2 Gynecologists Reveal The Top Questions They Get About Condoms

There’s a lot we already know about condoms. For one, they’re one of the most affordable, accessible forms of contraception. And with so many different varieties to choose from in a range of textures, colors, flavors, and materials, they’ve also come a long way over the years. Then again, there’s a lot we don’t know about condoms. Enter: Your gynecologist, a condom guru of sorts. Needless to say, the questions gynecologists get about condoms are fascinating. It makes sense, too. Not only do these medical professionals have a firm understanding of how condoms work, but they can also offer guidance on choosing the right one for you, as well as how to handle any mishaps related to using them.

So, why aren’t you tapping your gynecologist for their wisdom? Is it perhaps a bit of embarrassment or bashfulness? The thing is, your safety is far more important than any awkwardness — which means it may be time to suck it up and bust out the tough questions. And rest assured that gynecologists have pretty much heard it all, particularly in regards to condoms. Like what, you ask? Here are some of the most common questions that Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, OBGYN at Yale-New Haven Hospital and clinical professor at Yale University School of Medicine, and Dr. Pari Ghodsi, Los Angeles-based OBGYN, have received from their patients.

What if my sexual partner doesn't want to use a condom?

Ah, yes — the infamous condom critic. They'll probably tell you that it makes sex feel less pleasurable for them, or something else along those lines that's totally irrelevant. Side note, BTW: A 2013 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that men and women aged 18 to 59 rated sex as equally satisfying with or without a condom, and condoms also did not appear to have any impact on an individual’s ability to maintain an erection. #MicDrop.

Dr. Minkin says this question pops up from a lot of patients. Her response? “If he refuses to use a condom, you don't need him!” If it’s a matter of finding what’s comfortable for them, experiment with different sizes, materials, etc. to find what works for both of you. But the bottom line is, you shouldn’t have to put your safety or health at risk for their pleasure.

What are the different types of condoms?

This is one of the more practical questions that Dr. Pari is frequently asked. She explains that the main four types of condoms are spermicide, spermicide-free, latex, and non-latex. Spermicide condoms are lubricated with a chemical that kills sperm.

“They’re OK [for] vaginal intercourse, but not recommended for oral or anal sex,” she adds. Spermicide-free condoms are great for people who are sensitive to spermicide and have experienced any kind of reaction from it.

According to Dr. Pari, latex condoms are the most commonly used type. “But don’t use them with oil-based lube,” she warns. “They can break or slip off if you do.”

And if you’re allergic to latex, or prefer oil-based lube, you can use latex-free condoms. They’re typically made from polyurethane, natural lambskin, or other synthetic high-tech materials, according to Dr. Pari.

Note: Dr. Minkin advises that polyurethane condoms are far superior in regards to STI protection than lambskin condoms.

How effective are condoms in preventing pregnancy?

Good news: According to Dr. Pari, who gets this question from patients a lot, condoms are 98 percent effective at preventing pregnancy — if, and only if, you use them perfectly.

“People aren't perfect, so in real life, condoms are about 85 percent effective,” she adds.

That means that about 15 out of every 100 people who use condoms as their only method of birth control method will get pregnant every year. Woof.

The lesson? Make sure you fully understand how to properly use a condom — and if you’ve never used one before, it’s a good idea to practice putting one on before you actually do the deed. Also, you can combine the use of condoms with another method of contraception, such as a birth control pill or IUD, which will increase your protection against unplanned pregnancy.

What does a 100 percent risk-free hookup look like?

Dr. Minkin says this is one of the more interesting questions she’s gotten — mainly because it’s impossible to answer. “I explained that the only risk-free hookup I knew about was a vibrator,” she explains. “Even if a condom covers the whole penis, there are a lot of areas outside of the condom which can contact your skin.”

It’s important to have an open discussion with your partner about the last time they were tested. And of course, aside from abstinence, using condoms is the best way to prevent STDs and STIs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the CDC reports that you can still contract certain STDs, like HPV or herpes, from skin-to-skin contact with your partner even if you are using a condom.

What should I do if a condom breaks?

Both Dr. Pari and Dr. Minkin say they’ve dealt with many patients in #panicmode because a condom broke or got stuck inside them. Their advice is the same: Stop by your local pharmacy and pick up an emergency contraception pill (AKA Plan B or “the morning after pill”), which can be purchased without a prescription. According to Dr. Minkin, it is effective for up to three days after the “oops moment.” That said, the sooner you can take it, the more effective it will likely be. Also, Dr. Pari adds that if a condom breaks, you should contact your OBGYN and schedule an appointment for STD testing just to be safe.

Clearly, gynecologists have been asked a wide range of questions from their patients, which means you definitely shouldn’t be shy about asking anything and everything that you’re curious about regarding this method of contraception.

“A patient should know that there is no reason to be embarrassed to talk to their gynecologist about condoms,” says Dr. Pari. “Using condoms is practicing safe sex and that is something they should be proud of!”

So when you’re tempted to Google your condom-related question or ask your bestie, remember: That’s what your doctor is there for. A good gynecologist will make you feel comfortable asking the tough questions. And to boot, they’ll be eager to share important knowledge that you can use to make smarter choices and ultimately, benefit your health.