All About Condoms

Patient choice and autonomy is at the center of Upstream’s work. Every patient has different goals and desires related to contraception and pregnancy, which means that there is no “one size fits all” method. For some, the pill is the perfect method, for others, an IUD. Then of course, there is the condom. In fact, 93% of sexually active American women aged 15–44 have had a partner who used a male condom.

In modern times, we have various birth control methods to choose from, but up until the 20th century, only a few methods were available, including the condom. While it has a long history, some patients may have uncertainty about what to expect when using a condom or whether it is the best method of contraception for them. By using a shared-decision making model, providers and patients can decide together which contraceptive method is best for them.

Below are a couple of facts to consider about what to expect when using a condom.

  • You need to use an external condom or internal condom every time you have sex to prevent pregnancy. External condoms are 87% effective at preventing pregnancy and internal condoms are 79% effective at preventing pregnancy (These numbers reflect the percentage of people who do not get pregnant with average use within a year).
  • What you may like about using condoms: used consistently and correctly, they are the only birth control method that protects against sexually transmitted infection (STIs), you can get them at most convenience stores and pharmacies, you don’t need a prescription to get them, and this method won’t affect your milk supply if you are breastfeeding.
  • What you may not like about using condoms: you have to use them every time you have sex, you need some practice to use them right, you might get an allergic reaction if you’re allergic to latex (although there are other types available) and you need to check expiration dates.

Let’s get back to the practice part, what do we mean? For condoms to effectively protect against STIs and unintended pregnancy, it is critical to know how to use one correctly. Accessing resources like this step-by-step guide on how to use external and internal condoms (along with other barrier methods), or watching this four minute training video from Planned Parenthood might be a helpful tool to ensure a condom is used correctly.

Receiving patient-centered contraceptive counseling about the full range of contraceptive methods, including the condom, that is free from bias and coercion is critical when choosing which method works best for you. To explore the full range of contraceptive methods, we encourage you to visit our birth control options page.

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