Healthy lives for young people
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, especially if they’ve been kept in a wallet, pocket, or bag. Condoms that are damaged won’t protect you from STIs and pregnancy
  2. Not checking the expiry date: Condoms that are out of date won’t protect you from STIs and unintended pregnancy
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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 so leaves your partner exposed to the risk of pregnancy and/or STIs.
  6. 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). IMPORTANT POINT: 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. 
  7. 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!
  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
  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, 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.
  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.

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