Condoms Offer Pregnancy and STD Prevention, and They Feel Good Too
Generations of adults have trusted condoms to protect them and the reliance on this trusted method just keeps growing.
Martha Kempner; Writer, Consultant, and Sexual Health Expert
July 6, 2016
Generations of adults have trusted condoms to protect them and the reliance on this trusted method just keeps growing. Between 1955 and 1965, 42 percent of adults in the United States said they had used condoms for contraception. Today, 95 percent of women who have had sexual intercourse say they have used a condom at some point in their sexual lives.
Unfortunately, while condoms have been long trusted for prevention, they’ve gotten a lot of bad press over the years as well. The idea that condoms zap sexual experiences of spontaneity and pleasure is particularly common.
As a sexuality professor, I hear the same rumors, myths, and negative preconceptions about condoms every semester. I admit it is pretty frustrating because I know that condoms are safe, effective against both pregnancy and disease, and can even be fun.
Condoms Are the Only Contraceptive Method the Prevents STDs Condoms remain the only method of contraception that also provides protection against STDs. This is why condoms are important even for couples who are not worried about preventing pregnancy such as those who are using other contraceptive methods or men who have sex with men.
STDs are on the rise in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2014 was the first year in almost a decade during which the number of reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis all went up. That year there were approximately 1.4 million reported cases of chlamydia, 350,062 reported cases of gonorrhea, and 19,999 reported cases of primary and secondary syphilis.
Condoms provide protection against all three of these diseases as well others like HPV (a virus that can cause genital warts and/or certain types of cancer) and HIV (the virus that causes AIDS).
As part of ongoing prevention efforts, NCSD has partnered with the manufacturer of Trojan Brand condoms to make more condoms available at health departments across the country. Trojan has donated over 740,000 condoms and close to 200,000 lubricants to NCSD health department members and partner organizations this year alone. This adds to the over five million condoms that Trojan has donated to NCSD partners over the last few years. And, the company has committed to donating at least one million condom per year to health departments across the country over the next ten years.
Condoms Really Work to Prevent Pregnancy – When Actually Used Those couples that also need pregnancy protection should also know that—if used the consistently and correctly (the right way, every time you have sex), condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy.
This fact, however, sometimes gets lost because explanations of condom efficacy and “typical use rates” can get unnecessarily confusing. Typical use rates are calculated by following 100 couples who name condoms as their primary method of contraception. Research suggests that 18 of these couples will experience an unintended pregnancy in the first year of use. So, after some simple math, researchers say that condoms have an 82 percent efficacy rate. This is a little misleading because it includes couples who say they are condom users but actually were NOT using a condom when they became pregnant. Obviously, we can’t blame a condom that never made it off the drug store shelf or got left in a drawer.
The take away messages here is that condoms can be extremely effective when couples are committed to using them.
There are Innovative, New Condoms that Help Add to Pleasure Perhaps the most persistent misperception about condoms is that they take the fun out of sex. While this may have once been true—the linen condom used in the 1500s to prevent syphilis were probably pretty rough on the skin—today’s condoms are much better than those from even 10 or 20 years ago and new innovations can add to your pleasure. The only way to prove that condoms are actually fun is to try them yourself. Here are some ideas to help you know which ones you might like. As a member of Trojan’s Sexual Health Advisory Committee, I am most familiar with their condoms and the innovations they have made in recent years. But there are many brands available online and on pharmacy shelves so keep looking until you find a favorite or two or three.
Newer, Thinner Materials: Usually when condoms are made from thinner materials (such as latex) it can be easier to feel the warmth of your partner’s body through condom. This can make it feel more like skin is touching skin even though the condom remains intact.
New Shapes: At one time all condoms were essentially the same shape—a straight line with a ring on the open end and slightly tapered tip to catch semen. Condoms like this still exist and if they are working for you, by all means keep using them but you might want to try some of the new shapes in condoms. The Ecstasy line of condoms have different bulbous shapes meaning they’re tight at the bottom like a classic condom but roomy along the shaft at the top. This allows the penis to move around inside the condom which actually makes it feel less like you’re wearing a condom at all. Even better, these condoms have premium lubricant on the inside and outside which can make sex feel more natural for both partners.
Fun Textures: One way that condoms can add to the pleasure is through textures on the outside that can help hit a partner’s most sensitive spots. Some condoms are ribbed (think circles all the way around), others are studded, and still others have a special zig-zagging texture designed to help keep the lubricant in place.
Better Lubricant: And speaking of lube, using lubricant can help sex feel smoother and silkier (and reduce friction which can cause irritation). Many of today’s condoms are coated with high quality silicone lubricant which can really make sex feel better. Plus, many condoms are now lubricated on the inside and out so both partners get the benefit.
Pleasing Sensations: Some lubricants used on condoms actually add new sensations to the sexual experience—they can be warming, tingling, or both. And condoms like Trojan Fire & Ice, Charged, and Double Ecstasy let you not just pick the sensation but also decide whether they should be the same for both partners or different to suit each person’s preferences.
Vibrations: Finally, some condoms are packaged with vibrating rings that can slip over the condoms on the penis and add the intense and unique pleasure that vibrations bring.
Condoms are inexpensive, easy to obtain, and effective against both pregnancy and STD. Using a condom can make sex more pleasurable—knowing you’re protected can help you relax and enjoy the moment. Almost all sexually active people will use this method at some point in their lives—whether it is as their first method, their primary method, or as a temporary method between relationships, while settling on a different contraceptive, or after having a baby.
It’s time for us to start giving condoms the respect that they deserve after centuries of protecting our health and our families. One way to start is by trying out some of the new ones and telling your friends how fun they can be.