Thank you for this important question! This issue is absolutely worth clarifying.
Condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly.
‘Correctly’ here means a number of things:
- The condom must not break
- Semen must not spill over the sides
- The condom must be used with lubricants that will not break down the material (ex., oil-based lubes should not be used with latex condoms)
- The condom is not expired
- The tip of the condom is left with room for semen after ejaculation
- The condom is put on before any ejaculate or pre-ejaculate touches the other person’s genitals
So really this statistic means that disregarding human error, condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy.
Most non-latex condoms are made out of:
- Polyurethane condoms (a bit less stretchy than latex condoms, so may tear or slip off easier. Can be used with any type of lubricant)
- Polyisoprene condoms (cannot be used with oil-based lubricants)
- *less common* Lamb skin condoms (these are slightly porous, meaning sperm cannot get through, but STBBI bacteria and viruses can)
All three of these non-latex condom options are just as effective at preventing pregnancy as latex condoms are when used correctly.
However, of these three kinds, only Polyurethane and Polyisoprene condoms are also effective at helping prevent STBBI transmission.
It is important to remember that any type of condom, even when used correctly, cannot prevent the transmission of all STBBIs. For example, Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) can be transmitted via skin to skin contact around the genital or leg area.
Wearing a condom is still a great way to help prevent the transmission of STBBIs and we highly recommend it, along with getting regular STBBI testing through your healthcare provider or at a local clinic.