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Condoms are great at preventing both pregnancy and STDs. If you follow the instructions and use them every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex, there’s very little chance of pregnancy, or getting or giving an STD.

How effective are condoms against pregnancy?

If you use condoms perfectly every single time you have sex, they’re 98% effective at preventing pregnancy. But people aren’t perfect, so in real life condoms are about 85% effective — that means about 15 out of 100 people who use condoms as their only birth control method will get pregnant each year.

The better you are about using condoms correctly every time you have sex, the better they’ll work. But there’s a small chance that you will get pregnant even if you always use them the right way.

Want even more protection from pregnancy? Check out IUDs and implants, or take this quiz to find the birth control method that’s best for you.

How can I make condoms more effective?

The best way to make condoms work as well as possible is to use them correctly every single time you have vaginal, oral, and anal sex. That means wearing it the whole time, from start to finish. Make sure the condom is rolled on your penis the right way before there’s any skin-to-skin genital contact. Read more about how to use condoms correctly.

Using condoms + another form of birth control (like the pill, IUD, or shot) is a great way to get extra pregnancy prevention AND protection against STDs. Using withdrawal (“pulling out”) while also wearing a condom can help keep sperm out of the vagina and lower the risk for pregnancy.

You shouldn’t use a condom worn on the penis together with a internal condom. Condoms are designed to be used on their own, and doubling up won’t necessarily give you extra protection. One condom used correctly is all the protection you need. Also make sure your condoms aren't expired — check the date on the wrapper or box.

More questions from patients:

How effective are spermicide condoms?

Some condoms come pre-lubricated with a little bit of spermicide (a chemical that helps stop sperm from swimming to an egg). These are called spermicidal condoms. It seems like spermicidal condoms would be more effective than regular condoms, but that’s not true. Spermicidal condoms and regular condoms both work equally well to prevent pregnancy.

In order for spermicide to be effective at preventing pregnancy, you need to put a lot of it deep in your vagina. That’s why most types of spermicide come with applicators or in pre-measured doses that help you use the right amount. Spermicidal condoms only have a thin layer of spermicide on them, and it’s not enough to give you any extra protection from pregnancy.

Using spermicidal condoms is definitely better than using no condoms at all. And using a separate spermicide plus a condom can give you some extra protection from pregnancy. But when it comes to using condoms alone, regular condoms are just as effective as spermicidal condoms. And when used correctly, condoms are really good at preventing both pregnancy and STDs.

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Condom

  • 85% effective

  • Costs around $2 per condom, but can be $0

  • No prescription required

  • Put it on before sex

Condoms help protect you from STDs. Use another birth control method with your condom for even more pregnancy preventing power.
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