When it comes to contraception, condoms are an inexpensive, widely available, and extremely useful option. They’re easy to keep in your nightstand, bag, or pocket for when you need them, and they’re the only method of birth control that reduces your risk of contracting an STI. But if you’re using a condom wrong, it can severely reduce its effectiveness — and it’s easy to make mistakes with them, especially in the heat of the moment. The more you know about how to use condoms properly, the safer sex you’ll be able to have.
Sure, I get it — you might be thinking, how is it possible to use a condom the wrong way? You just unwrap the packet and roll it on, right? Not exactly. Condoms need to be put on with precision and care to maximize their effectiveness. According to Planned Parenthood, condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy when used perfectly, but in reality, they’re only about 85% effective once you factor in human error. This means that 15 of every 100 people who use them will get pregnant with average, imperfect use. And Planned Parenthood notes that the better you are about using them correctly every single time, the better they’ll work.
TL;DR: The more careful you can be when using condoms, the less likely you are to get pregnant or contract an STI. And there’s one big mistake that people make more often than you might think. Certified sex coach and SKYN Condoms brand ambassador Gigi Engle tells Elite Daily that people often start putting on a condom before checking to see which way it’s facing. “Don’t just go putting a condom on a penis (or sex toy) before checking to be sure you have it on the right way,” she explains. “You’ll want to place it so the rolled edges can roll down. It’s easy to check: simply use your fingers to very slightly check the direction of the roll.”
When it first comes out of the packet, it’s not easy to tell which way the condom is supposed to roll. Make sure you pause your sexy time (just for a few seconds!) to figure out the proper direction to put it on. Engle explains that if you start putting it on the wrong way, you risk it breaking. It’s also not safe to start rolling the condom down one way, then taking it off to flip it over. This could potentially expose you to an STI. If you realize you’re rolling a condom on the wrong way, your best bet is to start over with a new one.
Dr. Tristan Emily Bickman, OB/GYN, tells Elite Daily that fitting condoms on properly is crucial to making sure they’re effective. “They need to be rolled in properly with the rim on the outside,” she agrees. “They need to be rolled all the way down to the shaft.” If the condom seems loose or doesn’t go all the way down, it’s probably the wrong size. You want to make sure it’s a tight, snug fit without pulling so tightly that it breaks.
Once the condom is on, pinch the tip to allow a little extra room. “You want to leave some space at the top of condom for semen to expand,” Engle explains. “If the condom is put on too tightly against the head of the penis, the condom is subject to break upon ejaculation or during intercourse.”
To do this in one fluid motion, Engle recommends using both hands. “Take your thumb and pointer finger to pinch the tip while using the other hand to roll the condom down the shaft,” she suggests. It should only take a minute or two, but you should give it your full attention to ensure you aren’t making any careless mistakes. It’s worth your health and peace of mind to ensure you’re using your birth control in the right way.
Condoms may seem self-explanatory to use, but they can actually require more intention than you’d think. Take the extra effort to put the condom on correctly every single time, so you can reduce your risk of STIs and pregnancy when you have sex.