Sex Advice

Dear Dr. Locker: Can a woman get pregnant if you use a condom?

Answer from Dr. Locker

When used properly, condoms hold the semen when ejaculated, so that it can not get into the woman's vagina. That keeps her from getting pregnant. According to the FDA, condoms will protect you from pregnancy about 97% of the time if you use them perfectly. Yet, if you do not use condoms correctly, then they are more likely to break or semen can spill out, and the failure rate is much higher. So with typical, "not perfect" use, they are only 86% effective at preventing pregnancy. In other words, each year, 3 women out of 100 will get pregnant even if they had sex using a condom correctly. And each year, 14 women out of 100 will get pregnant if they used condoms but not always used them correctly.

In order to get your birth control to be as close to 100% effective as possible, use a second method along with the condom. For example, if she takes birth control pills (99% effective) exactly as directed, and you also use condoms (86% to 97% effective), then you can feel pretty sure she won't get pregnant (almost 100% sure).

Also, to increase the effectiveness of condoms, be sure to use them according to the directions in the package, and use a water based lubricant to reduce breakage. Check out how to use a condom, and reasons why condoms break for more info:

*What are the proper steps to use a condom?

*What are the most common reasons why condoms break?


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