Condoms are a convenient and easy-to-use form of contraception and an effective deterrent against sexually transmitted diseases or infections as long they are used correctly every time you have sex.

Table of Contents:

What makes condoms effective?

Condoms act as a barrier between you and your partner. The barrier is the condom, and the method is known as a 'barrier' or something that sits between you and your partner to stop fertilisation or prevent a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or infection (STI).

Using the condom as intended can prevent semen from touching your sexual partner, thus preventing pregnancy STDs or STIs if used correctly during sexual contact.

There are several essential things you can do to make condom use more effective, and these include:

  • Proper condom application.
  • Using spermicide in addition to the condom.
  • Choosing a condom that contains spermicide.
  • Masking sure the condom has not expired.

Putting a condom on properly is not difficult or time-consuming, and it doesn't detract from intimacy, but it's worthwhile reading about ways to put a condom on so that it's practical and comfortable. Read more here.

Can everyone use condoms?

Yes, condoms are suitable for most people. There are several types of condoms, so if you're allergic to latex (the material that makes up condoms), you can always choose an alternative.

For people who are latex intolerant, choose a condom made from polyisoprene or polyurethane.

Is it possible to get pregnant if you use a condom?

That fact is that it is possible to get pregnant using condoms. No contraception is 100% guaranteed to prevent pregnancy. Read why below.

Male condoms are 98% efficient when used consistently every time you have sex. 98% effectiveness suggests that when male condoms are used as contraception, 20 out of every 1000 women will become pregnant each year.

A female condom is less effective than a male condom by 3%. According to the NHS, using a female condom is 95% effective against pregnancy and STIs because the chances of semen coming in contact with the vagina are higher.

The percentage of women who become pregnant in a year can increase to 18% or 180 women if they do not use the condom correctly. The bottom line is that if you do not use a condom as intended, you will significantly increase your chance of getting pregnant.

Why are condoms not 100% effective?


There are many factors why condoms are not 100% effective, and often, condoms fail to do their job due to human error. Here are the most common reasons that condoms fail to prevent pregnancy.

  1. The condom is not put onto the penis correctly in the first place.
  2. The condom is put on the penis after intercourse has started.
  3. The condom is removed before ejaculation has happened.
  4. No space has been left at the tip of the condom to collect the semen.
  5. The condom is damaged or expired.

People often question the effectiveness of condoms, but you must understand that a condom is only as effective as those who use it. If condoms are misused, they will not be able to prevent unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. So it's up to you to use them as intended.

What else can make condoms fail?

Apart from the above list, your condom may fail if your partner is using medicines that interfere with the makeup of the condom.

For instance, some creams, suppositories or pessaries for conditions like thrush or candidiasis (vaginal or anal candidiasis) can damage polyisoprene, polyurethane or latex condoms, making them fail.

What else can you do to prevent pregnancy?

You can reduce your chances of getting pregnant by combining your condom choice with a lubricant containing spermicide.

Always make sure your condoms are within date and have not expired. Read our article about checking if your condoms are useable and have passed the expiry date.

Never be tempted to use two condoms. In actuality, wearing two condoms provides less protection than one. Why? When two condoms are used together, the friction between them might damage the condoms' material and increase the likelihood that they will break.

Are latex condoms more effective than natural condoms?

Latex is a natural ingredient made from rubber trees combined with water. The composition is roughly 55% water to 45% rubber; adding preservatives makes us think of latex as an artificial product, but it is, in fact, derived from a natural substance.

Some people are allergic to rubber and prefer polyisoprene or polyurethane condoms. Polyisoprene and polyurethane are manufactured products. For instance, polyisoprene is an Isoprene solution of 2-methyl-l,3-butadiene.

However, buying other natural condoms, such as lamb skin, is possible. Lambskin condoms are made from lamb intestines. They can prevent pregnancy, but they don't protect you from STDs as they are made up of material much like human skin with tiny pores or openings.

Experts advise against using lamb skin condoms if you need to come as close to the 98% effectiveness of commercially available condoms.

Conclusion and last thoughts

While it's possible to get pregnant using condoms, you can reduce your chance of getting pregnant by following all our suggestions and using condoms correctly.

We can’t reiterate enough that condom effectiveness is increased if the user is careful and follows all the instructions and guidelines regarding the storage and application of the condom.

Read our blog post if you're unsure about the type or size of condoms to use. And finally, always use condoms with the European UKCA mark or a CE mark on the packet. The marks mean the condoms have been tested to high safety standards complying with EU safety, environmental or health requirements.

Nov 24, 2022
Written by:
Victoria Walsh