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Birth Control Health Center

Sexual Health, Birth Control, and Condoms

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When Should a Man Use a Condom?

A man should wear a condom any time his penis has contact with the body of another person if there is even the slightest risk that either person has a sexually transmitted disease. Men frequently become infected with STDs when receiving oral sex, so a condom should be worn then, too. The condom should be put on before there is any contact and should be removed and thrown away promptly after the man has ejaculated.

How Is the Male Condom Used?

Take caution when opening the wrapper to avoid tearing the condom with your teeth, fingernails, or rings. Gently pinch the air out of the tip of the condom before putting it on. The condom is rolled over the erect penis before sexual activity begins. If the condom does not have a built-in nipple, leave about 1/2-inch of the condom free at the tip of the penis so that semen has a place to collect.

A new condom must be used each time you have sex. The condom must be in place before the penis gets near the vagina. If you use lubricants with a condom, be sure to only use water-based lubricants, such as K-Y Jelly. Oil-based lubricants, such as Vaseline, massage oils, and body lotions can cause condoms to leak or break. Certain vaginal medications used to treat yeast infections can also weaken condoms.

Initially it was felt that condoms lubricated with spermicidal agents offered more protection against STDs. Newer studies show that the use of condoms containing spermicides offers no additional protection and may actually increase the risk of HIV and other STDs by irritating the vagina and penis. Spermicidal products do, however, remain useful for pregnancy prevention.

What Causes Male Condoms to Break?

There are several reasons why a condom would break:

  • Too old. Modern condom wrappers have a date after which the condom should not be used.
  • Improper storage. Heat damages latex condoms, so they should not be kept in a hot place, such as a car glove compartment or wallet.
  • Not enough lubrication. Additional lubrication is always needed for rectal sex. It may also be needed for vaginal sex. The lubricant should be water-soluble, such as KY jelly.
  • The wrong kind of lubricant. Lubricants that contain oil -- such as Vaseline, baby oils, and vegetable oils -- should not be used with latex condoms since they weaken the rubber.
  • Too small. Try a larger size.
  • Partner too tight. Use an extra strength condom and more lubricant.

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