You think you are doing the right thing by having protected "safer sex" with a condom, and then the next thing you know, the condom breaks. Many women are then fearful of pregnancy, and this has led me to wonder: how often do condoms break, what causes this, and how can we prevent condoms from tearing?
The good news: only 2-5 percent of condoms "break" or tear during use. The majority of these failures are caused by human error, which can include: not using enough lubrication, or creating small tears from rings or fingernails. The majority of failures caused by being used improperly is good news because: this is preventable with a few easy steps!
Basically, condoms can fail to prevent pregnancy when they are:
* Not used correctly
* Not used consistently
* Torn during sex
* Manufacturing failure
We hear often: "condoms, when used correctly and consistently, are up to 98% effective at preventing pregnancy." What exactly does that mean, and what would "incorrect" or "inconsistent" condom use look like?
Incorrect use of a condom includes: "unrolling a condom backwards, not unrolling the condom to the base of the penis, not leaving a half-inch of empty space at the tip of the condom, and not holding the rim of the condom down along the base of the penis when removing the penis after ejaculation."
Inconsistent condom use means: "not using a condom every time you have sex, or not putting the condom on soon enough -- such as right before ejaculation instead of at the beginning of intercourse -- before the penis comes in contact with your partner's genitals. To be extra safe, a man could put on a condom at the very beginning of sexual play, rather than wait until you're ready for penetration."
It is important to remember that it takes some practice to use condoms correctly and consistently, no matter how experienced you are in the bedroom!
Since condom failure is mostly due to human error, I wanted to provide some specific tips for both men and women to know about correct and consistent condom use, based on common problems we have received through EmpowHER.
Problem: Condom failure because condom too tight at tip.
Solution: When you put on a condom, leave a half-inch space between the tip of your penis and the top of the condom to give your semen some room during ejaculation. Place the rolled up condom over the tip of the penis when it is hard. While pinching a half-inch of the condom at the tip, roll the rest of it down with the other hand. Pinching the condom at the top also forces air out of it. Once the condom is on, you can take the extra precaution of smoothing out any air bubbles. Often, air bubbles are the culprit in condom breaks. Remember to include your partner, one can hold the tip while the other rolls, for extra fun!
Problem: Condom is not as pliable or slightly brittle compared to others
Solution:. Condoms actually do expire, and there are some manufacturing errors. If a condom is not "up to par", throw it out and use a new one. Be sure to check the expiration dates before you stock up.
Problem: Semen leaks out from the base of the condom when pulling out/withdrawing penis
Solution: Pulling out while the penis is still hard is crucial, because once the penis begins to lose its erection, ejaculate can leak out or the condom can slip off. Most men's erections are gone quickly after ejaculation, and it is important to withdraw the penis from the vagina soon after ejaculating.
Problem: Condom feels too tight, or feels uncomfortable on either inside (for him) or outside (for either gender).
Solution: One of the most important steps is to use lubrication when using condoms, as this can help prevent tearing! There are so many great lubricants on the market now, and a few drops inside the condom will help increase sensation for him, help the condom feel more comfortable, and applying enough lubrication on the outside to facilitate intercourse and reduce friction is essential. Try different brands of lubrication to make it more fun!
Women also need to know the consistent and correct way to use a condom, so you can be in control of protecting your own body to keep it healthy (and, you can help your partner for more sexual excitement). Lastly, remember that a condom is not effective unless it is on the penis before the penis touches or enters the vagina for pregnancy prevention!