Condoms & Contraception: Best Condoms, Condom Reviews, Condom Effectiveness.

Taken From: Consumer Reports - http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/health-fitness/health-care/condoms-and-contraception-205/overview/index.htm
Condoms being tested.

LAB-TESTED Two of 23 kinds of latex condoms we tested may have a greater tendency to fail during use.

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Of the many options available for pregnancy prevention, condoms remain the only method that also can help prevent sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, which causes AIDS. That's a crucial function: HIV infects 110 Americans each day and at least half of them younger than 25. Concerns have evolved over some older sexually transmitted diseases, including gonorrhea, because they have become resistant to the standard drugs used to treat them. For this report, we evaluated 23 kinds of latex condoms. We also purchased two types made of polyurethane, marketed to people allergic to latex.

Because there's so much confusion over contraceptives, we also created the chart in Condoms & Contraception - A Comparative Guide. with the facts about 17 birth-control methods, so that you can compare them and decide what's best for you. And Birth Control: More & Safer Choices. details the latest developments in contraception.

In our tests, all latex condoms passed minimum industry standards (no such standards exist for polyurethane models). We found no correlation between performance and price, thickness, or the country of manufacture. But some models were clearly stronger than others. We rated one model that Planned Parenthood distributes at its clinics as poor because its strength was so low compared with the rest. Here are the details:

Strength differs - We test condoms by inflating them until they burst, an established predictor of real-world performance. The best had no premature breakage among the 120 samples we tested for each model. When inflated, they also averaged at least 38 liters of air. The worst, however, broke 18 of 120 times at volumes below our strength threshold of 25 liters.

Size matters - Most models met minimum standards for length and thickness. But some samples of the Durex Extra Sensitive, Durex Performax, larger-size versions of TheyFit, and Trojan Magnum slightly exceeded the maximum recommended width and should be used only by men who require a larger width.

Fewer brands have spermicide - There's no reason to choose spermicidal condoms over other kinds. They have no additional benefit in preventing pregnancy, have a shorter shelf life, and may cause urinary-tract infections in young women. Nonoxynol-9, a widely used spermicide, came under scrutiny in 2001 when a report from the World Health Organization warned that if used frequently, it may cause vaginal irritation and might increase the risk of contracting HIV. Though the amount of nonoxynol-9 on a spermicide-lubricated condom is smaller compared with the doses studied in the report, some condom makers, including Durex, have dropped models lubricated with nonoxynol-9. Others, including Trojan and LifeStyles, say they will keep selling them. A LifeStyles spokesman said the company is working with the Food and Drug Administration on the issue of nonoxynol-9.

Special features abound - In our tests, condoms labeled "ultra thin" generally lived up to that claim; all but the Class Act Ultra Thin & Sensitive had thinner walls than most. That's not the only feature you'll find. TheyFit condoms (formerly Viva 21st Century Individual Fit), sold at Condomania.com, come in 55 sizes. The Inspiral Lubricated has a raised, wraparound "seashell" tip. Two condoms we tested had a "desensitizing" lubricant that contains the topical anesthetic benzocaine, ostensibly to delay orgasm; another contains a lubricant claimed to "warm" on contact with body fluids.

How to choose?

Any of the top-rated latex condoms, used properly and consistently, offers the best protection from sexually transmitted diseases. To help ensure that the condoms you buy do their job:

  • Don't buy or use condoms past their expiration date.
  • Never reuse a condom.
  • Store condoms in a cool, dry place, not in a glove compartment or your wallet for an extended length of time.
  • Follow package directions.
  • Open the condom packet with care. Never use scissors, a knife, or your teeth.
  • Use only water-based lubricants, such as Astroglide or K-Y Jelly. Oil-based lubricants such as petroleum jelly, baby oil, or body lotion can weaken the latex.
  • If you're allergic to latex and are at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, buy condoms made from a synthetic material such as polyurethane. Lambskin is too porous to prevent the transmission of disease.