How safe are condoms against pregnancy?
The condom remains the most widely available and popular male contraceptive method in the United States.
Method failure of the male condom resulting in unintended pregnancy is uncommon, estimated to occur in about 2% of couples using condoms consistently and correctly during the first year of use. A summary of studies of contraceptive failure for the male condom, as well as a detailed discussion of the estimates used to derive these rates, can be found in Chapter 31 of Contraceptive Efficacy.
The 2% probability of pregnancy during a year of perfect use of the male condom does not mean that 2 of every 100 condoms used will result in unintended pregnancy. What this means is that only 2 of 100 couples who use condoms perfectly for 1 year will experience an unintended pregnancy. If each couple had intercourse at the average coital frequency for U.S. of 83 acts per year, then the 100 couples would have had intercourse a combined total of 8,300 times over the course of a year. Two pregnancies resulting from 8,300 acts of condom use (or about one pregnancy per 4, 150 acts of intercourse) is a remarkably low pregnancy rate (0.02%) when calculated on a per-condom basis.
However, couples vary widely in their ability to use condoms consistently and correctly. Among those using condoms for contraception, about 15% will experience an unintended pregnancy during the first year of typical use. The marked difference between the condom's probability of pregnancy during typical use and during perfect use generally reflects errors in use, most notably the failure of couples to use condoms during every act of sexual intercourse. Several user behaviors, described later, likely contribute to the risk of unintended pregnancy and transmission of infection despite condom use. [Warner, Hatcher, Steiner ? 2004]
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Summary: The condom remains the most widely available and popular male contraceptive method in the United States. Condoms are very effective if used consistently and correctly. Couples choosing to use condoms should talke about it and agree never to have sex without a condom.
Key Words: condoms, pregnancy, safe
Warner L, Hatcher RA, Steiner MJ. Male condoms IN Hatcher RA, Trussell J, Stewart F. et al. Contraceptive Technology 18th edition: pages 331, 333, 334. Ardent Media Inc. 2004
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