1. Health

How to Get Maximum Effectiveness from the Male Condom


Updated June 19, 2014

A few simple steps can help you and your partner use condoms properly and effectively. Find out how to get the most effective results from condoms, and be protected against most sexually transmitted diseases and infections, as well as unplanned pregnancies.

    Buy the right kind of condoms.

    Buying condoms made of the right type of material is the first step to protection against STDs or unplanned pregnancy for sexually active individuals who are not in long-term, monogamous, relationships.

    When shopping for condoms, you’ll see a variety of types--those made from latex or other synthetics materials and natural membrane condoms. The CDC recommends using only latex male condoms; those with a latex allergy, however, are advised to use polyurethane condoms since they provide STD and pregnancy protection that is comparable to latex condoms. While other non-latex synthetics provide a level of pregnancy protection that is similar to latex condoms, too, they are more likely to break or slip.

    Natural membrane condoms are often called “lambskin” condoms, which is a bit confusing because they are actually made from lamb cecum--part of a pouch located at the beginning of the large intestine. While lambskin condoms provide similar pregnancy protection to other types of condoms, you should note that the CDC does not recommend using them. Natural membrane condoms have pores that, while smaller than sperm, can be more than 10 times larger than HIV and more than 25 times the size of hepatitis B or HBV. Studies have also found that viral STDs are transmittable through natural membrane condoms.

    Store condoms properly.

    Condoms should be stored in a cool, dry place that is not in direct sunlight. Your car is definitely not the place to store condoms. Heat can weaken the materials condoms are made from. Properly stored condoms typically last about three years from the manufactured date on the condom package. Most of the time, however, condom packages have an expiration date marked "exp," which you should abide by.

    Use a new condom for each sex act.

    This includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex, even during the same sexual encounter.

    Handle condoms carefully.

    To prevent damage and tearing, don’t use fingernails, teeth, or other sharp objects to open condom packages.

    Choose lubricants wisely.

    Opt for water-based lubricants only, which include K-Y Jelly, Astroglide, and other products made with glycerin. Never use oil-based lubricants, such as petroleum jelly, mineral oil, massage oils, lotions, or cooking oils, which can damage condoms and render them ineffective. Unless adequate lubrication is clearly present, always use a water-based lubricant with condoms during vaginal and anal sexual intercourse.

    Make sure the penis is fully erect before putting the condom on.

    The condom must be properly positioned on the penis before any oral, vaginal, or anal contact occurs.

    Remove the condom while the penis is still erect.

    Hold the condom firmly at the base of the penis during removal to prevent slippage of the condom and spilling of semen.

    Follow the rules--every time.

    Condoms are only effective when used properly and consistently, during every sexual act.

    See also: How to Put on a Male Condom

    CDC; Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines 2006; Clinical Prevention Guidelines; accessed 07/16/07.

    CDC Reproductive Health Publications; Family Planning Methods and Practices: Africa; http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/Products&Pubs/Africa/Chap_16.pdf; accessed 07/16/07

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