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What's the right way to use a condom?

The best protection against any type of sexually transmitted disease (STDs) is a latex condom. However, it doesn't provide 100% protection against STDs -- only abstinence does. If you use a condom, make sure you use it properly. Human error causes more condom failures than manufacturing errors. Use the guidelines for using a condom the right way:
  • Use a new condom with each sexual act (including oral sex).
  • Carefully handle the condom so you don't damage it with your fingernails, teeth or other sharp objects.
  • Put the condom on after the penis is erect and before any genital contact.
  • Use only water-based lubricants with latex condoms.
  • Ensure adequate lubrication during intercourse.
  • Pinch the tip of the condom to leave room for semen collection.
  • Hold the condom firmly against the base of the penis during withdrawal, and withdraw while the penis is still erect to prevent slippage.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Studies of condom use consistently show that people just don't get it right. Don't assume that you know. Although most people perform only three or four steps correctly, there are six essential steps to using a condom properly:

1. Buy only latex condoms and use a new condom for each episode of intercourse, even if you don't ejaculate each time. Make sure you use condoms that say they protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Joke or novelty condoms may not provide protection. Make sure that the condoms have not passed their expiration date, that the foil pack is intact, and that they have not been left too long in a place where they could get damaged (for example, in the sun -- or in a wallet!).

2. Open the package carefully, being sure to avoid damaging the condom with either your fingernails or some other sharp object.

3. Place the condom on the erect penis prior to any intimate contact (some STDs, such as gonorrhea, can be transmitted even without penetration). Roll the condom down to the base of the penis, where the penis connects with the body. Make sure the fit is snug.

4. Leave a space at the tip of the condom and remove any air pockets from that space.

5. Use only water-based lubricants such as KY jelly or spermicidal foam or gel. Never use oil-based lubricants, such as Vaseline, petroleum jelly, lotions, or mineral oil, as these destroy the latex. Also, many condoms are treated with nonoxynol-9, a spermicide and lubricant that seems to provide some added protection against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other types of STD infection. It is probably a good idea to use this type of condom, as it gives added protection just in case.

6. Withdraw immediately after ejaculation, while the penis is still erect, holding the condom firmly against the base of the penis.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.