Condoms have been around for centuries in one form or another, but in their typically latex form in modern times, they have only been in popular use for the past 3 decades or so. Condoms are, in fact, very effective against sexually transmitted diseases and also in the prevention of pregnancy.
However, their rate of effectiveness is determined and can be diminished or increased by a number of different factors. Do note that no method of contraception is 100% effective against sexually transmitted diseases, except for abstinence.
Freshness and Expiration– If you look at a package of condoms, and even on the individual condom wrappers, you’ll notice an expiration date on most. This is due to the fact that condoms can become less effective as they age. The longer you wait to use the condom the more dry it is likely to become. The dryer a condom gets, the more likely it is to crack. A condom that is too old and dry can also tear or break when being put on or during use. 
Storage – Where and how you store condoms is an important factor in their effectiveness. Exposure to heat or light can cause the chance of a condom breaking or tearing during sex to increase.
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Material – You may be surprised to learn that the material that a condom is made from can have an effect on the condom’s effectiveness against STD’s. In fact, latex condoms are considered to be most effective against STD’s including HIV and AIDS . Though, like other condom materials, they are less effective against the transmission of conditions like genital herpes, genital ulcers and syphilis which can be transmitted directly on the skin.
Another popular type of condom is made from polyurethane. Polyurethane condoms are a great choice for couples who may be allergic to the latex type.
Though they are generally considered slightly less effective against STD’s than latex condoms, mostly due to the fact that they are a bit less elastic and can have a looser fit, so are more prone to breakage or dislodging.
Lambskin condoms are also available. Made of lamb intestines, these condoms are effective against pregnancy; however, they are not considered to be a good option for protection from sexually transmitted diseases.
This is due to the fact that lambskin naturally has small pores that block sperm, but do not effectively block viruses or other organisms that cause sexually transmitted diseases .
There is another type of condom material available called polyisoprene, which is similar to latex in effectiveness but better for couple’s who may have allergies or reactions to latex.
Proper Use – The use of condoms is also a great determining factor in their effectiveness. Improper use of a condom can dramatically decrease its effectiveness. Only correct use can insure you get maximum effectiveness out of a condom. Always open a condom wrapper according to directions on the package.
Never open a condom wrapper with your teeth. It should be opened with your fingers, and very carefully so you don’t tear the condom inside. In addition, a new condom should be used for every sexual act that is performed. For example, if a couple chooses to have vaginal sex, and then has oral sex or anal sex, it is recommended to use a new condom for each sexual act.
It is essential to use a condom or condoms throughout the entirety of sexual activity. The condom should also remain on the penis from before the first sexual contact all the way past the act of ejaculation or whenever sexual activity has ceased. It is also critical to make sure there is enough space in the condom for semen to collect. If a condom has little or no room for semen at the tip, be sure to pinch the tip slightly to allow at least a half inch of space for the semen.
Proper removal of the condom is also important. Be sure to gently grip the rim of the condom and pull out of it, making sure the semen doesn’t come out. After use, wrap the condom in a tissue and put it in a trash receptacle where it won’t be handled by others. If a condom feels as if it has broken, torn or come loose, be sure to stop any sexual activity and replace it with a new condom as soon as possible.
Lubricant – The type of lubricant you choose can also have an effect. Some types of lubricants can cause a condom to become loose or slip off during sex. To avoid this issue, try to stay away from lubricants you may find in your home, like shortening, petroleum jelly or other oil based food items.
They are generally not very effective and can also cause skin irritation. Try to stick with store bought lubricants or use 100% aloe vera gel, which is effective and healing to the skin rather than irritating. Using lubricant with condoms is very important for women who have problems with vaginal dryness. Dryness can cause a condom to come off or loosen during sex. 
Consistency of Use – It is also critical to make sure you use condoms on a consistent basis. If one of the partners has a sexually transmitted disease, and just once they decide to not use a condom, infection or transmission of the disease can easily occur during that one instance.
What exactly do condoms protect you from? Let’s go through a list:
Pregnancy – Condoms are very effective when used for pregnancy prevention when used properly and consistently. Condoms are 98% effective against pregnancy when used perfectly.
HIV/AIDS – Since this disease is transmitted through exposure to semen or blood, condoms have a high rate of effectiveness in protection from HIV/AIDS.
Chlamydia –This STD is also transmitted through bodily fluids including semen and blood, therefore condoms have a good record of protection from chlamydia.
Hepatitis –This STD is also transmitted through blood and semen, and is also blocked by a condom at a high rate.
Syphilis – Since syphilis is often found in genital sores, a condom’s effectiveness in protection from this organism is less than other types of STDs.
Gonorrhea – Like HIV/AIDS and chlamydia, this infection is transmitted via bodily fluids, therefore condoms offer strong protection from transmission.
Herpes – Like syphilis, herpes is most often found in genital sores or on the skin, therefore condoms are less effective against STD’s like herpes, but they do offer some protection.