How useful are condoms as a contraceptive?
Condoms are one of the most widely used methods of contraception and are the only contraceptive that can provide protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). When used correctly, they can provide over 90% effectiveness in guarding against unwanted pregnancy or diseases.
So, are they usable by both men and women?
Even though the male condom is more widely known, there are also specialized condoms available that can be worn by women. Male and female condoms are different in their shape and size and cannot be used interchangeably.
Many women prefer condoms over birth control pills since there is no need to introduce extra hormones into the body with condoms, which is the case with medicinal contraception. And, female condoms give the woman more freedom in choosing her method of contraception without having to rely on another individual.
How are male condoms and female condoms different?
Even though both effectively serve the same purpose, there are several major differences between male and female condoms. You may think that all that’s different is the size and shape, but that’s quite far from the truth. Here is how they differ:
What they are made of - Even if condoms are colloquially termed as “rubber”, it is not always the case. In fact, female condoms are not made with original latex. They are usually manufactured with polyurethane and synthetic latex. This makes them safe in terms of allergies. It also means that, unlike latex or rubber, it is not affected by environmental conditions like temperature and humidity. Male condoms, on the other hand, can be made of latex, which poses a risk of allergic reactions in some people and also makes them susceptible to environmental changes.
The type of lube used in them - Male condoms usually have water-based lube present on them. The lube makes it easier for the condom to slide into the vagina during sex. A water-based lube also makes sure that it does not react with latex because oil-based lubes tend to react with rubber. Female condoms, however, can have either water-based or oil-based lube. Since they are not made of latex, there is no risk of the lube reacting with the material.
How effective they are as birth control - When used correctly, the female condom has a 95% effectiveness. But, it is often harder to use than male condoms and there is more of a chance of exchanging bodily fluids. So, on average, the effectiveness rate comes down to around 79%. Male condoms are more effective when used properly, with a 98% effectiveness rate. But, even though it is easier to use correctly, there can be a chance that some mishap occurs, bringing down the effectiveness rate to 85%.
Method of using - The method of using both are quite different. Male condoms are rolled onto the penis, covering a large portion of it. One needs to have an erect penis to be able to use a male condom, so it is largely based on arousal. Female condoms, however, can be worn up to 8 hours prior to sex and the woman can do it herself since no erection is involved where the vagina is concerned. Wearing it can be a bit tricky the first time because it needs to be properly placed inside the vagina, ensuring that the inner ring is correctly stationed inside and is aligned with the outer ring. But, wearing it ahead of the act can ensure that you have ample time to check if it’s inserted duly and also that there are no interruptions to your steamy session.
Pleasure from each - The male condom can sometimes inhibit blood circulation by being too tight around the penis. This can cause a loss in pleasure or even erection for the man. And, if the man loses his erection or doesn’t feel enough pleasure, the experience can also be ruined for the woman. With female condoms, however, there is no tightening around the penis and the man has no barriers to pleasure. Also, the inner ring can act as a stimulant for the woman, thus increasing the amount of pleasure for her as well.
Protection from STIs - Since condoms are the only contraceptive method that can prevent STIs like gonorrhea or genital herpes, it becomes an important factor for people who have multiple partners or who are not in a monogamous relationship. Male condoms provide better protection from STIs as they are better at keeping direct genital contact at bay. With female condoms, however, there is more risk of exposure to bodily fluids. Thus, it is less effective at guarding against STIs.
So, what’s the verdict?
Keeping in mind the fact that condoms are generally used as a method of birth control and protection against STIs, it is advisable to use a male condom. However, one can always rely on the female condom as long as it is used correctly and efficiently. But ultimately, whatever your choice may be, make sure to use at least some form of protection.