Condoms 101: what you need to know

Got questions about condoms? Get answers here

What it is: You know, that latex sheath…?
How it works: Provides a physical barrier to keep the vagina sperm-free.
Effectiveness: Between 85 and 98%.   
Convenience: May reduce spontaneity if you have to go digging for one.
Best for: Couples who are spacing their kids, since condoms don’t affect fertility.
Side effects: Decreased sensitivity in some men. Also, latex allergies can be an issue (look for polyurethane or silicone-coated condoms).
Price tag: Available at pharmacies and grocery and convenience stores for about $10 a dozen.
Good to know: Condoms are the only birth control that provide protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but may not protect you from the human papilloma virus (HPV).

When “Plan A” fails
…there’s always Plan B. Available over-the-counter, it’s Canada’s only approved emergency contraceptive. Plan B is a progestin pill that inhibits ovulation and implantation up to five days after unprotected sex.
“I often recommend keeping a package at home because there is a chance of failure with condoms,” says Dara Maker, a family physician at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. “But if you find you’re taking it a lot, talk to your doctor about an alternative form of birth control that might work better for you.”

Our experts:
Dara Maker, family physician at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto
Roey Malleson, clinical associate professor of family practice at University of British Columbia
Ronald Weiss, assistant professor of medicine at University of Ottawa

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