10% of Couples Use Condoms. Should You Be One of Them?

Condoms are greatótheyíre available in almost any drug store or clinic and they protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). More than half of U.S. couples use a condom when they have sex for the first time, and over 93% have used condoms at some point.

The number of couples relying on condoms tends to go down as relationships last longer, so itís safe to say a lot of couples start off using them and then switch to another method of birth control when they become exclusive. Starting a new method of birth control (maybe one thatís more effective for preventing pregnancy than condoms) doesnít have to mean forgoing condoms. Doubling up with condoms and another method is a great option for many couples. But if you and your partner have been using condoms and want to stop, here are a few things to square away beforehand.

Get your test (GYT)
Male and female condoms are the only methods that can protect against STIs. That includes the ones that can easily be treatedólike gonorrhea and chlamydiaóand the not-so-easily treatedólike herpes and HIV.

Just because neither of you have bumps or rashes doesnít mean youíre necessarily in the clear; STIs can be there without you even knowing it. So even if youíre pretty sure you donít have an STI, you should both get tested for common infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV. You may also want to ask about a herpes test; your healthcare provider will usually ask questions to figure out if it makes sense to test for that too. Itía also a great time to make sure your HPV vaccine series (3 shots!) is done and your Pap smears are up to date.

All of these tests can be done without a physical exam:

  • For chlamydia and gonorrhea, you just need to provide a urine sample. Yup, itís a simple as peeing in a cup.
  • For HIV, syphilis and herpes, itís a blood test. That means providing a small sample of blood at a lab or clinic.

Then just a few days of awkward waiting and youíll have your results!

Drumroll, please
Once you get your test results, you may have a few more steps to take before itís safe to stop using condoms.

Positive for chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis
These STIs can all be cured with antibiotics. You may take pills, get a shot, or both. The treatment depends on the type of infection. You may be done after one shot, one pill, or a week of pills. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you get tested again in the coming months to make sure the infection is cleared up. If you have any symptoms or concerns after youíve finished the treatment, talk to your provider and decide what to do.

Positive for HIV, herpes, or hepatitis
These STIs canít be cured, but they can be managed with medicines that reduce the viral load (the amount of the virus in your body) and a partnerís chance of getting the same infection. Although the medicines reduce the chance of giving the virus to a partner, they donít guarantee it. That means that youíd need to talk to your partner about how you both feel taking this chance without condoms. (If you decide to keep using condoms, youíre in good company. About 10% of U.S. couples of all ages rely on condoms.)

All clear
If youíre both in the clear, you can have the ďletís stop using condomsĒ conversation.

  • If youíre not ready for kids yet: This is a good time to talk about what other method you want to use for pregnancy prevention. Obviously whoever is using the method should have final say, but it might be nice to have both partners involved in the decision. You can also talk to your healthcare provider to help you figure out which method is best for you.
  • If youíre quitting condoms in order to start trying for a baby: Itís a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider a few months ahead of time. Even for women without health problems, there are some basic things you can do to have a healthier pregnancy. For example, taking prenatal vitamins prevents certain types of birth defects. Your provider can also give you good tips for how to increase your chances of getting pregnant. Good luck!

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Jessica Morse is an ob/gyn at Duke University where she works with residents providing a full spectrum of reproductive health care. Her main research interest is increasing the number of women who know about long-acting reversible contraceptives (IUDs and implants), in the U.S., Uganda, Rwanda and Honduras. She lives in Durham, NC, with her husband and silly 3-year-old son, where they spend weekends hiking, hanging out at playgrounds, and exploring the Bull City.

Originally published on bedsider.org

54 comments

MJ J.
Past Member 4 years ago

only 10 percent?

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JL A.
JL A4 years ago

sounds like too low of a percent

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LB Lewis
LB Lewis4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

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Beth O'Brien
Beth O'Brien4 years ago

It's a shame that non-latex condoms are so expensive when they're a necessity for people with latex allergies.

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Amanda M.
Amanda M4 years ago

After our first daughter was born, I went on the Depo shot for a year because it wouldn't interfere with nursing her. Unfortunately, it made me gain 35 pounds (which for a woman who's 5'3" is a LOT), so I went off it and we switched to condoms and spermicide after that, partly because they're not "fattening" (I'm still struggling with the excess weight even now at 40) and partly because we didn't have health insurance and couldn't afford the cost of more reliable forms of birth control (the pill alone cost $30 a month). And yes, we're also part of that failure rate-despite using both forms of contraception religiously, we ended up with our younger daughter (I call her our "ninja baby" because she snuck up on us). After that, I got "spayed," so no more worries about birth control-yay! Now all I need to do is get that dratted perimenopause under control-that PMS part SUCKS!

But I never minded condoms. They're good protection against STI's and if the woman is the one who puts it on the man, that can be one HELL of a turn-on and part of the foreplay too!

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Natasha Salgado
Past Member 4 years ago

Still believe condoms to be 1 of the greatest inventions of modern time.

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Lone W.
Lone W4 years ago

Always be aware of the risk of STDs.

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Slava R.
Slava R4 years ago

It's quality not quantity.

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Belinda B.
Past Member 4 years ago

thanks

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leonie trevanion
Leonie Trevanion4 years ago

I found condoms to be brilliant I wished we had used them before we had 7 kids lol but once we started using them we had no more pregnancies.
I finally found out I couldn't take the pill. So condoms were great we could still do something we loved doing without the extra offspring.

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