Condom Effectiveness Rate [2022]: Do Condoms REALLY Work?

We’ve gathered every statistic you need to know about condom effectiveness rate, its use for men and women, mistakes people make, pros & cons, and more.

condom effectiveness rate

Condoms are one of the most common & widely used forms of contraception and STI prevention globally. In testing, they’re considered to be very effective – but does that hold up with reality?

In this article, we’ve gathered every statistic you need to know about condom use for both men and women, how effective they are, mistakes people make, pros and cons, and more. 

Top Condom Effectiveness Statistics You Should Know:

  • 46% of American women studied use male condoms as their contraceptive method.
  • Male and female condoms should not be used at the same time.
  • Male condoms are 98% effective if they are perfectly used.
  • Effectiveness rates are up to 10 times lower than theoretical effectiveness when action from the user is required.
  • Failure rates for condoms range from 3% to 15%.
  • 79% of men have had some trouble with condoms slipping up but not off.
  • Non-latex condoms had a higher frequency of breakage or slippage during intercourse or withdrawal (4.0%) than latex condoms (1.3%).
  • The breakage rate for non-latex condoms was about eight times higher than for latex condoms.

What Are Condoms?

Before we dive into how well condoms work, let’s define what a condom is, how familiar people are with condoms, and how often they’re used:

  • Condoms are thin fitted tubes worn on the penis during sex (for male condoms) or inserted into the vagina (for female condoms).
    • Condoms create a barrier that keeps semen and other body fluids out of the vagina, rectum, or mouth.
    • (WebMD, 2021)1
  • Approximately 85% of women in urban areas and 69% of women from rural areas have heard of a condom.
    • (Indian Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and AIDS, 2015)2
  • Currently, 9.8% of urban and 3.2% of rural married women use condoms.
    • (Indian Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and AIDS, 2015)2
  • Among the sexually active unmarried population, 72.4% of women and 98% of men used condoms. 
    • The prevalence of condom use may be affected by accessibility, availability, policies, and political influence.
    • (Indian Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and AIDS, 2015)2
  • 46% of American women studied use male condoms as their contraceptive method.
    • This made condoms the most popular contraceptive method among women in this study of 433 American women.
    • (Contraception, 2006)3

How Do Condoms Work?

Condoms are, in some ways, the simplest form of birth control and STI prevention by creating a barrier that physically prevents semen and other fluids from passing. Here’s how they work:

  • Condoms work by keeping semen from entering the vagina.
    • (Nemours Children’s Health, 2022)4
  • Male condoms are placed on the penis when it becomes erect.
    • It is unrolled to the base of the penis while holding the tip of the condom to leave extra room at the end, creating a space for semen after ejaculation. This also makes it less likely that the condom will break.
    • (Nemours Children’s Health, 2022)4
  • Female condoms work similarly and are inserted into the vagina using the closed-end ring. The other ring creates the open end of the condom.
    • Once inserted, the condom lines the walls of the vagina, creating a barrier between the sperm and the cervix.
    • Female condoms can be inserted up to 8 hours before intercourse.
    • (Nemours Children’s Health, 2022)4
  • Male and female condoms should not be used at the same time.
    • Friction between the two can break them, make them stick together, or cause one or the other to slip out of place during sex.
    • If a condom breaks or slips, semen can get through, making the condom less likely to prevent pregnancy or STDs.
    • (Nemours Children’s Health, 2022)4

The Different Types of Condom Materials

Condoms can be made of several different kinds of materials, some of which are more effective at preventing STDs, pregnancy, or both. Here are the different kinds of condoms:

  • There are three types of condom materials: natural materials, latex rubber, and plastic.
    • (Indian Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and AIDS, 2015)2
  • Natural condoms can be an effective barrier against sperm and bacterial STDs but do not protect against viral organisms such as HIV, which are smaller than bacteria.
    • Natural condoms allow the transfer of body heat between partners.
    • (Indian Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and AIDS, 2015)2
  • Latex condoms are less porous than natural condoms and form a more effective barrier that can block smaller organisms, such as HIV.
    • Latex condoms reduce heat transfer, which may contribute to reducing sexual pleasure.
    • (Indian Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and AIDS, 2015)2
  • Plastic or polyurethane condoms are under development.
    • These condoms provide an effective barrier against HIV and bacterial STDs while allowing better transfer of heat.
    • They are thinner than latex condoms and increase sensitivity.
    • Plastic condoms are also more expensive than latex condoms and less flexible, so more lubrication may be needed.
    • (Indian Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and AIDS, 2015)2

Condom Effectiveness Rates

Condoms are widely considered very effective at preventing pregnancies and STDs, but generally only with perfect use. These studies show what perfect use is, how effective condoms are with perfect and imperfect use, and more:

  • “Perfect use” is when the method of condom use, application, and removal are always used correctly.
    • (National Health Service, 2017)5
  • Some methods are less effective with “typical use.”
    • This is when the method is not always used correctly.
    • Some methods do not have typical use rates because they have no user failure.
    • (National Health Service, 2017)5
  • Contraception is less effective at preventing pregnancy if not used correctly.
    • (National Health Service, 2017)5
  • Male condoms are 98% effective if they are perfectly used.
    • This means that 2 in 100 women whose partners use a condom will get pregnant in a year during perfect use.
    • (National Health Service, 2017)5
  • “Typical use” with male condoms is only around 82% effective.
    • This means around 18 in 100 women will get pregnant in a year.
    • (National Health Service, 2017)5
  • Female condoms are 95% effective when perfectly used.
    • About 5 in 100 women who use a female condom will get pregnant in a year.
    • (National Health Service, 2017)5
  • With “typical use,” female condoms will be less effective and have around a 79% effectiveness rate. Around 21 in 100 women will get pregnant in a year.
    • (National Health Service, 2017)5
  • Failure rates for condoms range from 3% to 15%.
    • (World Health Organization, 1988)6
  • Condom Effectiveness rates in Preventing Pregnancy, HIV, and Other STIs:
    • Male Condom
      • HIV: 98.5%
      • Pregnancy: 98%
      • Other STIs: From 66% to 75%
    • Female Condom
      • HIV: 94%
      • Pregnancy: 95%
      • Other STIs: From 66% to 75%
    • (United States Agency International Development, 2015)7
  • Worldwide, men who have sex with men (MSM) are 18 times more likely to be infected with HIV than the general population.
    • (Indian Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and AIDS, 2015)2
  • How effective condoms are at preventing different STIs:
    • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV): more than 90% protection
    • Hepatitis B virus: more than 90% protection
    • HPV: Not significant
    • Herpes simplex virus type 2: 10% to 50% protection
    • Cytomegalovirus (CMV): 50% to 90% protection
    • Chlamydia trachomatis: More than 90% protection
    • Neisseria gonorrhoeae (Gonorrhea): More than 90% protection
    • Trichomonas vaginalis (Trichomoniasis): More than 90% protection
    • Treponema pallidum (Syphilis): 50% to 90% protection
    • Haemophilus ducreyi (Chancroid): 10% to 50% protection
    • Pthirus pubis: Not significant
    • (Indian Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and AIDS, 2015)2
  • HIV transmission during anal sex is reduced by 70-87% when condoms are consistently used.
    • (Indian Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and AIDS, 2015)2

Why Are Condoms Not 100% Effective?

Even though condoms create a barrier between the partners, they’re still NOT 100% effective at preventing pregnancy or STIs. This is primarily due to user error, according to these studies:

  • Effectiveness rates are up to 10 times lower than theoretical effectiveness when action from the user is required.
    • This applies to many forms of birth control, such as the contraceptive pill, condoms, diaphragms, foam, and natural methods.
    • The motivation of the individual is also an important indicator. The stronger the user’s motivation, the more likely they will use the method effectively.
    • (World Health Organization, 1988)6
  • Factors that cause breakage in condoms:
    • Inexperience
      • Younger and inexperienced people are more likely to have condoms broken.
    • Condom Brands
      • Different condom brands have different breakage rates.
    • Incorrectly sized condoms and non-spermicidal condoms
      • Poor-fitting condoms and non-spermicidal condoms were associated with more breaks.
    • Vigorous sex
    • Dryness
    • Tearing with fingernails
    • More lube
      • Additional lube was not shown to protect from breaks, and saliva was associated with more breaks than expected. (Check out what lubricants can be used with condoms in our guide here.)
    • (Contraception, 1994)8

Men Experiencing Slippage and Breakage in Condoms

Slippage and breakage when using condoms are surprisingly common. The vast majority of men have experienced some form of issue with condom use – although many of these don’t result in a full break or slip-off. Here are the stats:

  • 79% of men have had some trouble with condoms slipping up but not off.
    • (International Journal of STD & AIDS, 1995)9
  • 3.1% of men said the condom fully slipped off during use.
    • (International Journal of STD & AIDS, 1995)9
  • 4.9% of condoms were reported to have broken, either during intercourse or while being put on.
    • 62 men reported breaking from 1 to 20 condoms each, with an aberrant respondent claiming he had broken 25 out of 52 condoms used.
    • (International Journal of STD & AIDS, 1995)9
  • In another study, 10.9% reported issues such as breakage, slippage, leakage, or a combination of these during sex.
    • (Contraception, 1994)8
  • 5.6% reported a breakage, and 6.5% reported slippage.
    • Leakage was almost always associated with breakage or slippage.
    • (Contraception, 1994)8
  • 66.0% of people said they were aware of the break before ejaculation occurred.
    • (Contraception, 1994)8
  • Non-latex condoms had a higher frequency of breakage or slippage during intercourse or withdrawal (4.0%) than latex condoms (1.3%).
    • (Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2003)10
  • The breakage rate for non-latex condoms was about eight times higher than for latex condoms.
    • (Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2003)10

Pros and Cons of Using Male and Female Condoms

Condoms (for both men and women) have many benefits but also come with a few downsides. The most common downside discussed is, of course, pleasure. But there are a few other disadvantages to consider with condom use. Here’s what some studies say:

  • Benefits and Drawbacks of female condoms
    • Benefits
      • Don’t require a prescription
      • Longevity (a female condom can put one in up to 8 hours in advance)
      • Can be used for a range of penis sizes
      • Extra stimulation (Women can enjoy extra stimulation on their clitoris from the outer ring)
      • Works instantly
      • Your partner doesn’t need to remove their penis as soon as they ejaculate
      • Don’t require an erect penis to keep it in place
      • Little to no side effects
      • OK for anal sex
    • Drawbacks
      • Higher failure rate than male condoms
        • With “typical use,” female condoms have a 79% effectiveness rate (21% failure rate).
        • During “typical use,” male condoms have an 82% effectiveness rate (18% fail rate).
      • Harder to find and more expensive
      • Some find the outer ring noisy during sex
      • Can be uncomfortable when putting in the condom
      • Bad reactions to it can cause pain and an itchy or burning feeling
      • Some feel discomfort while using the condom
      • Can cause a urinary tract infection (UTI) if the condom stays in too long
    • (WebMD, 2020)11
  • Advantages and disadvantages of male condoms:
    • Advantages
      • Most effective protection available against STIs
      • Does not affect the future fertility of either participant
      • Only used during sex
      • Safe to use while a woman is breastfeeding
      • Less expensive than hormonal methods of birth control
      • No prescriptions are required
      • Widely available
      • May help prevent men from having an orgasm too quickly (premature ejaculation)
    • Disadvantages
      • Embarrassment (some people are embarrassed to use condoms)
      • May interrupt foreplay or intercourse
      • Both partners must be comfortable with using condoms and be prepared to use one every time they have sex
      • Condoms may decrease sensation for both participants
      • Some people are allergic to latex (rubber). These couples should use condoms made of polyurethane (plastic).
      • Condoms may break or leak
      • Other birth control methods have a lower failure rate.
        • Using an additional method of birth control is a good backup measure in case a condom breaks.
        • If a condom does break and you are using no other birth control method, emergency contraception can be used to help prevent pregnancy.
    • (MyHealth.Alberta.ca, 2021)12

Common Condom Misconceptions Among People

Myths and misconceptions about condoms are widespread. Many people have negative stereotypes about condoms or believe they cause people to be more promiscuous. They don’t realize that condoms are extremely effective at preventing HIV and other serious STIs.

Here are some condom myths and misconceptions from a study among 600 adult men in a West African University population.

  • Condom misconceptions:
    • Condoms protect against HIV
      • Yes: 60.8%
      • No: 34.0%
      • Don’t know: 5.3%
    • Reasons why people believe condoms do or don’t protect against HIV
      • Condoms are for prostitutes: 0.3%
      • Condoms are not 100% safe: 24.7%
      • Depends on the brand: 0.3%
      • It’s safe: 30%
      • No reason: 27.6%
      • Prevents direct blood/fluid contacts: 13.7%
    • Condoms reduce pleasure/sensation:
      • Yes: 39.8%
      • No: 18.2%
      • Don’t know: 42.0%
    • Reasons why people believe condoms do or don’t reduce sexual pleasure:
      • Depends on the brand of condom: 0.4%
      • It’s psychological (the mind): 0.9%
      • No reason: 22.3%
      • Not an issue: 8.1%
      • Not natural (No body contact): 25.5%
      • Tightens the penis /Causes early ejaculation: 0.7%
    • Condoms reduce erections:
      • Yes: 10.0%
      • No: 46.5%
      • Don’t know: 43.5%
    • Reasons why people believe condoms do or don’t reduce erections:
      • Enhances prolonged erection: 1.9%
      • It’s Psychological (the mind): 3.4%
      • No connection between condom use and erection: 5.8%
      • No reason: 30.7%
      • Not an issue: 8.8%
      • Not natural (No body contact): 4.4%
      • Tightens the penis/Causes early ejaculation: 1.6%
    • Condom sex is inferior:
      • Yes: 20.7%
      • No: 36.6%
      • Don’t know: 42.8%
    • Reasons why people think sex is inferior or sex is not inferior:
      • Mistrust: 1.1%
      • To prevent STI/HIV: 3.4%
      • Depends on the brand of condom: 0.2%
      • It’s safe: 3.5%
      • No reason: 26.5%
      • Not an issue: 9.2%
      • Not natural: 13.3%
      • Religious reasons: 0.2%
    • Condom use causes sexual promiscuity (unfaithfulness):
      • Yes: 11.1%
      • No: 62.3%
      • Don’t know: 26.6%
    • Reasons people say condom use causes sexual promiscuity or not:
      • Encourages multiple sexual partnerships: 6.2%
      • To prevent STI/HIV: 18.8%
      • It’s safe: 8.1%
      • No reason: 25.2%
      • Not an issue: 4.8%
      • Religious reasons: 0.2%
      • To prevent unwanted pregnancies: 26.6%
    • (Global Journal of Medical Research, 2012)13

Conclusion

Condoms are a highly effective form of contraception, but only when used correctly. “Typical” condom use is significantly less effective than “perfect” condom use, and most people are not perfect.

However, that doesn’t mean that condoms should be avoided altogether!

They’re still very effective compared with nothing at all – so if you’re trying to prevent pregnancies and STIs, use a rubber if that’s all you’ve got!

For more interesting sex studies and statistics, head over to our guide here.


Footnotes

  1. WebMD, 2021. An article on condoms.
  2. Indian Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and AIDS, 2015. A study on condoms.
  3. Contraception, 2006. A study of 433 American women.
  4. Nemours Children’s Health, 2022. An article on condoms.
  5. National Health Service, 2017. An article on how effective contraception is at preventing pregnancy
  6. World Health Organization, 1988. A book on natural family planning by the WHO.
  7. United States Agency International Development, 2015. A condom fact sheet by the United States Agency International Development.
  8. Contraception, 1994. A study of 540 American clients.
  9. International Journal of STD & AIDS, 1995. A study of 108 Australian male condom user volunteers.
  10. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2003. A study of 830 American monogamous couples.
  11. WebMD, 2020. An article on female condoms.
  12. MyHealth.Alberta.ca, 2021. An article on male condoms
  13. Global Journal of Medical Research, 2012. A study on 600 adult men in West Africa.
Dainis Graveris

Dainis Graveris

Over last 4 years Dainis have helped millions of people through his advice on this site (200+ guides and 1M+ visits/monthly). His work & advice has appeared on sites like: Healthline, Vice, Cosmopolitan, Men's Health, WomensHealthMag, MindBodyGreen & more. Read More

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