A condom is perhaps the simplest way to avoid an unplanned pregnancy – and also the best way to avoid an unwanted sexually transmitted infection!
Like anything, for a condom to work it has to be used correctly. Fortunately, it’s easy…
What is a condom?
A condom is a thin latex ‘glove’ which stretches over the erect penis. It provides a physical barrier between sexual partners which stops the man’s sperm from escaping and reaching the woman’s egg.
As it provides a barrier, it also helps stop the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like Chlamydia, Syphilis and HIV.
They can be used as a barrier for vaginal, oral and anal sex – and on sex toys.
How do I use a condom?
Firstly, condoms only work with erections! Trying to role one on to a soft penis is nearly impossible, so wait until you (or your partner) are aroused and hard.
To stop STIs, it’s important to put the condom on before your penis touches your partners mouth or intimate areas (vagina, anus and their surroundings).
Men can also produce pre-ejaculate (pre-cum) which is a little bit of semen produced when they become erect. It can transmit infection and, on rare occasions, contain a small quantity of sperm. So, reach for the condom early!
If you or your partner have had the condom a while, just check the use by date printed on the packet. They last a long time but can become weak or perished.
When opening the packet, be careful not to damage the condom with your teeth or scissors.
Make sure the condom is ready to roll on. The rim should be on the outside – a bit like the brim of a hat!
If you do accidentally try to put it on the wrong way, bin it and find another as the outside will now have been in contact with the penis and could pass on infection.
With one hand, pinch the tip or teat of the condom to expel most of the air. This provides the space for it to fill with semen.
Place the condom over the head of the penis. If uncircumcised, you might find it more comfortable to roll back your foreskin a little, but its entirely up to you.
With your free hand, gently unroll the condom down the shaft of the penis.
It’s important to unroll it the full length to provide a consistent barrier. However, don’t try to cover your partners testicles (ball bag) as it won’t be comfortable and isn’t necessary!
Condoms are very stretchy but do vary in sizes and thicknesses.
If you struggle to get it on, you can use a little water-based or silicone lubricant or spermicide – but don’t use petroleum jelly or other moisturisers as they can damage it.
If the fit is tight, loose or uncomfortable, consider experimenting with other brands until you find one you prefer.
Good news – you’re now ready to have sex!
What happens after sex?
After you’ve ejaculated (cum), withdraw from your partner’s body. Hold on to the rim of the condom if it helps keep it in place.
Just like putting a condom on, its best to take it off whilst you’re still stiff. It’s easier and ensures no semen will escape.
Carefully pull the condom off away from your partner. You don’t want to accidentally spill any semen on them.
Throw the condom in a bin. You may choose to wrap it up in a tissue first to avoid leakage.
It is not recommended that you flush condoms down the toilet. They have a tendency to float or clog pipes.
Never, ever reuse a condom!
Don’t worry if you temporarily lose your erection whilst wearing a condom. This is common and it will still maintain a tight barrier. When you spring back into action, it will be ready!
To stop infection, it’s strongly recommended that you use a new condom if you change between oral, vaginal and anal penetration. This stops potentially harmful bacteria or infection spreading.
Keep condoms handy!
Sex can be spontaneous and exciting, so it’s always good to have a ready and close supply of condoms.
Keep one or two in your wallet or purse and maybe a box or two in the places you most frequently have sex (for example your bedside table).
Keep them in a cool, dry place away from sharp objects. Look after your condoms and they will look after you!
If you’re ever in doubt of your condom’s condition, throw it out and find another.
Condoms are typically pre-lubricated. However, a little extra lubricant can make them easier to put on and help prevent them from tearing. Put a few drops on the head of your penis or inside the tip of the condom before you roll it on. A little lubricant spread on the outside can make them more fun too!
If used correctly, condoms are around 98% effective at preventing pregnancy.
For penetrative sex, they are the very best protection against STIs!
However, you may wish to combine them with other contraceptive methods such as the contraceptive pill, implant or IUD (coil)
The risk with a condom is that it splits during sex and allows close skin contact or semen to escape.
If this happens, try not to panic but take the situation seriously if you think there is a risk of infection or pregnancy.
The emergency contraception pill (the morning after pill) is available from pharmacists and can typically be taken within 3-5 days of sex to help prevent pregnancy.
If you are concerned about STIs, these can take a few days to develop and some remain symptomless. You can arrange a home testing kit by contacting Essex Sexual Health Service.