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06-05-1999, 07:17 PM
I remember hearing the failure rates for various methods when I was in high school. Back then I was too shy to ask what they meant. Surely condoms can't have a 12% failure rate per use can they? If 12% of the times I had relied exclusively on condoms had resulted in pregnacies, I would be getting a lot of Old Spice on Fathers' Day by now. So what is it based on? Normal usage for a year? Who decides what normal usage is?

06-05-1999, 07:45 PM
Yes, there is a 12% failure rate on condoms and normal use is thus:

The condom is put on as soon as the penis is erect.

The penis (with condom!) is withdrawn immediately after intercourse.

The condom did not rip, tear, or break.

The penis is pointed away from others (?) while the condom is removed.

That is a paraphrase of the instructions to use a condom I am looking at right now. And as for HIV germs. They *are* smaller than sperm.

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06-05-1999, 07:45 PM
here's what it says on my handy-dandy little pamphlet: "When they are taken correctly, the chance of becoming pregnant is less than 1% (1 pregnancy per 100 women per year of use)..." (talking about the b/c pill)

I'd assume that way of calculating it holds true for condoms as well. So the 12% would be 12 pregnancies per 100 women per year. I think....

If this is correct, it would break down to a much lower percentage per use.

06-05-1999, 08:07 PM
Plus, using condoms, a woman still gets pregnant 82% of the time [It may actually be more because they don't count those 5 days of the month she can't get pregnant because of her period in the statistics].

handy, you should REALLY stop relying on beer labels for your conception information. The failure rate for condoms (and hence, pregnancy) is only 5%. If your unwilling to take my word for it, take a look at the Kinsey Institute's New Report on Sex (1990).

06-05-1999, 09:39 PM
handy, you also need to check your facts regarding condom use and the aids virus. Cecil addressed this very thoroughly and it's in the archives.
Also, there are many more than 5 days out of a month that a woman CAN'T get pregnant. In fact, there are only two to three days per month when conception is possible.

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06-05-1999, 10:16 PM
See, this is why statistics get a bad rap. Everyone has quoted a different failure rate for condoms, without defining exactly what is meant by failure rate. (With the exception of yepitsme. Thanks yepitsme!) The 1% figure may jibe with the 12%, because the first is for a one year trial, and the second for a lifetime. It may also be that the 1% figure relies on proper usage, while the 12% factors in idiots who try eating the condoms instead of applying them correctly. (Hey, there's sort of a reverse Darwinism thing going on there, huh?) I don't know what to make of handy's 82% failure rate, especially given that it doesn't factor in the woman's five days of down time. That would mean that condoms actually promote pregnancy, wouldn't it?

06-05-1999, 10:51 PM
Oh, me culpa, sorry about that, I meant 82% of the time a women doesn't get pregnant. I was just guessing, but Ill run some numbers later. One place on the net it gives it a 12% rate, but the FDA page, under '"Typical Use" rates mean that the method either was not always used correctly or was not used
with every act of sexual intercourse (e.g., sometimes forgot to take a birth control pill as
directed and became pregnant), or was used correctly but failed anyway, condoms have a
14% *rate of pregnancy.*
[http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/1997/397_baby.html]

However, reasonably [although as usual, not exact] a woman cannot get pregnant during her period. Thus, I would use 86% X 25 days [give or take a day]= 81.5% because a woman can get HIV *everyday*, even during her period. And the stats only talk about pregnancy.

Yepitsme has a nice summary.

06-06-1999, 01:30 AM
Seems to me there is plenty of info on sexually transmitted diseases and if I ask my friends what they know, they seem to be pretty well informed.

So it puzzles me the amount of real risk they seem to take with new sex partners. For example, around 98% of the AIDS/HIV viruses take 3 months to show up in the body. Thus, it would be reasonable to assume one should wait three months from meeting someone before
having them tested to see if they have it. Getting tested just when you meet someone won't detect it.

Also, most of the people I talk to seem to be concerned only with HIV. Yet there are many other STD's that they don't request testing for.

Plus, using condoms, a woman still gets pregnant 82% of the time [It may actually be more because they don't count those 5 days of the month she can't get pregnant because of her period in the statistics]. So it's reasonable to assume since the HIV virus [& most others] are a lot smaller than a spermie, the chances of getting the virus using a condom with someone of unknown disease capacity, is more than getting pregnant. [Cecil wrote about the virus also going thru pores of the condoms].

The question is, if people are so aware of the danger of STD's, why do they still take so much risk with new sex partners?

06-06-1999, 01:54 AM
I don't know the answer to your question. I have the feeling it has to do with several things.
~ people don't ever think it will happen to them.

~ when drugs and/or alcohol are involved rational thinking goes out the window.

~ when you think you are in "love" your brain goes to mush and all rational thought goes out the window.

~ if you really like someone you don't like to think that they may have a STD. You think you know them and know that they are safe (in other words, all rational thought goes out the window).


I just had one question on something you said. You said, "Plus, using condoms, a woman still gets pregnant 82% of the time". I'd be interested to know where you got that statistic. It seems awfully high to me. If that figure is accurate, it seems to me like a lot more unwanted pregnancies would occur (I'm only talking about pregnancy - I know you have pointed out that STD's may be able to travel through the pores of the condoms.)

In the little pamphlet that comes with my birth control pills, it lists the typical failure rates of various methods of birth control. For a "condom alone" (meaning not used with spermacides) the failure rate is listed at 12%. Using "no method" is listed at 85%. Maybe I read what you said wrong, but I don't think that it is possible for a woman whose partner uses condoms to become pregnant 85% of the time.

anyone care to clarify this for me?

06-06-1999, 01:56 AM
oops, sorry - that second 85% is supposed to be 82% =)

06-06-1999, 05:10 AM
>>I remember hearing the failure rates for various methods when I was in high school. Back then I was too shy to ask what they
meant. Surely condoms can't have a 12% failure rate per use can they? If 12% of the times I had relied exclusively on condoms had
resulted in pregnacies, I would be getting a lot of Old Spice on Fathers' Day by now.<<

Greg Charles is right; stats do get a bad rap, because usually the numbers are right, but people don't define their terms.

The failure rate of a condom is different from the pregnancy rate.

The pregnancy rate, according to OBOS, is 5% w/o Nonoxynol 9, and 1% with Nonoxynol 9.

However the failure rate refers not to when the glitch results in pregnancy, but to all failures. If in ten trials, one time it tears, one time it leaks out the top, and one time it comes off in the woman, the failure rate is 30%. However, if cit happens that through luck, a backup system, or the Nonoxynol 9, none of the three women became pregnant, then the pregnancy rate is 0%.

What I can't tell you is whether gross user errors, such as taking off a condom, and then reusing it, resulting in pregnancy would be tallied in the pregnancy. In other words, the 1% pregnancy rate happens because of condoms correctly used EVERYTIME during the trials, that were among the 12% that fail.

I do believe that user error resulting in condom failure is scored as a failure, because the entire product, not just the latex sheath is being tested, and unclear instructions can cause failure due to misuse.

So if you really do know how to use a condom correctly, and you really do use Nonoxynol 9 with them, and apply a little spermicide directly into the vagina, so you have a back, during the woman's most sensitive days (most of us over 20 are aware when we ovulate), you can make your failure rate less than 1% point.


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--Rowan
Shopping is still cheaper than therapy. --my Aunt Franny

06-06-1999, 11:34 AM
Say Rowen, how many days a month can a woman get pregnant? If she didn't do it those days, the condom would have a 100% rate. Still she could get STD's any day.

06-07-1999, 01:44 AM
Let's all go back to Guidance class (or Sex Ed, whatever they called it in your school) and review a woman's cycle:

On Day 1 of a woman's cycle, her period begins. This consists of the lining of the uterus, which has been building up over the previous three weeks, falling out (kind of like skin peeling after a sunburn). Periods can last anywhere from two to ten days.

At around Day 14 of the woman's cycle (that is, two weeks after her period begins) the woman ovulates. This consists of her ovaries (or more accurately, one ovary) releasing a mature egg, which is ready to be fertilized by a man's sperm. Ovulation can occur as early as Day 7 and as late as Day 21. Ovulation is typically, but not always, accompanied by more gelatinous vaginal discharge and horny feelings.

Around Day 28 the woman's period starts again, provided that the egg was NOT fertilized, and the counter is reset to Day 1.

A mature egg, once released from the ovary, has a viable lifespan of only about 12 hours. This is why women who are trying to get pregnant use "ovulation indicators" that inform them of when they are ovulating. I'm not entirely sure on this one, having never used them, but I believe they measure the amount of a certain hormone in the woman's urine.

No problem, you say, avoiding pregnancy should be easy - just stay away from ovulating women. Unfortunately, the male sperm is a hardier creature than the female egg, and its viable lifespan, once inside a female, is around 5 days.

Given that it's pretty hard, really, to predict EXACTLY when a woman will ovulate, and the fact that under some circumstances, if a woman has sex during her period and then ovulates early, some sperm will stick around long enough to fertilize the egg, it is NOT a good idea to assume that if a woman has her period, she isn't going to get pregnant. In fact, to be absolutely safe, it's a good idea to avoid unprotected sex completely until Day 21. The safest time for unprotected sex, pregnancy-wise, is in the week just prior to the woman's period. If she's checking for ovulation, though, then two days after ovulation should be safe.

As far as STDs go - only abstinence or total monogamy is entirely safe. Handy is correct in that levels of HIV sufficient to detect to not appear in the body for some time after infection (although I heard it as 6 months, not 3). Condoms and spermicide can provide a certain amount of protection, but they are not foolproof.

Hope this helps. As someone (albeit mildly) allergic to latex, I've had to be EXTREMELY careful on this whole issue.

06-07-1999, 01:46 AM
Sorry, handy, I didn't quite answer your question.

A woman is only fertile for one day out of the month. However, sperm remain fertile for, oh, let's call it a week. The trick is to avoid the overlap.

06-11-1999, 12:37 AM
Is there a doctor in the house??? You ALL really need to consult a doctor before you talk about stuff like this.

---------------------------------------------Plus, using condoms, a woman still gets pregnant 82% of the time [It may actually be more because they don't count those 5 days of the month she can't get pregnant because of her period in the statistics]. So it's reasonable to assume since the HIV virus [& most others] are a lot smaller than a spermie, the chances of getting the virus using a condom with someone of unknown disease capacity, is more than getting pregnant. [Cecil wrote about the virus also going thru pores of the condoms].

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A condoms failure rate is much closer to 7%...not 82%, not 12%, not 14% and not 5%. Also, it is true that the HIV virus can go through the pores of a condom...a lambskin condom. A latex condom does not have pores. As far as when a woman can get pregnant.....some of you said a woman is only fertile 1 day a month......others have given other answers......I'm not positive but I think you are all wrong. Also, Sperm can live inside her body for several days just looking for an egg to wiggle into. As far as the one who said a woman can not get pregnant while on her period, you are seriously missinformed. There have been many cases where women have become pregnant during their period. Ask any doctor worth his salt and he will tell you.


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06-11-1999, 01:01 AM
you a doc, sped?

06-11-1999, 01:49 AM
Wow, what a great debate. Some of the information is clearly thought out and clearly presented. But it's still not quite right...

I'm afraid that I've forgotten who wrote the treatise on the female cycle, but it missed another point. The AVERAGE cycle is 28 days. Then there are women like me, with what's called Luteal Phase Defect. My cycles are about 22 days, with only seven or eight days between ovulation and menstruation. This makes it very difficult to use the calendar to judge my time of ovulation.

Averages are kinda like statistics, huh?

And by the way, HIV is not a very hardy virus. It dies easily outside the body. It doesn't always infect people having sex with infected partners. Still, other STDs are much nastier in the sense of contagion. Herpes is pretty yucky and can be passed even if someone is asymptomatic. Chlamydia is wretched, since it's almost symptomless, and yet it can kill a woman.

So, be good, have fun, and don't forget your raincoat!