Proper Use Of A Condom

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Harvard Medical School
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Proper Use Of A Condom

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Proper Use Of A Condom
Proper Use Of A Condom
Learn about different types of condoms and how they should be used.
InteliHealth Medical Content

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Proper Use Of A Condom


Selecting A Condom

Of all the condoms available, the most reliable for preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and pregnancy is the men's latex condom. This is a latex sheath, often with a reservoir at the end. The condom, a barrier form of contraception, fits snugly over the penis and collects semen after ejaculation and protects the penis from vaginal secretions, both of which can carry STD viruses and bacteria. Also available are men's natural condoms, which are made of natural skins. These can be adequate protection against pregnancy but have pores large enough for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) to pass through and therefore are not adequate protection from STDs.

The third kind of condom is the female condom, approved in the mid-1990s by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It is slightly less effective than the male condom in preventing pregnancy and STDs.

When choosing a male condom, choose one with a reservoir end. The reservoir is an extension of the condom that is narrower than the penis and will collect semen after ejaculation, rather than forcing the ejaculate back along the length of the penis, where it could leak.

There are different thicknesses of latex condoms available. The newest, thinnest condoms are as strong as thicker ones but can be more difficult to handle properly than thicker ones. All condoms are packed with an expiration date. Latex and urethane deteriorate over time, and a condom that has passed its expiration date should not be used.

Avoid using condoms that are lubricated with the spermicide nonoxynol-9, as studies have shown that they may cause genital irritation, and may actually increase your risk of developing HIV or STDS. They may also cause a higher rate of urinary tract infections.

Putting On A Condom

Proper condom use can and should be a fundamental part of nonmonogamous sex, and can be viewed as a part of foreplay, not as an unwanted interruption.

To put a condom on properly, first unwrap it. Do not unroll it yet. Examine it to determine in which direction it unrolls. Grasp the reservoir end with your thumb and forefinger and place the rolled-up condom on the head (glans) of the erect penis. If it has no reservoir end, grasp approximately a quarter inch of the tip of the condom between your thumb and forefinger, and place the unrolled condom on the head of the penis. Unroll the condom over the head of the penis, making sure there is no air in the condom. If there is, squeeze it out with your thumb and forefinger. When you are certain there is no more air in the condom, unroll it down the shaft of the penis until it will unroll no further. If for any reason you must take off the condom before ejaculation (having to urinate, losing your erection, being unable to put it on properly), discard it and begin again with a new condom. Never reuse a condom.

How To Avoid Condom Breakage

Condoms break for two main reasons: Air becomes trapped inside, causing the condom to burst, or lubricants are used improperly. If the vagina is not adequately lubricated during intercourse, friction can cause the condom to break. To avoid breakage, it is important for the vagina to be lubricated adequately and properly. Only use a lubricant designed for use with latex products. Never use petroleum jelly, mineral oil or any sort of hand or body lotion. Many of these products contain petroleum-based ingredients and may contain other chemicals that should not be put in the vagina. Vegetable oil is also not recommended. Latex is made from petroleum-based materials and will dissolve or weaken in other petroleum-based products.

Use a water-soluble lubricant such as K-Y jelly or Astroglide, which can be obtained at the drug store. If either person begins to experience discomfort during intercourse, check the condom and discard and replace it if it has become dislocated or stretched out of shape.

What To Do If The Condom Breaks

Women: Wash thoroughly and use a spermicidal jelly or foam. You should follow washing by urinating. There is morning-after birth control available. If you are concerned that you might become pregnant, you should not wait, but contact Planned Parenthood or a health care professional and ask about emergency contraception, which is actually a series of pills.

Men: Although washing the genitals has not proven an effective method for preventing STDs, if a condom breaks, you should nonetheless wash thoroughly and then urinate. If you suspect you might have contracted an STD, contact your doctor. If you would prefer to remain anonymous, you can call Planned Parenthood, which maintains clinics where medical services for family planning and treatment for STDs are available.


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Last updated September 27, 2013

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