The purpose of using condoms is twofold: to prevent pregnancy and reduce the chances that a sexually transmitted disease will be given to a partner. Condoms are sheaths (barrier protection) that are worn on the male penis during sexual intercourse and can be made of latex, plastic or natural skin. Condoms have numerous benefits–they’re easily accessible at any drugstore or pharmacy, inexpensive and safe, convenient and easy to use. There are few negative side effects of condoms.
With any type of birth control, there’s always the risk of unplanned pregnancy. Condoms are extremely effective in preventing conception. However, Planned Parenthood states that two of every 100 women whose partners used condoms became pregnant even when they were used properly. Among those who did not use condoms properly, 15 of every 100 women became pregnant. Old condoms can become more brittle and more apt to break. Similarly, oil-based products, such as petroleum jelly and cooking oil, can cause condoms to weaken and rupture
Many condoms are made from rubber latex, which comes from the fluid in rubber trees. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology notes that some people experience an allergic response to the protein in the rubber. Symptoms can vary in presentation and severity, ranging from sneezing, runny nose, hives, itching or flushing to more severe signs and symptoms, such as wheezing, swelling, dizziness, and lightheadedness. In certain instances, latex allergies can invoke anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition. According to Planned Parenthood, only one or two people out of every 100 has latex allergy. The AAAAI notes that those who have latex allergies should use synthetic rubber condoms as a second choice.
Planned Parenthood notes that condoms are proven highly effective against HIV and reduce the risk of other diseases, such as syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea and HPV. However, they do not afford protection against sexually transmitted diseases that can affect the outer layers of the skin, such as scabies infections and molluscum contagiosum. The American Social Health Association notes that although condoms can reduce the risk of genital herpes, they don’t protect every part of the skin in which the herpes virus can a symptomatically shed and be transmitted to an infected sexual partner. Additionally, not all condoms are created equal: natural skin condoms (lambskin) are an effective measure of birth control but are porous enough to allow HIV and other STDs to be transmitted to a sexual partner.
Perhaps the most notable negative side effect of condoms is a sexual partner’s resistance to using them. Some men claim they experience a loss in sensation when using condoms, find them unromantic or take offense at being asked to wear them. Planned Parenthood notes that many men can overcome their resistance to using condoms and suggests trying out different styles and sizes to find the brand that’s most comfortable to both partners.
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