Condoms: All Guides

Condoms: Talking With Your Partner

Hand holding a condom isolated on white backgroundHaving a conversation about how to prevent sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy should come way before sex, but sometimes it’s not discussed because one or more partners feel too embarrassed to bring it up. However, if you’re thinking about having sex (or are already having sex), you should be able to talk to your partner(s) about safer sex practices and goals.

What if I feel uncomfortable talking about condom use?

Talking about condoms may seem a little uncomfortable or awkward at first, especially if you don’t know how your partner(s) will react. Healthy relationships are based on trust and communication, so you should be able to talk about how you feel. Also talking about condoms and sex can lead to safer sex practices and more enjoyable sex for all partners.

Some people find it easier to talk face to face, and others find it easier to talk by phone or text message. Use whatever method feels right to you and your partner(s).

My partner thinks I don’t trust them because I want to use condoms. What can I tell them?

You can let your partner(s) know it’s not about trust, but about you feeling safer and better about protecting you and them from sexually transmitted infections as well as unplanned pregnancy (if vaginal-penile sex). You can let them know your health care provider recommended this as a way to stay healthy. Also, for vaginal-penile sex health care providers recommend dual method use, which means using both condoms and contraception (or birth control).

My partner said that we don’t need to use condoms because they are (or I am) using birth control.

Birth control is a great option to prevent pregnancy. While birth control is usually 91-99% effective, it is not 100% effective. By using a condom your risk of an unplanned pregnancy is lower. Plus condoms prevent against sexually transmitted infections.

What if I’m afraid of my partner’s reaction when I tell them I want to use condoms?

In healthy relationships, when partners have problems, they discuss them and work together to find a solution. If you’re afraid of how your partner(s) might react, it might be a sign that you’re in an unhealthy relationship and/or that you should think about if you feel comfortable having sex with your partner(s).

What if I already know my partner doesn’t want to use condoms?

Sexual relationships involve two or more people. Communication is key to healthy sexual relationships. Be honest with your partner(s) and let them know the reasons you want to use condoms. If they want to have sex with you they should respect your decision to use protection.

How can I respond to my partner’s excuses?

  • If they says: “If you love me, you’d let me have sex with you without a condom.”
    You can: Make it clear to them that this isn’t a valid reason. For instance, you could have used the same line and said “If you love me, you’d use a condom,” but you didn’t. You came up with mature, valid reasons regarding your health and wellbeing.
  • If they says“Stopping to put on a condom will ruin the mood.”
    You can: Tell them that this doesn’t have to be true. If you keep condoms nearby and/or come up with a fun way of putting them on, it can actually add to the mood instead of taking away from it.
  • If they says“My penis is too big for condoms.”
    You can: Tell them that condoms stretch to accommodate different sizes. They also come in different sizes and flavors. You can try out a few to see which works best for your relationship.

What if my partner still says no to condoms?

If your partner still says no to using condoms after you’ve made it clear that it’s very important to you, you have an important decision to make. Ask yourself if you’re willing to take the risks that unprotected sex involves, and think long and hard about whether you really want to be with someone who doesn’t respect what is really important to you.

Condoms: External (Male) Condoms

Hand holding a condom isolated on white background

The external (male) condom is a sheath (covering) worn over the penis during sexual activity. It prevents pregnancy by acting as a barrier, preventing semen from entering the vagina so the sperm cannot reach the “egg”. Condoms also decrease the chances of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) by acting as a barrier, preventing infections (bacteria and viruses) from passing from one partner to another.

Are there different kinds of condoms?

Yes; condoms come in different sizes, styles, and shapes. Condoms can be made out of latex, polyurethane, or “lambskin” (also called natural). Condoms may be lubricated or unlubricated. Some condoms used to contain spermicides (chemicals to kill sperm), but most don’t. It’s best to use condoms without spermicide.

How can I talk with my partner about condoms?

Although it might be difficult or awkward at first, talking with your partner about condoms will greatly increase the chance that you’ll use a condom correctly each and every time you have sex (vaginal, anal, or oral). Chances are, your partner(s) has/have some of the same questions about condoms that are going through your head, so talking about them will make you both feel more comfortable.

Where can I get condoms?

Condoms can be bought at drug stores, many supermarkets, or online. They’re very cheap (about $.50 – $2.50 each – and cheaper when you buy a lot at a time). You may also be able to get them for free at a school health center, doctor’s office, or a family planning clinic (such as Planned Parenthood).

In the United States you can also use this link to find a condom:

Does it matter which type of condom I use?

Yes. The best type of condom to use is one made out of latex. It provides the best protection against both pregnancy and STIs. However, if either you or your partner is allergic to latex, polyurethane condoms are still a good option.

Lambskin condoms are effective against pregnancy, but not effective in the prevention of STIs.

It’s up whether or not to use lubricated condoms.

How effective is the external (male) condom against pregnancy?

If used perfectly the external (male) condom is 98% effective in preventing pregnancy. This means that if 100 people with uteri have vagina-penile sex while using an external condom, 2 will become pregnant in a year.

If the external condom isn’t used perfectly, it’s only 82% effective. This means that in real life, if 100 people with uteri have vagina-penile sex while using an external condom, 18 will become pregnant in a year.

Tip: If you are having vaginal sex (vagina-penile contact) it’s always a good idea to have a prescription for Emergency Contraception (Plan B) or know where to buy it (over-the-counter) from a pharmacy. This way if the condom breaks or you forget to use a condom, you have a Plan B to prevent an unplanned pregnancy.

How effective is the condom against STIs?

The answer to this question partly depends on which type of condom used and if the condom is used and removed correctly. Latex condoms provide excellent protection against most STIs. Polyurethane condoms also provide some protection against STIs, although more research studies are needed to know how protective they really are. Lambskin condoms don’t protect against STIs. The pores are too large to protect against the small particles that cause some STIs.

The answer to this question also depends on which type of STI. Latex condoms protect against STIs that travel in bodily fluids (blood or semen), such as the HIV/AIDS virushepatitischlamydia, and gonorrhea.

Condoms are much less effective against STIs that are caused by organisms that live in sores on the genitals, such as syphilis. STIs such as herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV – also known as genital warts) that occur on the genital skin can get passed from one partner to another even if a condom is used.

Most importantly, the effectiveness of a condom against STIs depends on whether the condom is stored correctly and whether it’s used correctly all of the time.

Where should I keep unused condoms?

Keep unused condoms in a dry, dark place at room temperature. Extreme heat or cold can weaken the material. Sunlight or humidity can also break down latex, causing condoms to break or tear more easily. Condoms shouldn’t be carried in a wallet or stored in a car glove compartment because the material will weaken and is more likely to break or tear.

How long are condoms good for?

Always check the date on the box.

  • If there is a manufacture date (MGF) you can use these condoms for up to 4 years after that date.
  • If there is an expiration date (EXP), you should use this condom before that date.

If you’re not sure how old it is, or the wrapper looks damaged you should throw it out.

How do I use a condom?

Opening the wrapper: Be careful when opening a condom package so that you don’t tear or nick the latex with your teeth, nails, or rings. Never use anything sharp to open the wrapper.

Once the condom is out of the wrapper: Gently press out air at the tip of the condom. Make sure to leave space at the tip (about one-half inch) to collect the semen, so it won’t leak out the side of the condom.

Using lube: You can use a water-based lubricant (such as glycerin or lubricating jelly) during intercourse to prevent condoms from breaking. If you put a drop of water-based lubricant inside the tip of the condom, you can increase both sensation and safety.

Never use an oil-based lubricant, since it will weaken the latex and make it break. Examples of oil-based lubricants include Crisco, lotion, Vaseline, or baby oil.

Putting the condom on: Talk with your partner(s) about who should put the condom on. You or your partner(s) can put it on an erect penis. To put the condom on an erect penis:
How to Put on a Condom

  • hold the tip of the condom between your thumb and forefinger against the head of the penis
  • if the penis is uncircumcised, you may want to pull back the foreskin before putting on the condom
  • unroll the condom over the entire length of the erect penis

Taking the condom off: After a person has ejaculated, they should pull out while the penis is still hard, since the condom can easily slip off when the penis is not erect. They should hold the condom at the base of their penis while withdrawing so semen doesn’t spill out. Then they should gently roll the condom toward the tip of their penis to take it off.

TIP: Never use two condoms together – doing this causes friction, which increases the chances that the condom will break.

What should you do with a used condom?

You should throw it out in the trash. Don’t flush it down the toilet, since it can clog plumbing.

Condoms can’t be reused. Use a new condom every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

What if the condom breaks or tears?

First of all, don’t panic – but do withdraw the penis immediately. If there is concern for pregnancy, consider Emergency Contraception to prevent pregnancy. It is used by people with uteri to prevent pregnancy. If you can’t get in touch with a health care provider, you can text “HELPLINE” to 313131 or check online. If you think you might have been exposed to an STI, speak with your health care provider and get tested.

Other things to remember:

  • If the condom breaks but you want to continue having sexual intercourse, make sure that you use a new condom.
  • It’s a good idea to know how to get Emergency Contraception (Plan B) before you need it.
  • Try to figure out why the condom broke so that it won’t happen again.

How often do condoms break?

Condoms hardly ever break if they’re stored and used correctly.

When condoms break, it’s usually because:

  • Space for semen wasn’t left at the tip of the condom.
  • The condoms are out-of-date.
  • The condoms have been exposed to heat or sunlight.
  • The condoms have been torn by teeth or fingernails.

Also, using oil-based (rather than water-based) lubricants weakens latex, causing condoms to break. If you store and use condoms properly, it’s very unlikely that your condom will break.

Can people be allergic to condoms?

Some people may have an allergic reaction to condoms, which can be due to spermicide or latex. If you think it might be due to the latex, you should try a polyurethane external (male) or internal (female) condom. Make sure the condom doesn’t have spermicide on it.

Do I need to use other forms of contraception with the external (male) condom?

If you are having vaginal sex it’s a good idea to use two different types of contraception to increase protection against unplanned pregnancy. For example, you can use birth control pills and condoms.

Condoms are the most effective form of protection against sexually transmitted infections. If used correctly 100% of the time, condoms may reduce risk of pregnancy with vaginal sex by 98%. Condoms are beneficial for all genders, so it is important to discuss condom use with your partner.

Condoms: Internal (Female) Condom

internal condomThe internal condom, also known as the “female condom,” is a lubricated sheath worn inside the vagina during sex. The internal (female) condom acts as a barrier to sperm and many sexually transmitted infections (STIs) by completely lining the vagina. The internal condom has a ring at each end. The inner ring, at the closed end of the sheath, lies inside the vagina. The outer ring, at the open end of the sheath, lies outside the vagina after the internal condom has been inserted. The internal condom provides protection against pregnancy and some protection against STIs.

The FC2 is a type of internal condoms made of nitrile (a type of synthetic rubber). The FC2 is latex-free, so this is a good option if you or your partner has a latex allergy. The FC2 is pre-lubricated and is the only female condom that has been approved for vaginal sex by the United States Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These condoms have been used by people, for vaginal sex and anal sex. There are other condoms sold outside of the United States that are made of natural rubber latex (Cupid®, l’Amour® and Jeitosa®).

Where can I get the internal (female) condom?

You can get the FC2 internal condom without a prescription in most pharmacies and grocery stores in the United States. You can also buy the FC2 online or ask for it at family planning centers. An FC2 condom costs between $2.00 and $4.00 each however, you can also buy them in multiple packs of three or more.

What if I need more lubrication?

The internal (female) condom is already lubricated when you buy it, but if you need more lubrication, you can use a vaginal lubricant on the inside of the internal condom or on the penis.

How effective is the female (internal) condom?

If an internal (female) condom is used every time for vaginal sex, it’s 95% effective for preventing pregnancy. This means that if 100 people with uteri use the internal condom all the time with vaginal sex and always use it correctly, 5 will become pregnant in a year.

If people with uteri use the internal condom, but not perfectly, it’s 79% effective. This means that if 100 people with uteri use the internal condom with vaginal sex, 21 or more will become pregnant in a year.

The internal condom can be used with other forms of birth control including the pill, patch, implant, and IUD, to further decrease chances of getting pregnant. It is important never to use the internal condom with an external condom as it increases risk of both breaking.

When wearing the internal condom in the vagina, it protects against HIV and other STDs just as effectively as the external (male) condom.

How do you use the internal (female) condom?

The internal (female) condom can be inserted before foreplay and penetration, so you don’t have to stop when you’re ready to have sex.

How to use the internal (female) condom in the vagina:

  • Wash your hands and find a comfortable position (try squatting with knees apart or lying down with legs bent and knees apart)
  • Hold the internal condom so that the open end is hanging down. You may put lubricant on the outside of the closed side of the condom to help insert it smoothly.
  • Squeeze the inner ring with your thumb and middle finger.
  • Insert the inner ring and pouch inside the vaginal opening. With your index finger, push the inner ring with the pouch way up into the vagina, so that the inner ring is up past the pubic bone. You can feel your pubic bone by curving your finger towards your front when it is a couple of inches inside the vagina.
    • Tip: make sure the internal condom is not twisted.
  • The outside rind of the internal condom should lie against the outer lips of your vagina. About one inch should be outside of your body.
  • You should guide the penis into the condom. Once the penis enters the internal condom inside your vagina, the vagina will expand and the condom will fit better.
  • After intercourse, you can remove the internal condom by squeezing and twisting the outer ring gently to keep the sperm inside the pouch. Pull the internal condom out gently and throw it away in a waste container. Don’t flush it, and don’t reuse it!

To use the internal condom for anal sex, you may want to remove the inner ring of the condom before inserting it into the anus with your finger. The outer ring should be left outside of your body. It is OK to leave in the inner ring for insertion.

What if the internal (female) condom slips out of place during intercourse?

Stop intercourse immediately! Take the internal condom out carefully, so that the sperm stay inside the pouch. Add extra lubricant to the opening of the pouch or on the penis and then insert the new internal condom.

If there is concern for pregnancy, consider Emergency Contraception to prevent pregnancy. It is used by people with uteri to prevent pregnancy. If you can’t get in touch with a health care provider, you can text “HELPLINE” to 313131 or check online. If you think you might have been exposed to an STI, speak with your health care provider and get tested.

Can I use a male condom with the internal (female) condom?

No. You should never use an external (male) condom at the same time that you are using an internal condom! This increases the risk that they will break, putting you at risk of pregnancy and STIs.