viruses.
It’s important to remember STIs can be transmitted through all kinds of sexual activity - vaginal, anal, and oral - and that sex toys can also be a source of infection. You should use a different condom each time you have sex, even with a toy, and always wash toys between uses - especially if you share the toy with someone else.
There are also some STIs that can be transmitted through skin-on-skin contact, and if the area affected by the STI isn’t covered by the condom, you won’t be protected from infection. If you or a sexual partner think you might have an STI, the best way to prevent transmission is to abstain from sex until the infection clears up. Speak to your pharmacist for advice on what to do next.
It’s best to err on the side of caution when it comes to STIs. If you think there’s a chance your condom might have split, you should both consider getting checked for an STI. It’s confidential, and the doctor or nurse will be able to guide you through the process. Don’t worry about wasting their time if it turns out negative. It’s better to be safe than sorry.