Latex condoms have been around for decades and their role in society has changed with the times, just like other trends in culture. As recently as the 1980’s and 1990’s, condoms were championed as a way to enjoy sexual activity during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In the years since, the conversation around condoms has evolved, as have sexual education curricula and attitudes towards sexuality.
However, just like some of our favorite celebrities and public figures, condoms are an awesome multihyphenate: not only can they be up to 99% effective in preventing unwanted pregnancy but they can also reduce the risk of transmitting sexually transmitted diseases (or, sexually transmitted infections) to your partner(s). In this blog post, we will highlight how effective condoms can be as part of your family planning and pregnancy prevention efforts, and how they are still a vital part of the conversation.
How to Use Condoms for Pregnancy Prevention
First, let’s start by briefly discussing how to use condoms to avoid pregnancy. It all goes back to how pregnancy works. Conception of a pregnancy occurs when sperm swims up through the vaginal canal and fertilizes an egg in the fallopian tube. This usually happens during vaginal sex following ejaculation, or some other form of insemination. In the subsequent hours or days, the fertilized egg implants into the uterus and the pregnancy begins.
Condoms come into play in pregnancy prevention because they are a “barrier method.” They effectively block the exchange of bodily fluids between partners, as pre-ejaculatory fluid (pre-cum) and/or semen containing sperm are collected in the tip of the condom and safely discarded. With no sperm in the vaginal canal, there is no fertilization process, and therefore no implantation into the uterus or eventual pregnancy. That’s why condoms are a cheap, effective and straightforward way to prevent pregnancy. Simple as that!
Alternative Family Planning Methods
Condoms are far from the only method of birth control out there, though. These days, people can choose from a variety of different pregnancy prevention methods including emergency contraception, hormonal interventions, cervical barriers, fertility awareness and in more extreme cases, sterilization (surgical intervention to render one incapable of pregnancy permanently).
Here are some of the more common forms of family planning:
- Emergency contraception: There are a number of medications on the market such as Plan B, ella, Paragard and Julie. While you may have heard “the morning-after pill,” not all of these methods are in pill form (Paragard is an intrauterine device, or IUD). They work by temporarily blocking ovulation, so there will be no egg to fertilize. These generally have to be used within 3-5 days for maximum effectiveness, especially in the case of condom failure, unexpected sexual activity or unprotected vaginal sex.
- Hormonal interventions: This broad category includes the birth control pill, implant, injection and patch, or IUDs and vaginal rings. The one thing that all of these different products have in common is that they introduce hormones like estrogen and progestin, which naturally occur in the body, to prevent pregnancy by interfering with fertilization and ovulation. These can be used on an on-going basis with a prescription and regular medical appointments and can be stopped if pregnancy becomes a desirable option for you and your partner(s).
- Fertility awareness: This method is fitting to its name, essentially by tracking your ovulation, you can prevent pregnancy based on you or your partner(s) and their menstrual cycle. There are charts, calendars and a few other testing methods that you can do for this approach.
It is also important to seek medical advice and any necessary prescriptions from a health professional. They will be able to counsel you on the best birth control and family planning options for you and your partner(s) based on other health factors. Health centers, like Planned Parenthood and other locations near you, can also provide a variety of testing services, including pregnancy tests and general sexual health screenings.
Why Are Condoms Recommended?
Condoms are recommended either on their own or with additional pregnancy prevention methods because they are often an easier, less-intrusive solution to family planning. They are inexpensive (and even free in some cases), don’t require a prescription or doctor’s visit, don’t alter any hormone levels and don’t require any charts or calculations.
As an added bonus, you can also use condoms for protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) during vaginal sex, oral sex and anal sex. This common sense, dual approach to family planning and sexual health maintenance sets latex condoms apart. There are lots of different types of condoms, too, including flavored, textured, custom-sized and internal (previously called female) condoms!
When it comes to successful condom use, there are a few important rules to remember:
- Check the packaging for the expiration date and any damage. If you have any doubt, discard the condom and use another one.
- Make sure to pinch the tip of the condom and roll it down the shaft as you apply it, to allow for room at the tip of the condom to collect fluids, and avoid breakage. If you have any false starts where the penis touches the condom but for some reason doesn’t roll correctly, just discard and grab another one to avoid any accidental exchange of fluids.
- Same goes for any breaks or tears during sexual activity. A fresh condom never hurts, better safe than sorry.
- Lube is your friend, but when using condoms, make sure to only use water based or silicone based lubricants. Petroleum jelly, mineral oil and any oil-based creams or lotions can cause the latex to weaken and tear, increasing risk.
- Make sure to avoid spilling the contents of the condom after your sexual experience, by carefully withdrawing, and then slowly rolling off the condom. This will avoid any last minute slip-ups.
Looking for more tips and tricks for how to enjoy sex with condoms? Continue reading our previous post here to maximize your pleasure and master control over your sexual and reproductive health.
We also have some more resources on our site if you want to learn more about birth control options and how they pair with condoms, as well as more in-depth discussions of contraception and how it can be effective in preventing pregnancy.
Lastly, are you unsure what sort of condoms you and your partner(s) prefer? Be sure to browse some of the premium sexual health products on our site. We have fifteen different styles and sizes of condoms, variety packs and special product bundles, as well as three lubricants. There’s ONE® for everyone. You can also find more information on internal (or female) condoms. We are confident that you’ll find something that matches your sexy style, prevents unwanted pregnancy and protects your sexual health, to boot!