What are some tips for using condoms correctly?

In spite of the importance of condoms in reducing the risk of unwanted pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections, many people are not taught how to use them correctly. Here are some tips for the safe, effective use of male condoms.

• Use a condom during every sex act. A new condom should be applied for every instance of penile-vaginal intercourse, oral sex, and anal sex. Experts recommend using one at any time the penis is in contact with the vagina, anus, and mouth. Some couples apply condoms too late in the act or remove them too early.

• Inspect the condom package before opening it. Condoms have a shelf life and can deteriorate over time. Also, make sure the condom has been stored properly, in a cool, dry place.

• Look at the condom before using it and avoid puncturing it. Do not use sharp objects to open the package. Make sure the condom does not have any holes or tears. If it does, do not use it.

• Put the condom on correctly. Do not unroll the condom immediately after opening the package. Instead, place the condom at the tip of the penis (leaving space to collect semen) and slowly unroll it all the way to the base. Squeeze any remaining air out of the tip. Also, be sure the condom is not applied inside-out. If this happens, remove it, dispose of it, and start again with a fresh condom. (Re-applying the original condom can expose the partner to pre-ejaculatory fluid.)

• Leave space at the tip. When a man ejaculates, his semen needs space to collect.

• Use a lubricant. A lubricant reduces friction, decreasing the risk of condom breakage. Choose a lubricant with caution, however. Not all lubricants can be used with condoms because they cause latex to break down. (Click here to learn more about different types of lubricants.)

• Hold the rim of the condom when withdrawing the penis. This can minimize the risk of leakage.

Couples who have questions about correct condom use are encouraged to talk to their healthcare providers.

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