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Penises & testicles, Contraception

12 common mistakes when using condoms

Most people think they know how to use condoms, but it’s easy to make simple mistakes. 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).

To avoid this, learn from the twelve most common mistakes that people make:

  1. Not checking the condom packet for damage: Condoms can easily get damaged. Alongside obvious holes and tears, condoms can get warm when in a wallet, bag or pocket and this damages them, so if they’ve been in there for more than one month then they are not safe to use. Carrying one with you is a great habit though, so just make sure you replace it at least once a month! Condoms that are damaged won’t protect you from STIs and pregnancy.
  2. Not checking the expiry date: All condoms should have an expiry date printed on the wrapper. If the date has passed, the condom is no good and won’t offer protection.
  3. Not being careful when opening the condom wrapper: Before opening the wrapper, feel for the rib of the condom inside the packaging. Push this to the side so that when you tear it open you don’t tear the condom as well. Never open a condom using scissors or anything sharp (including your teeth!).
  4. Putting the condom on after sex has started: You need to wear a condom before you start having sex/before your genitals come into contact with your partners. If you only put a condom on just before you come (ejaculate) you’re not protected from STIs or pregnancy as fluids are likely to have already been exchanged.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. But it’s really important that you bin that condom and start again with a new one because the outside of the condom will have touched the penis, which leaves your partner exposed to the risk of pregnancy and/or STIs.
  7. Taking the condom off too soon: Whenever your genital or anal areas are in contact, you should use a condom, to prevent the risk of STIs or pregnancy. This includes after you’ve come (ejaculated). It is never ok to remove a condom in the middle of sex without telling your partner. This practice is known as ‘stealthing’ or non-consensual condom removal, and is a form of sexual assault. 
  8. Not holding the base of the condom when withdrawing the penis: This can cause the condom to come off, which means there  could be a risk of pregnancy and/or STIs. Use your fingers to gentle hold the condom in place as the penis is withdrawn.
  9. 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, especially those not intended for sex, are often oil-based and can eat into condoms, causing them to break.
  10. Using a condom that’s too big or too small: It’s important to wear the correct size condom. Too big and it might slip off, too small and it might tear. Condoms come in lots of sizes so you should be able to find one that suits you or your partner.
  11. Not changing condoms during sex: If you are switching from anal sex to vaginal sex, or vice versa, you should use a new condom. Introducing bacteria from the rectum into the vagina can cause infection. 
  12. Not using condoms on sex toys: If you and your partner(s) share sex toys, such as vibrators, you should use a new condom for each person. Sex toys can pass on STIs if they are left uncovered and shared.

If something goes wrong

Even if you follow all the guidance about how to use condoms safely, sometimes things might go wrong and the condom could break or come off during sex.

If this happens, it’s important that your partner is aware so you can both take necessary steps to keep safe. This may include accessing emergency contraception or getting tested for STIs.

Find out more about emergency contraception
Find out more about getting tested for STIs


    Other Stuff you might find useful…

    Condom excuses (and comebacks!)
    How do I use a condom?
    Talking about condoms with your partner
    External (or male) condoms
    Internal (or female) condoms


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