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Author Topic: Is this true?
LadyLuck77
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Okay, so I was conversing with one of my pre-med friends via e-mail and we started talking about birth control. He just scared the crap out of me. I am so tired of misleading information about my birth control, everywhere I turn. But then again, I think, "Is it really so asinine? Are these people against condoms really on to something here?" So...if an expert could tell me the reliability of these statements (especially the condom testing part), I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

As follows:

"First of all, you make a really big erroneous assumption. You assume that you can see any kind of break that would cause a condom to fail to work.

Think about it for a minute. The minimum necessary is one sperm has to get through. A sperm is microscopic and small even for a cell. Are you SURE there aren't any microscopic-sized holes in your condom?

And the fact of the matter is that microscopic holes ARE one of the ways condoms fail. Like most rubber products, the quality tends to degrade with time. You've seen old rubber stuff, I'm sure - the surface is usually cracked. Those big cracks start from small cracks. That's why some condoms actually have dates printed on them... you want fresh ones!

It also bears mention that it is frequently the case that not EVERY condom is checked, as you seem to think. This would cost time, money, and alter the product. Manufacturers often take short-cuts where they are allowed by law, and the short-cut that is often taken is batch testing. A manufacturer will test (maybe) one out of every hundred condoms, and if that one works they'll assume that their manufacturing process is going along just fine.

You also need to keep in mind that virtually all manufacturers do not shoot for perfection (nearly impossible in manufacturing anyway). When the U.S. FDA tests condoms, a fail rate of four to 150 per thousand is considered acceptable, depending on the test that is used. This means that up to 1.5% of condoms can have problems and that is considered PERFECTLY OKAY. To the manufacturers and the government, anyway.

Even with perfect use there is a 2-5% fail rate of condoms. Don't kid yourself. It's only slightly better than just pulling out."


What the heck? Why is all the varying information out there???

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LadyLuck77
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I am not really asking if it's true that condoms aren't 100%. I know that they fail. But I was really under the assumption that when a condom tears or breaks, it isn't small enough to go unnoticed.

I guess what I'm really asking is if the FDA and manufacturers are as lax as he is saying. It just concerned me...and I want to make sure I have accurate info. Thank you.

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Heather
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quote:
Even with perfect use there is a 2-5% fail rate of condoms. Don't kid yourself. It's only slightly better than just pulling out.
Your pal has a hyperbole problem, for starters. Withdrawal, especially among young adults, only has about a 75-80% effectiveness rate with spot-on "perfect" use (and is more like 50-60% with typical use, only about 10% more effective than chance). Condoms, on the other hand, have perfect use rates just a couple percentage points away from the pill. (Though it should be noted that amoung young women, typical use rates for condoms and the pill are actually not that far off: so, those who'd say only the pill is a workable method for young women -- and this is a very common thing for young men to say partcularly -- aren't paying mind to published information which has shown that many young women don't or can't use the pill correctly enough for that to be a better choice.) Here's hoping you pal doesn't go into reproductive health: the last thing women need is to be scared away from known reliable methods of birth control, especially the rare ones which men can also help with and use.


I think perhaps your friend also maybe needs to look into the composition of latex in general to understand that "microscopic" holes really aren't likely. And the testing condoms are put through, as I have always understood it, is pretty extensive, and involves air being blown into each condom -- given the molecular size of oxygen, a hole which could allow sperm through would also allow for that air to pass through and thus, fail the test. Obviously, what he's saying about expiry dates is valid: but they're right there on each package. This isn't some secret or mystery: that information is right there on every condom.

So, I'm not seeing "all this" varying information out there. If you do some research, you can look up for yourself how condoms are tested, what the quality standards are, the works.

The PRIMARY reason condoms fail and always have is from lack of use. Second after that is breakage (which yes, is usually very obvious), usually due to lack of lubrication or use of a condom past the expiry date or which was stored inproperly. Slippage is another, but that's usually just a matter of a person having a condom that isn't too large for them, which is easily managed. WAY after any of that, way, way after would be manufacturing flaws, but this is a TEENY percentage of failures.

If some personal consloation would help, I've been...well, let's just say very sexually active in my life, and plenty of times, that's with men. I went off of the pill in 1992ish, and have been using a combination of condoms and diaphragm or condoms or diaphragm either exclusively, and sparing one problem with a slip (this is what EC is now here for), here I sit, not pregnant and childless (which I couldn't say, by the way, for the pill: I got pregnant in high school using pill alone). I've also done a lot of condom review, and I gotta say, I've never even opened a flawed condom per manufacture. Mind, that's just one person's experience, but if it's helpful to you, there it is.

But if you want more protection than just condoms to feel okay, by all means, back up with another method. You've been SO stressed out about condom use, and seem to have your boyfriend, now this guy, arguing against their use around you, so it's no wonder you're staying freaked. But if these alone aren't working for you, you have plenty of options per adding backup, okay?

[ 01-02-2007, 03:58 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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Here are some extra links for you to start with, too, if you want/need to do some more digging for yourself:

• http://www.avert.org/condoms.htm
• http://www.utexas.edu/courses/bio301d/Topics/Condoms/Text.html
• http://www.fhi.org/en/RH/Pubs/booksReports/latexcondom/standspectests.htm
• http://www.fda.gov/cdrh/comp/guidance/1139.html
• https://www.globalprotection.com/aboutus/gp_aboutus_qualitycontrol.html

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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LadyLuck77
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Thanks. I'm not trying to make anyone mad here. My boyfriend and I have taken a relationship "break" over this, because he is so scared of condoms but still wants to have sex. ??? And my doctor told me to avoid hormonal contraception, which I was going to attempt to get on again, if only for his sake. I'm about to blow a fuse trying to get this sorted out so I can stop worrying about birth control. I mean, my life is way more than birth control. Geez.

My temper rose today when I heard that from my friend, who at first said he wanted to calm my fears, but then gave me all of that info. I just wish there weren't so many different opinions. It is so hard to find a place where you don't get OPINIONS, just facts. Anyway, I'm truly sorry if I irritated you by questioning that. I just wanted some feedback on the reliability of those statements.

Thanks for providing information where I can do research on my own. I appreciate it.

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Heather
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Hey, gal, no one is mad here. (Not at you, anyway: I won't pretend that the way your friend is talking to you, especially when he was supposed to be providing support and knows you view him in an expert way -- which I doubt he is -- isn't vexing.)

So, don't worry about that, okay? We are HERE to answer these questions, after all. We'd be pretty silly to get angry for someone asking them.

Have you talked to your doctor, by the by -- even just for future use -- about NON hormonal options? Using a diaphragm or cervical cap with condoms, for instance, is an excellent combo. One more option to remember? Sex is SO much more than intercourse, and it's always an easy option to just choose sex that doesn't even require birth control for a while, or period. Plenty of people treat intercourse as something occasional or optional in their sex lives (personally, I don't know that I'd do well with a male partner who didn't view it that way).

I'm really sorry your guy is being the way that he is: it's very hard when partners are so unsupportive of birth control, but also aren't willing to step back from sex when they can't deal with it.

Those links are great places for facts. Avert and FHI, for instance, are very, very credible organizations and they take the mission of protecting everyone's health very seriously: they don't have sexist biases or biases per if they do or don't want to use condoms themselves.

[ 01-02-2007, 04:06 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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LadyLuck77
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You are a wonderful, wonderful asset to the sexual health world. Thank you! I always feel sheepish after having to ask a battery of questions on this site, but you always wind up making me feel WAY better. And I really appreciate you. Happy New Year. [Smile]
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Heather
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Aw, shucks, girl. Thanks: that's lovely. Happy new year to you as well. [Smile]

And don't feel sheepish. It's obviously one thing when a user is asking the SAME question again and again, or contintually putting themselves at risk against our advice and then wanting us to comfort them, but it's a very different thing when a user just need information, needs support, and needs help in taking care of themselves when they're trying very hard to do that.

Everyone has to feel sheepish enough about sex and sex questions most places in the world: no need to feel that way here.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 68237 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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