February has been declared National Condom Month by the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA). For my part in helping to increase awareness and education about condoms this February, I’ve complied the following list of facts and statistics. To learn more about National Condom Month, check out this page by the ASHA.
1.) With perfect use, condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy. However, perfect use is rarely achieved in the real world due to human error. When we instead consider typical use (or what happens in reality), the effectiveness rate drops to 82%. What this means is that, in practice, 18 out of 100 women who use condoms regularly over the course of a year will end up becoming pregnant.
2.) If you are surprised by the 82% typical use rate, you’re not alone. In fact, research finds that most people overestimate the effectiveness of condoms at preventing pregnancy—and that’s precisely why we need educational efforts like National Condom Month.
3.) One of the biggest reasons condoms aren’t as effective as people assume is because many of us just don’t always use them correctly. For instance, studies of college students have found that as many as 38% say they have waited until after starting intercourse to put a condom on, and as many as 14% report having taken a condom off before intercourse was over. For more common condom use mistakes, check out this infographic. To learn about proper condom use techniques, check out this handy page from the CDC.
4.) In addition to making condom use errors, another reason for the low typical use effectiveness rate is that guys sometimes use condoms that don’t fit very well. Contrary to popular belief, condoms are not a “one-size-fits-all” device. Research has found that poor-fitting condoms are linked to a greater risk of breakage and of guys forgoing condom use altogether. Keep in mind that condoms come in different sizes and thicknesses, so shop around for one that fits you well.
5.) Buying condoms that fit you well and learning how to use condoms correctly can reduce the risk of error; however, keep in mind that, even with perfect use, condoms aren't 100% effective. To further reduce risk of unintended pregnancy, consider using multiple methods of birth control simultaneously (e.g., condoms plus the pill).
6.) Although condoms are often maligned for reducing sensation, studies suggest that they don’t necessarily have to take the fun out of sex. In fact, research has found that, on average, condom users and non-users report no difference in how pleasurable their most recent sexual event was or in their likelihood of reaching orgasm. That said, should you find that condoms reduce sensation for you, consider trying different types of condoms and/or adding a drop of lubricant inside the condom before slipping it on.
7.) It turns out that a lot of the guys who claim that condoms make it harder for them to stay aroused during sex have erectile difficulties already. In other words, many of these men are going to have erectile difficulties regardless of whether they use condoms. Therefore, some men may be incorrectly attributing the true source of the erectile problems to condoms.
8.) Condoms aren’t used during most acts of sexual intercourse today. In fact, a national U.S. survey in which participants were asked to report their condom use rates during their last 10 experiences with vaginal and anal intercourse revealed the following: overall usage rates were 25% for men and 22% for women during vaginal sex, and 26% for men and 13% for women during anal sex. Of course, keep in mind that these are overall rates—rates varied across different groups and were a bit higher among adolescents and unmarried adults.
9.) In the past, animal intestines were the most popular material used for making condoms. Today, some condoms are still made from this (e.g., Naturalamb); however, these condoms have largely fallen out of favor because they are costlier to produce than latex. Also, while they may be effective at preventing pregnancy, animal membranes are too porous to serve as an effective barrier to most STIs. Learn more about the history of condoms in this video.
10.) Some people don’t realize this, but in addition to the male condom that goes over the penis, there is also a female condom that lines the interior of the vagina. To learn more about the female condom and how it works, check out the video below.
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