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Six Reasons for Condom Failure

Condom Failure Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases


Updated May 29, 2014

Couple embracing in bed, focus on condom in foreground
Adam Gault/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Condoms are used to prevent pregnancy and to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. They are effective so long as the condom does its job properly, but condoms sometimes fail. Condoms fail because:

  • The condom was not used properly

  • The condom breaks during sex

  • The condom was not manufactured properly

  • The condom expiration date has passed (take the package's expiration date seriously, because they do lose their elasticity)

  • The condom was damaged after manufacture

  • The condom was used more than once
  • Proper Condom Use

  • Avoid tearing or damaging the condom when you remove it from packaging.

  • Unroll the condom over the erect penis.

  • Apply lubricant or spermicide. Do not use an oil-based lubricant as they damage latex condoms.

  • Always remove the condom quickly after ejaculation. As the penis shrinks it can allow sperm and its fluid to escape from the condom before the penis is withdrawn.
  • How to use a condom

    Condoms Breaking During Sex
    Condoms can sometimes break during intercourse, especially during vigorous sexual activity. Sometimes this may be due to a weakness in the condom. Penis piercings can sometimes cause condoms to split, as can sharp fingernails or teeth.

    Condoms Not Manufactured Properly or Damaged after Manufacture
    Not all condoms are manufactured well. Only use condoms that are marked as approved by the FDA.

    Using Appropriate Lubricant
    Using appropriate lubricants is very important. Use only water-based lubricants, such as glycerin or lubricating jellies (which can be purchased at any pharmacy). Oil-based lubricants, such as petroleum jelly, cold cream, hand lotion, or baby oil can weaken the condom.

    Condom use and misuse

    Expiration Dates on Condom Packaging
    Be aware that all condoms packets have expiration dates on them. After that date, the condom will not provide the protection you need to avoid pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.

    If you do not protect yourself each time you have sex then you risk an unplanned pregnancy or getting - or passing on - a sexually transmitted disease. Always use a new condom each time you have sex.

    Looking to Buy Condoms?

    "Male Latex Condoms and Sexually Transmitted Diseases." CDC’s National Prevention Information Network. Jan 2003. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 15 Nov. 2006.

    "Unintended Pregnancy Prevention: Contraception." Department of Health and Human Services. 28 Sept. 2006. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 13 Nov 2006.

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