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    How effective are condoms?

    Updated 04 April 2024 |
    Published 12 April 2019
    Fact Checked
    Dr. Charlsie Celestine
    Medically reviewed by Dr. Charlsie Celestine, Obstetrician and gynecologist, New Jersey, US
    Written by Kate Hollowood
    Flo Fact-Checking Standards

    Every piece of content at Flo Health adheres to the highest editorial standards for language, style, and medical accuracy. To learn what we do to deliver the best health and lifestyle insights to you, check out our content review principles.

    Many of us will rely on condoms as birth control at some point during our lives. But how effective are they really? We asked a Flo expert.

    A condom (a thin covering worn over the penis or inside the vagina during sex) is one of the most accessible forms of birth control

    Available from drugstores and sometimes even vending machines, condoms are often your best option if you need to get contraception quickly. But if you’re using condoms on their own, how reliable are they at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)? Let’s find out.

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    Key takeaways

    • Condoms are not as effective as some other forms of birth control. 
    • When used perfectly, 2 people in every 100 will get pregnant anyway within a year. 
    • It can be difficult to use condoms perfectly every time because they are prone to tearing and have to be put on and removed carefully to avoid any leaks. 
    • Condoms are the only kind of birth control that can protect you against STIs. For the best all-around protection, use them alongside another form of birth control.   

    What is the effectiveness of condoms? 

    Let’s look at the stats. With perfect use, external condoms (the type of condom that’s worn over the penis) have a failure rate of 2%. That means for every 100 people using the contraception in the correct way in a year, 2 people will get pregnant anyway. However, with typical or normal use, the failure rate is much higher than this, at 13%, often because of human error. 

    Internal condoms