For those seeking a non-prescription method to guard against pregnancy and STIs, condoms are worth considering.

They’re discreet, cost-effective, and free from synthetic hormones. You can easily find them at your local drug store or convenience store.

Curious about the most reliable condoms available? Let’s dive into the details.

How do condoms work to prevent pregnancy?

Condoms act as a shield during intimacy, ensuring that there’s no direct contact between your and your partner’s skin and fluids. This not only reduces the risk of pregnancy but also offers protection against STIs.

For enhanced safety, condoms can be paired with other contraceptives, like birth control pills or IUDs.

There are primarily two categories of condoms.

Male condoms

Designed to be worn on the penis, male condoms offer protection during oral, vaginal, and anal intimacy. Commonly, they are crafted from latex or polyurethane and can be found in both lubricated and non-lubricated versions. Some also come with spermicide.

These condoms are typically priced around $1, and the variety is vast. Selections differ based on:

  • Size
  • Shape
  • Color
  • Taste

When appropriately utilized, male condoms boast a 98 percent efficacy rate in preventing pregnancy. However, as with all contraceptives, their success hinges on consistent and correct use. With average use, their effectiveness falls to about 85 percent.

Female Condoms

Designed to be inserted into the vagina or anus, female condoms are generally crafted from polyurethane or nitrile. They tend to be pricier than their male counterparts.

Each female condom typically costs around $4, though newer versions might be more affordable. The variety is limited compared to male condoms.

When used accurately, female condoms offer a 95 percent protection rate. However, with regular usage, their efficacy drops to approximately 79 percent.

Which condoms offer the best protection against STIs?

Latex, polyisoprene, and polyurethane male condoms are the most effective in guarding against fluid-transmitted STIs. These condoms can help prevent the spread of:





However, some STIs, like herpes and genital warts, are transmitted through direct skin contact. Condoms may not completely shield against these if the affected area isn’t covered.

While female condoms offer some level of STI protection, their effectiveness is still under study. As it stands, they aren’t as robust in disease prevention as male condoms.

The majority of condoms in stores are made of latex or polyurethane, but there are natural alternatives available. It’s essential to understand that condoms crafted from lambskin or other natural substances can prevent pregnancy. However, their porous nature may not offer complete STI protection, as they might allow fluid transmission even when used correctly.

If you’re allergic or have concerns about using latex or synthetic variants, consult your doctor for guidance on the most suitable contraceptive for your circumstances.

Condoms to try

The efficacy of a condom hinges on its material and correct application, so no specific brand holds a monopoly on safety. Below are some highly-regarded condoms and their noteworthy features.

Trojan ENZ:

This popular lubricated latex condom is an Amazon favorite. It sports a traditional design, complete with a reservoir tip for added spill protection and enhanced pleasure. If you’re in the market for straightforward protection, this is a solid choice.

Durex Extra Sensitive:

Designed for heightened sensitivity, this ultrathin condom is enriched with extra lubrication. Users appreciate its durability, snug fit, and reliable protection of Durex condoms.

LifeStyles SKYN:

Offered in a range of styles, including original, extra-lubricated, and intense feel, these condoms are known for their skin-like feel. The brand claims they’re the first top-quality polyisoprene condoms, with the “intense feel” variant specifically designed to heighten pleasure through its unique studded pattern.

Trojan Her Pleasure:

Engineered to enhance the female experience, this ribbed and contoured latex condom is well-regarded. Users note its secure fit, natural feel, and generous lubrication.

FC2 Female Condom:

The FC2 stands out as the premier female condom on the market. Crafted from polyurethane, it’s a suitable choice for those allergic to latex. Female users mention its comfort and secure fit when properly inserted, while male users often compare the sensation to that of unprotected intercourse.

How to use condoms properly

The reliability of a condom significantly depends on its proper usage. Hence, mastering the correct technique is vital.

Remember, condoms are designed for a single use. After use, dispose of it properly and always start with a fresh one for every new sexual encounter.

Using a Male Condom:

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Gently open the package. Avoid using teeth as they might damage the condom.
  2. To create a reservoir for the ejaculate, pinch the tip of the condom.
  3. Position the condom on the erect penis and gently roll it down the shaft using your other hand.
  4. Consider applying a water-based lubricant to reduce friction and enhance comfort.
  5. Post-intercourse, ensure you grip the base of the condom while removing it to prevent any spillage or slippage.

Using a Female Condom:

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Open the packaging with care. Avoid using teeth to prevent potential damage to the condom.
  2. Press together the innermost ring of the condom and insert it into the vagina, similar to how you’d insert a tampon.
  3. Leave the outer ring extending about an inch outside the vagina, ensuring it covers the vulva.
  4. Once done, gently pinch the external ring and carefully pull out the condom.

What to do if the condom breaks

Stay calm if you experience a condom failure, and communicate with your partner regarding the following measures.

For concerns about potential pregnancies, and if you aren’t already using another contraceptive like the pill, consider getting emergency contraception, such as Plan B One-Step, from a pharmacy. It’s accessible without a prescription, ID, or age limitations. Taken within three days, it can prevent approximately seven out of eight possible pregnancies.

An alternative is to consult your doctor immediately to have an IUD inserted, which boasts a 99 percent effectiveness rate in preventing pregnancy if placed within five days post contraceptive mishap.

However, emergency contraceptives don’t guard against STIs. If you suspect exposure to an STI, consult your healthcare provider promptly for testing.

Many STIs initially present no symptoms, but they can still be transmitted. It’s vital to get checked even if you feel fine.

Symptoms of certain STIs are as follows:


  • Pain during urination
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Abnormal discharge
  • Spotting between periods (in women)
  • Testicular discomfort (in men)


  • Unusual discharge
  • Burning during urination
  • Pain during bowel movements
  • Anal discomfort


  • Abnormal discharge
  • Genital itching and irritation
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Discomfort while urinating


  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fatigue

If you notice any of the above symptoms or have reasons for concern, it’s crucial to see a healthcare professional immediately.

The Takeaway

Condoms are affordable, easily accessible, and exceptionally effective in both preventing pregnancies and guarding against STIs.

For optimal STI protection, it’s recommended to opt for latex or polyurethane condoms over those made from natural materials like lambskin, which can be porous. No matter the brand or variant, always prioritize using them correctly.

While condoms offer a trusted method for safe sex, numerous other protective options exist. Engage in a discussion with your partner to determine the best choices for your unique relationship and needs.

For added security, many couples use a secondary contraceptive method, such as birth control pills or IUDs, in conjunction with condoms. Exploring different condom types, designs, and sizes can help you discover the ideal fit for both safety and satisfaction.