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12th March, 20213 min read

How to use a male condom

Medical reviewer:Dr Ann Nainan
Author:Daniel Piggott
Last reviewed: 11/03/2021
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

A male condom, also known as an external condom, is a form of contraception worn on a penis, which protects against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Made from very thin rubber or plastic, it’s designed to stop fluid from your penis (semen) from coming into contact with your partner during sex.

But how effective are condoms? Well, it’s thought that they can be up to 98% effective in preventing pregnancy – but only if they’re used correctly. In the heat of the moment, mistakes can happen, and they’re only about 82% effective with typical use.

So read on to learn how to use a condom the right way from start to finish, to ensure you’re getting the best possible protection.

Check the expiry date

It’s a good idea to have some condoms in stock in case you need them. But check the packaging to make sure they haven’t gone past their expiration date. If they’re out of date, they might have deteriorated and not be as effective.

Open the packet carefully

We know this can be easier said than done when you’re reaching for a condom during sex, but you need to open the wrapper carefully. You don’t want to tear the condom with your fingernails, teeth or jewellery. If you do notice a tear, throw it away and use another one.

Make sure it’s the right way around

Once you’ve removed the condom from the wrapper, you’ll see it’s rolled up. When you place it on the head of your hard (erect) penis, make sure it’s the right way around, with the tip or ‘teat’ pointing upwards.

If it’s the wrong way round, you won’t be able to roll it down over your penis. If this happens, fluid from your penis (semen) may now be on the outside of your condom. Because this fluid may contain sperm, it’s best to throw the condom away and use a fresh one.

Squeeze out the air

Before you unroll your condom, you need to squeeze any air out of the teat. To do this, use your thumb and forefinger to pinch the teat while you use your other hand to unroll the condom down the length of your penis.

Roll it all the way down

When you unroll your condom, make sure you roll it all the way down to the base of your penis. This will minimise the chance of it slipping off during sex.

Hold it in place when you withdraw

After you come (ejaculate), you need to be careful when removing your penis from your partner. You should withdraw your penis while it’s still erect, holding the condom in place at the base of your penis so it can’t slip off or spill any semen.

Don’t use it more than once

Once you’ve withdrawn your penis, gently remove your condom, being careful not to spill any semen, and throw it in a bin (not the toilet).

If you’re going to have sex again, get a new condom – you should never reuse a condom.

Key points

  • used correctly, condoms can be very effective in preventing pregnancy and STIs
  • mistakes in use can reduce their effectiveness
  • you should: check the expiry date, open it carefully, use it the right way around, squeeze out the air, roll it down the whole way and hold it in place when you withdraw
  • don’t use a condom more than once
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