Roughly a third of Americans use condoms during sex, helping prevent unplanned pregnancies. Aside from convenience and widespread availability, condoms offer another key advantage: They help prevent transmitting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs or STIs).
Because condoms are a barrier method of contraception, many people wonder if using condoms regularly is all they need to do to avoid “catching” an STD. Unfortunately, while regular and correct condom use can be very effective in reducing your risk of contracting an STD, it’s not 100% effective — which means you must also take other precautions.
At Desert Star Family Planning, DeShawn Taylor, MD, MSc, FACOG, helps patients in Phoenix, Arizona, find a birth control method that works for their needs and provides in-depth guidance to help prevent STD infection. In this post, learn how condoms can play a role in keeping you healthy, along with other steps you should take to avoid becoming infected.
Quick facts about condoms and STDs
Every year, millions of Americans are infected with STDs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV). While many STDs respond well to treatment, prompt care is vital for avoiding complications and preventing the spread of disease.
Most STDs are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact or contact with bodily fluids. STDs can be transmitted during vaginal sex, anal sex, or oral sex, and you can “catch” an STD even if there is no penetration.
Because they’re a barrier form of protection, condoms help prevent STDs by reducing the risk of contracting fluids that could contain the germs that cause STDs. However, condoms only work when used correctly and consistently — and that’s true whether you’re using condoms to reduce your risks of unplanned pregnancy or STDs.
Limitations of condoms
While condoms can reduce the risk of STD transmission, they can’t completely prevent infection. Since even minimal contact can spread STD germs, if you don’t use condoms every time and use them correctly, you can still get infected. Even then, infection can still occur.
Most sexual activities involve skin-to-skin contact, and condoms can’t cover every square inch of potentially infected skin. Herpes, syphilis, and other STDs can spread through contact with the scrotum, vulva, and perineum, areas not covered by a condom. Parasitic infections with lice or scabies can also bypass condoms.
Other steps to take
Abstinence is the only way to prevent STD infection completely, but for sexually active people, that’s not an option. Instead, incorporate these other practices to reduce your risk further.
Get tested regularly
STD testing helps diagnose STDs early, long before noticeable symptoms even occur. By having testing regularly, you can prevent potential complications and avoid unknowingly spreading an infection to your partner.
Have one partner at a time
Monogamy can help lower your risk of STDs, too. Make sure you and your partner get tested for STDs at the beginning of your relationship.
Vaccines are available for some STDs, including HPV and hepatitis B, two common STDs. Ask Dr. Taylor about getting vaccinated during your next visit, or call us.
Talk with your partner
Being open and honest with your partner about STDs and getting tested can help, too. But remember: You and you alone are responsible for your sexual health, and while communication is essential, you must rely on your common sense to stay safe.
Reduce your risks of STDs
STDs can be highly contagious, and while consistent and correct use of condoms plays a vital role in reducing the risk of infection, you need to take other steps, too. To learn how we can help you avoid STDs or to schedule STD testing, call 480-447-8857 to book an appointment with Dr. Taylor and the team at Desert Star Family Planning today.