Gynecologist explains why condoms are the best form of birth control

There’s only one form of birth control that can prevent pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs): the condom. 

OB-GYN Dr. Nicole Sparks gave In The Know a rundown on everything we need to know about the male condom, the most popular form of contraception. 

“There are female condoms too but they’re not as common and not as popularly used,” Dr. Sparks explained. 

What are the most popular types of condoms available? 

The most common condom is made of latex. Dr. Sparks said about 80 percent of condoms produced are latex — which you should steer clear of if you have a latex allergy, of course.

“The other type of condom which is really less common is the lambskin condom,” Dr. Sparks said. “These are actually really porous so I actually don’t recommend this as the number one choice because it doesn’t protect as well from STIs like HIV or HPV.” 

Those allergic to latex might find synthetic condoms the best alternative.

“If you have allergies to latex this may be your choice it also has similar efficacy to the latex condoms,” Dr. Sparks added.

Are there different kinds of shapes and styles? 

Male condoms come in various shapes, colors, sizes and flavors.

“The standard condom is about 7 inches long and about 2 inches wide,” she explained. 

Where can I get them?

Condoms are readily available and even free at some places.

“The male condom is pretty easy to get,” Dr. Sparks said. “You don’t need a prescription for them. You can get it at any general pharmacy, you can also get it for free at the health department. So if you don’t want to pay go to your health department and they will be more than willing to give you all the condoms that you need.” 

How do I put it on? 

The condom is easy to use but it still may take some practice. 

“I encourage people to practice on a cucumber or a banana. And if you have any questions, you can ask your local health department or talk to your physician,” Dr. Sparks said.

When should I use a condom? 

It’s imperative to use a condom every time you have sex, according to the OB-GYN.

“It is very effective when you use it,” Dr. Sparks said. “The thing is that most people won’t actually use it every single time. They use it sometimes and not use it the others which drives the failure rate way up. Sometimes 5 to 10 percent or even higher.” 

You’ll also want to make sure there are no holes in the condom before and after each use. 

What type of lubricants should I use? 

It’s definitely best to avoid oil-based lubricants with a condom. 

“It will actually make it less effective,” she said.

What do condoms do that other methods of birth control don’t? 

The only form of birth control able to prevent STIs is the male and female condom. 

“So even if you are on another contraception, you actually still want to use a condom to make sure that you don’t get any sexually transmitted infections. Especially those like, HIV or HPV and some other ones like gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis,” Dr. Sparks said. “Wearing a condom during intercourse is a really good idea.” 

If you liked this article, watch Dr. Sparks answer all your pressing questions about birth control.

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