Condoms are an effective way to reduce the chance of pregnancy and prevent sexually transmitted infections (STI). There are a whole bunch of options to choose from, but not all of them are as good at preventing pregnancy and STIs.


Latex condoms, which are the most popular type, have been proven to effectively prevent pregnancy and the transmission of STIs such as HIV and herpes. They are inexpensive and come in a variety of styles and sizes. Unfortunately, some people are allergic or sensitive to latex. Latex condoms should not be used with oil-based lubricants (like petroleum jelly), which can weaken the condom and decrease its effectiveness.

Natural membrane

Sometimes labelled as sheepskin or lambskin, these condoms contain tiny holes that are too small for sperm to pass through, but small enough for viruses. This means they will not prevent the transmission of STIs.

Did You Know?
Natural membrane condoms are made from lamb intestine, not skin!


Polyurethane condoms are a good choice for those with latex allergies. They can also be used with oil-based lubricants. However, their ability to prevent the transmission of STIs is not nearly as well documented as latex and they are a bit more expensive.

Did You Know?
Condoms that do not pass industry standards may still be sold, but they must carry the warning “for novelty use only”, meaning that they may not prevent pregnancy or STIs.

Extra features

According to Health Canada, extra bells and whistles will not increase or decrease the effectiveness of condoms.


It is always a good idea to use a lubricant in conjunction with a condom. Lubricants reduce friction, lowering the chance a condom will break. Choosing a pre-lubricated condom is a convenient option. Otherwise, several different types of lubricants are available, including ones that heat up when they contact skin, simulating blood running to the area. Lubricants that claim to make arousal last longer contain a numbing agent, such as benzocaine.

Vibrating ring

Some condoms include a studded silicone ring with a battery inside fits at the base of the condom. This can be pleasurable for both partners.

Learn More!

Health Canada

Sex Information and Education Council of Canada

Article first published on March 23, 2010.

Melody Montgomery

I completed my Bachelor of Science in Integrated Science at Carleton University. After working in research labs, I entered the Clinical Genetics program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. I now work in a genetics lab.I volunteered for the Carleton Chapter of Let’s Talk Science's Partnership Program. My activities included leading a forensic science workshop for high school students, judging science fairs, and making slime with kids at a local library.

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