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Birth Control Health Center

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The Hard Facts on Condoms


Do They Work?

How well a condom works depends a lot on if you use it the right way. It's possible for a woman to get pregnant even if her partner uses one. In a year, 2 out of every 100 women whose partners always use condoms correctly will get pregnant. That number rises to 18 out of every 100 women when their partners don’t use the condom correctly every time.

Condoms also greatly lower the risk that one person will pass an STD to the other. The exact risk varies by the type of disease. For example, condoms are almost 100% effective at protecting against HIV. But HPV, the most common sexually transmitted disease, can infect areas that a condom does not cover, such as the scrotum. They lower the risk of HPV infection, but they don’t get rid of it.

So How Do You Use a Condom?

  • Make sure you don’t tear the condom when you open the package.
  • Throw it out if it’s brittle, stiff, sticky, or expired.
  • Put it on after the penis is erect and before it comes into contact with any part of your partner.
  • Keep it on the whole time, from start to finish.
  • Use a new one every time. That means for every erection.
  • If the man wearing the condom is uncircumcised, pull the foreskin back before you put it on.
  • If the condom doesn’t have a reservoir tip, pinch the end to leave about a half inch of space to collect the semen after ejaculation.
  • As you hold onto the tip (if there’s not a reservoir), use the other hand to roll the condom all the way down to the base of the penis.
  • If you feel it break or tear during sex, stop immediately, pull out, and put on a new condom.
  • After ejaculation and before the penis loses its erection, carefully pull out, making sure the condom stays on.
  • When you remove it, make sure the semen doesn’t spill out.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Nivin Todd, MD on August 19, 2015
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