There are many myths and misconceptions about condoms and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases, or STIs). Can you get an STD from a condom? Can you prevent STIs/STDs if you use a condom? We asked a medical professional and the NHS website to set the record straight.

Table of Contents:

What is an STD/STI?

(STDs) Sexually transmitted diseases or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are basically the same thing. They are illnesses that can be passed from person to person by having unprotected sex. STDs can include, but are not limited to, bacterial infections such as gonorrhoea or chlamydia and viral infections such as HIV/AIDS or genital herpes.

Although some can lead to severe and long-lasting health complications, you can prevent all with regular testing and proper protection during sex. It is essential to know that both men and women can get STDs and that condoms can reduce the risk of contracting one.

However, the only way to guarantee prevention is abstinence from sexual contact with anyone you do not trust and are not in a monogamous relationship with.

For those who don't know what monogamous means, here is the definition - having only one partner in a sexual relationship at once.

How are STDs/STIs transmitted?

Sexually transmitted diseases and infections can be spread in various ways, the most common being contact with an infected person's bodily fluids. These can be transmitted from skin-to-skin contact, including vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, and oral sex.

While you can take specific steps to reduce the risk of transmission, they can still occur in some cases. For example, even when using barriers such as condoms and dental dams during sexual activity, there is still a slight chance an STD can be transmitted due to contact with areas that are not covered.

People need to understand how STDs can be transmitted and access medical care and information to ensure they can make healthy decisions regarding their intimate relationships.

There are many reasons why people who ‘always’ use a condom can still become infected with STIs.

Bacteria and viruses can be transmitted to the genital area on the fingers, as well as using sex toys.

Some bacteria and viruses are spread by skin to skin contact and some by mixing body secretions.

Many couples have done things like penis touching or entering the vagina before they put the condom on. There may also be infecting organisms in the pre-ejaculatory fluid. This is why for the best protection from STIs, the condom should be applied before there is any vaginal, anal or oral - contact or penetration.

If a couple has sex more than once at the same occasion, there can be semen left over in the male urethra along with other secretions which can transmit infection.

The condom should be removed after ejaculation while the penis is till erect to prevent the seepage of semen into the vagina.

If the condom bursts, breaks or slips off, this leads to mixing of vaginal and penile - or other - secretions.

For these reasons, even couples who ‘always’ use condoms should still have regular STI screening.

It's also worth noting condoms no longer routinely contain spermicide. In fact, research has shown that spermicide nonynol-9 does not reduce the risk of STIs. It may even increase it, perhaps because it causes vaginal wall inflammation. (Source)

Can you get an STD/STI from a condom?

Condoms can help reduce the risk of transmitted infections and diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, herpes, and HIV/AIDS. However, it is essential to remember that condoms are not 100% effective and can still expose users to infection.

Even with perfect use, certain sexually transmitted infections can still be contracted when using a condom. For example, pubic lice can still be spread through contact with certain body parts that are not covered by a condom.

It is essential to practice safe sex by always using a condom; however, it can be just as important to recognise the risks associated with them so you can make an informed decision about your health and well-being.

It's essential to be aware that lambskin condoms offer no protection from STIs. The reason is that while called lambskin, condoms are often made not from the skin but from lamb intestines, which are porous.

How can you prevent getting an STD/STI with a condom?

Protecting yourself from getting an STD/STI can be as simple as using a condom when engaging in sexual activity. Using a condom dramatically decreases the risk of transmission, but can never guarantee complete protection due to potential breakage or slip-ups in technique.

To maximise your protection, buy condoms with the European CE mark or the UKCA mark - which shows the condoms meet European standards of approval - and check the expiration date. Read more here on condom expiration dates.

Always use the condom carefully and correctly. Use a condom each and every time you have sexual intercourse. Just using a condom some of the time is no going to give you adequate protection - even once without a condom is enough to transmit or acquire and STI. Find out more information on how to use a condom here.

When putting on a condom, it is essential to use and discard one for each act of sexual intercourse, unroll the condom to the base of the penis, and ensure there are no small tears along its surface. Read this blog for more information.

Can you contract an STI from a condom?

A new clean condom will be completely sterile and safe to use. You cannot get STDs/STIs from an unused condom. Condoms are designed as single-use items, and while this may not be great for the planet, it's good news in the war against sexually transmitted diseases.

The exception to the rule is lambskin condoms. Lambskin or sheep intestines are widely used in the manufacturer of 'natural' condoms, but they do not protect against STI/STDs, as previously noted above.

If you're concerned about sexually transmitted infections, there are several brands of condoms that offer a great deal of protection.

Here is a list of our favourite extra-safe condoms:

Durex has been offering high-quality, reasonably priced condoms and lubricants for over a century. Durex is the most recognisable brand name in the condom and sexual health industries. The Durex brand name first appeared on store shelves in 1929, a decade after the parent company's founding in 1915. Durex is a compound term for “durability, dependability, and excellence.”

Durex Extra-Safe Condoms are thicker than standard condoms to protect those at risk from infections.

Mates's Condoms are super safe and incredibly reasonably priced. Mates are owned by a parent company called Manix. Manix has a history of creating lifestyle goods extending back to 1905. Now Manix makes Mates condoms and lubes. Manix, now the second-largest maker of condoms in the world.

Adore is a proudly British condom company that sells high-quality condoms at low costs. Love condoms promote everyone's access to safe, inexpensive contraception. Every Adore condom complies with and surpasses all applicable quality standards.

Read our blog post about - Why condoms are so expensive.

If you're concerned about the cost of condoms, this 144-pack from Pasante offers excellent value. Pasante is one of the top brands for condoms and lubricants and is dedicated to upholding everyone's right to safe and consensual sex. The condoms and lubricants sold by Pasante are relatively affordable and widely available and protect against STIs.

Conclusion

If you are sexually active, it is vital to be prepared and take steps to prevent the spread of STDs/STIs. Using condoms is one way to reduce your risk of contracting an STD/STI, but there are other measures you can take as well. Be sure to talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about STD/STI testing and prevention. And don't forget to buy some condoms.

Dec 24, 2022
Written by:
Victoria Walsh