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Condoms: 9 common mistakes

Most people think they know how to use condoms, but it's easy to make simple mistakes. In fact, it's estimated that three-quarters of us will make a mistake when using them.

The downside of this is that mistakes can lead to pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)So, avoid this and learn from the nine most common mistakes that people make:

Not checking the condom packet for damage: Condoms can easily get damaged, especially if they’ve been kept in a wallet, pocket, or bag. Condoms that are damaged won’t protect you from STIs and pregnancy

Not checking the expiry date: Condoms that are out of date won’t protect you from STIs and unwanted pregnancy

Putting the condom on after sex has started: You need to wear a condom before you start having sex in order for it to do its job. If you leave it to the last minute and only put a condom on just before you come (ejaculate) you're NOT protected from STIs or pregnancy. If you do this, fluids are likely to have already been exchanged

Not holding the tip when applying the condom: When you put a condom on, it’s important to squeeze the tip, to get rid of any air. If you don't, the condom is likely to break

Putting the condom on the wrong way up, then turning it over: Putting the condom on the wrong way round (so it won't roll down) is a common mistake, especially if it's dark! But if you do this, it's really important that you bin that condom and start again with a new one. Don't be tempted to just turn it over because the outside of the condom will have touched the penis and so leaves your partner exposed to the risk of pregnancy and/or STIs. Get another condom out and start again

Taking the condom off before sex is over: Whenever your genital or anal areas are in contact, you should use a condom, to prevent the risk of STI or pregnancy. This includes after you've come (ejaculated)

Using a condom that’s been in a wallet or bag for more than one month: Condoms can get warm when in a wallet or bag and this damages them. If they've been in there for more than one month, they are not safe to use. Carrying them with you is a great habit though, so just make sure you replace it at least once a month!

Not holding the base of the condom when withdrawing the penis: This can cause the condom to come off, which means you’re at risk of pregnancy and/or STIs

Using oil-based lubricants with condoms (such as Vaseline or moisturiser): Using lubricant is a great idea, but make sure it’s water-based (such as K.Y. Jelly or Durex Play). Other products, not intended for sex, are often oil-based and can eat into condoms, causing them to break. 

Page last reviewed: September 2015
Next review due: September 2017