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Using Condoms Correctly

Published: May 14, 2012
Dear TeenHealthFX,

 

You guys always say that when people have sex they should use condoms to be safe. But you never explain how to use them!

Signed: Using Condoms Correctly

Dear Using Condoms Correctly,

 

Condoms are an important part of safer sex practices to help reduce the chances of unwanted pregnancies and the transmission of various STIs. While it is certainly important to be well-educated about the need for condom use with vaginal, anal, and oral sex – TeenHealthFX agrees that it is equally important to know how to use condoms correctly in order to better protect you and your partner.

 

Handling Condoms Correctly:

 

  • Store them in a cool, dry place as prolonged exposure to air, heat and light makes them more breakable.
  • Do not stash them continually in a pocket or wallet, as this can also increase the chances of the condom breaking.

 

Lubricating Condoms:

 

It is important to lubricate the inside and outside of a condom prior to use in order to prevent rips and tears in the condom, as well as to increase sensitivity during use. Use water-based lubricants, such as K-Y jelly or AstroGlide, or silicone-based lubricants, such as Eros, with latex condoms.

 

Oil-based lubricants can damage latex condoms, so do NOT use them. The following is a list of some examples of oil-based lubricants that you should NOT use with condoms:

  • Baby oils
  • Cold cream
  • Edible oils
  • Head and body lotions
  • Massage oils
  • Mineral oil
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Shortening
  • Suntan oils and lotions
  • Vegetable or cooking oils
  • Whipped cream

 

Educating yourself about, and practicing, correct condom usage:

 

It is important to feel clear about how to use a condom before you are in the heat of the moment and really need it. Not being educated about how to properly use condoms before beginning any kind of sexual activity puts you at greater risk for using the condom incorrectly or for throwing out the idea of using one altogether because you are not feeling at that moment like you want to take that time to stop and educate yourself. So make sure that you and your partner both set aside time to educate yourselves about how to use a condom prior to being sexually active with one another.

 

Detailed instructions and diagrams about how to put on a condom are included in the condom packaging. Read these instructions carefully so that you will know how to correctly put on a condom – and, again, make sure that both you AND your partner are clear about correct condom use. In order to learn how to use condoms correctly without the pressure or embarrassment of trying to figure it out in the moment, practice before you are in any kind of sexual situation where you need it – you can practice on yourself while masturbating or practice on a penis-shaped object, like a banana or cucumber.

 

And remember the following points about using condoms:

  • Put on to condom BEFORE the penis comes into any kind of contact with the mouth, vagina or anus. Pre-ejaculatory fluids (or pre-cum) can lead to pregnancy and the transmission of STIs. So do NOT start having intercourse without a condom and then plan on putting on prior to ejaculation.
  • Change the condom for each erection. Never reuse a condom.
  • Change the condom when switching between vaginal and anal sex.
  • Do not use two condoms at once as that will cause breakage because of the friction.
  • Be honest about what size condom you need, as condoms that are too big can easily slip off, and condoms that are too small can easily break.
  • Make sure that prior to any sexual activity you and your partner are both clear and in agreement about what safer sex methods you will be using to protect yourself against unwanted pregnancies and the transmission of STIs, and that both of you know how to correctly use them.
  • Have a good supply of condoms on hand. If, for any reason, you need more than one – you will be prepared and not put in potentially problematic situation.
  • Check the expiration date, if there is one, to make sure the condom has not expired.

 

Putting on a condom:

 

Condoms usually come rolled up in a ring shape and are usually packaged individually in aluminum foil or plastic. Take care not to tear the condom when unwrapping it, and throw it out and use another if the condom is torn, brittle, stiff, or sticky. Once the condom is out of the package and looks safe for use, follow these steps:

 

  1. Put a drop or two of water-based lubricant inside the condom.
  2. Unless you are circumcised, pull back the foreskin before rolling on the condom.
  3. Place the rolled condom over the tip of the erect (or “hard”) penis.
  4. Leave a half-inch space at the tip of the condom to collect semen.
  5. Pinch the air out of the tip with one hand while placing it on the penis.
  6. Unroll the condom over the penis with the other hand.
  7. Roll the condom all the way down to the base of the penis.
  8. Smooth out any air bubbles, as friction against air bubbles can cause condom breaks.
  9. Lubricate the outside of the condom using a water-based lubricant.

 

Taking off a condom:

 

  1. Pull out before the penis softens.
  2. Hold the condom against the base of penis while pulling out so that the semen does not spill.
  3. Throw the condom away.
  4. Wash the penis with soap and water before any further contact with your partner.

 

What to do if the condom breaks:

 

  • If the condom breaks during intercourse, pull out quickly and replace the broken condom. Do NOT put a new condom on top of the broken one, as that will cause friction and breakage. Men should be able to feel when a condom breaks during intercourse – and if a man is unsure of what it might feel like, he can break a condom while wearing one during masturbation so he is clear about the sensation.
  • If the condom breaks and semen leaks out, wash the semen away with soap and water.
  • If the condom breaks and semen leaks into the vagina – or there is any concern that semen has leaked into the vagina – ask a healthcare professional about starting emergency contraception within 120 hours.

 

If you have any more questions about how to use a condom correctly, or what birth control methods are right for you and your partner, you can also discuss any questions or concerns with a healthcare professional. If you don't have a doctor and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-6475 for an appointment or contact your local teen health center or Planned Parenthood.

 

 

Signed: TeenHealthFX

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