Less expensive, but not less effective

Photo Credit: Mika Locklear

Consumers don’t skimp when it comes to protection, but does the effectiveness of condoms go up with the price? Many people believe brand names offer better protection than the less-expensive generic kinds, or that certain types of condoms are safer. But by law, the brand of a condom makes no difference in protection.

All condoms in the U.S. undergo testing for retail approval. According to the University Health Services Web site, all are “considered equally effective at preventing pregnancy and infection.” The US Food and Drug Administration conducts tests and establishes and enforces manufacturing regulations all condoms must pass, regardless of brand name or price. 

As far as the sensation goes, that’s up to the user. Some people enjoy ribbing or extra lubricant, and others prefer a larger size for comfort. In the end, it comes down to what characteristics you and your partner find most preferable. 

UHS provides condoms free of charge for students. You can also pick up free condoms at the Health Promotion Resource Center in Room 1.106 of the SSB. While UHS provides free lubricated, non-lubricated and flavored condoms, the Forty Acres Pharmacy sells a variety of condoms and other contraceptives, including emergency contraception like the morning after pill.

“Like anyone, I’ve heard my share of condom myths from friends. For example, it’s believed that thinner condoms aren’t as safe others, ones with spermicide are safer and that you shouldn’t keep any in your wallet,” said biomedical engineering freshman Varun Koneru.

Ultra-thin latex condoms are sometimes rumored to be less effective than normal ones. While this may sound intuitive, it is not proven. Not only has the FDA approved the ultra-thin condoms, but a study by Consumer Reports found that there is no correlation between the performance of a condom and its price and thickness. 

According to the FDA, spermicidal condoms are no more effective in preventing pregnancy than traditional condoms. In fact, UHS recommends against their use, as it “can increase the risk of some STIs,” their website states.  

Even though most condoms come pre-lubricated, one should add lubricant to the inside and outside to reduce friction and the chance of breakage. When used correctly, condoms break only 2 percent of the time. 

The most common reason for breakage is not in using a cheaper, generic brand, but in human error. Common mistakes include using an oil-based lubricant instead of water-based, forgetting to pinch the tip when putting it on or using it after the expiration date.  

One common truth that is often mistaken as a myth is that storing a condom in one’s wallet leads to breakage. Simple actions like walking around campus, sitting down or going through temperature changes can be detrimental to a condom’s effectiveness.