Condom effectiveness

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Question

How effective are condoms at preventing STDs and pregnancy?

Answer

Male latex condoms are not fool-proof, but they can be a very effective over-the-counter (OTC) product for preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and pregnancies.

Pregnancies that occur even with male condom use usually are due to human error such as breakage of the condom during intercourse, semen spillage during withdrawal, or waiting too long to put on a condom.

Male latex condoms are very effective in reducing STDs spread through semen or vaginal secretions, including chlamydia, HIV, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis. (Natural or lambskin condoms do not prevent the spread of STDs.) Latex condoms also can provide some protection against genital ulcer STDs such as genital herpes, syphilis, and chancroid. Because these STDs can be transmitted via skin contact, condoms provide a lesser degree of protection against them.

To prevent STD transmission, safe sex means always using a latex male condom when participating in any form of sexual activity with another person. Be sure to follow the instructions for proper condom use to avoid breakage or slippage, which obviously will reduce the effectiveness of the condom. Store condoms in a place where they cannot be damaged inside their wrapper by extreme temperatures or get punctured. And since oil-based lubricants can weaken latex, avoid using such products with condoms. Water-based lubricants are recommended for use with latex condoms.

Learn more about safe sex and condoms in the Health Encyclopedia.

View latex condom products available on Walgreens.com.

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