Sexual Health Wednesday April 13, 2016

How to Use a Condom Correctly

It's almost like condoms are the black sheep of the contraception family, because they are seen as not 100% effective or they diminish sexual spontaneity. However, male condoms are the most commonly available types of contraception and apart from abstinence, are the best way to avoid getting a sexually transmitted infection during penetrative sex, if they are used correctly.

It is the "if they are used correctly" that is the exact problem with this type of contraception; its undeniable predisposition to be compromised by human error. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the spread of STIs or unwelcome pregnancies isn't usually the result of 'product failure' but rather incorrect use. In spite of changing attitudes towards sex and sexually transmitted diseases and efforts by health services to promote condom usage, there is still a lack of understanding on how to use them properly. The Kinsey Institute Condom Use Research Team in the US confirmed this in their recently published findings on the use of male and female condoms around the world, concluding that there is shocking ignorance about the use of condoms.

Do's and don'ts of using a condom


  • Use a new condom before every new sexual act, even if you are only changing from oral to vaginal
  • Remove the condom while the penis is still erect
  • Use enough water-based lubricant to help make you more comfortable
  • Leave a space in the front of the condom for sperm to collect, this is known as a reservoir tip
  • Avoid using novelty condoms, and only use those with the British Kite mark, as these products are more likely to have been tested to ensure the highest level of protection from infection
  • Use a condom during external genital contact not just penetration, as this could lower the risk of transference of genital warts, herpes or other types of STI
  • Use flavoured condoms for oral sex, instead of no protection at all
  • Get tested before having unprotected sex with a new partner
  • Stop having sex immediately if you feel the condom break
  • Dispose of condoms safely
  • Roll male condoms all the way down to the base of the penis


  • Use latex condoms with oil based lubricants or body lotions as this can cause them to fail
  • Use the wrong sized condom
  • Use a male and female condom at the same time, as this can cause friction, making either more likely to tear
  • Use two condoms, as they may rub together and make the latex weaker and more prone to tearing. It is better to use an oral contraceptive as well as a condom if you are worried about pregnancy
  • Use condoms with genital piercings as sharp edges can poke holes in the condom
  • Reuse condoms
  • Use spermicides with condoms, as according the FPA (Family Planning Association), this can increase the risk of STI transference
  • Additional condom tips

    Before you use a condom you should consider the following facts and tips regarding the use of condoms, so that you can get the most out of this barrier contraceptive:

    Latex is strong and the breakage rate is around 0.4% - so 4 out of every 1000. Lube is great so use it, BUT not an oil-based lube as they rot condom material. Use water-based ones instead, which are safer. It's best to put on a condom before you get your hands covered in lube.
    Just like different clothing brands are totally different sizes despite all claiming the same, condoms vary too. Find a brand that works for you. One that's easy to roll on, fits snugly but doesn't cut off circulation or feeling, and stays in place during sex. Don't buy the largest ones you can find and wing it. That's a recipe for disaster. Most people keep a condom in their wallet or purse, but unless you get lucky every time you go out, it will need replacing. The expiry date is important because after that the latex weakens and simply isn't up to the job. Keep condoms at a consistent temperature too, out of the sun and not left in a freezing car all night. You'll need to avoid putting sharp stuff like keys, bathroom cabinet scissors, tweezers, razors and hair clasps near it as well.
    Always put a condom on an erect penis. Roll it on gently and all the way to the base. Leave a gap in the tip for friction and 'storage.' Just hold the tip squeezed shut whilst putting it on. Resist the urge to immediately fall asleep after orgasm - there's one more job to do. Withdraw correctly. So you're tired? You soon will be. Babies get up 3-4 times a night. Hold the condom on and withdraw slowly. Make sure the condom doesn't get left behind or using it was a waste of time.
    Unfurling an upside-down condom is nigh-on impossible and it certainly won't protect you. Use your mobile and get some light on the subject. Well don't. It doesn't provide extra protection; in fact it weakens the condoms. When they rub together it makes breakage more likely. Stick to one, use it properly and you'll be much safer.

    The rule not the exception

    In this day and age, condoms should be the rule and not the exception and personally I think it should simply form a part of foreplay. Although they aren't 100% effective, in fact they're known to be 98% effective, they are one of the most reliable barrier methods against STIs. Therefore, it would be better to use a condom safely and to its full potential than not at all. That is, unless you're in a monogamous relationship and feel comfortable with the idea of ditching the condoms. This would be a personal decision and should be carefully considered.

    If you do happen to experience a disaster when using a condom, it's OK, don't panic. You can get emergency contraception in the form of the morning after pill, but it's a good idea to get a check up at the clinic too, just in case you've picked up an STI. Whilst you're there, stock up on condoms.

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