Failure rate*: 2–18%
Who: Single women who are as concerned about getting sexually transmitted diseases as about getting pregnant; women who are looking for no-commitment birth control.
- Latex rubber condoms are the best line of defense (besides abstinence) against STDs for which there is no known cure, like herpes, HPV and HIV.
- They allow for spontaneity, they're discreet, and they're relatively cheap. Value packs cost just $25 for 36 condoms—three of those would be more than enough to accommodate the average woman's yearly sexual activity.
- They absolutely require a man's cooperation. But the new generation may be more receptive: The CDC just reported that use of condoms by male teens is on the rise.
- An allergic reaction to latex can cause severe reactions, so women with this issue should look for polyurethane plastic. However, latex allergies only affect about six in 100 women (interestingly, they may also have a sensitivity toward bananas, avocados and kiwi fruit, which share similar proteins). More often, it's the spermicide that's causing vaginal irritation, says Daniela Carusi, MD, the director of general gynecology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. As an alternative for the irritation-prone, Carusi suggests spermicide-free condoms with a water-based lubricant like K-Y Brand Jelly.
*Failure rate: the percentage of women experiencing an unintended pregnancy during the first year of perfect use and the first year of typical use of contraception.
Source: Contraceptive Failure in the United States by James Trussell at the Office of Population Research, 2011 (provided by Planned Parenthood)