Encouraging people to use condoms properly would help cut STIs and unplanned pregnancies, the researchers say.
Condom use errors and problems: a global view is a new survey comparing a bundle of studies from 14 countries spanning 16 years. It probes the condom habits of a wide range of people, ranging from students to sex workers and patients at STI clinics.
The figures can be hard to compare at a glance because there are wide variations in the results. But what’s clear is that all the different groups have something in common: when people use condoms, they make mistakes. For example not knowing their condom size.
What are your favourite condom brands? Do you know your condom size? Comment below:
Less than perfect
This is a shame, because if condoms are used properly they protect against sexually transmitted infections and make a good birth control method into the bargain. So safe sex campaigns should do more than just promote condoms, say the researchers. They also need to help people avoid condom blunders.
Closing the gap between the ‘perfect use’ of condoms and the far-from-perfect ‘typical use’ would work wonders to bring down the numbers of STIs and unplanned pregnancies, the research concludes.
Top 10 condom blunders
Do you always use condoms in the right way? The study runs through the most common mistakes people make with condoms - and provides handy tips on how to avoid them.
1. Putting the condom on too late, or not wearing it all the way through sex
17 to 51 percent said they’d put it on too late, 13 to 44 percent said they’d taken it off too early
It’s important to put the condom one before there’s any contact between the penis and the vagina – or mouth or anus – and keep it on all the way through sex. And make sure it’s rolled down all the way before you start.
2. Unrolling the condom before you put it on.
2 to 25 percent said they’d done this
Roll the the condom down over the penis. If you unroll it first you can’t put it on properly without trapping air. The condom could slip off and the sperm could leak down the sides.
3. Not squeezing air from the tip
24 to 45 percent said they’d done this
Pinch the little bulge at the tip of the condom when you roll it down to keep the air out. This leaves room for the sperm. If there’s air in the condom it’s more likely to tear and the sperm can leak down the sides.
4. Putting the condom on inside out, then flipping it over to use it
4 to 30 percent said they’d done this
Once the outside of the condom has touched the end of the penis, it could pass on an infection. There could also be enough sperm on to get the woman pregnant. If you start putting it on the wrong way round then realise it won’t roll down properly, throw it away and use a new one. Accidents can happen, so make sure you have a good supply of condoms to hand – not just one stuck in your back pocket.
5. Using scissors to open the packet
2 to 11 percent said they’d done this
Never use scissors, teeth, or anything else sharp to open the packet. It’s designed to tear open easily. It’s best to push the condom away from the corner before tearing across the pack, starting from the zigzag edge.
6. Not checking the condom for damage
74 percent of men and 82 percent of women in two studies said they’d done this
It might be a tall order in the heat of the moment, but it makes sense to check the condom – without unrolling it – to make sure it’s in one piece before you put it on.
7. Using oil-based lubricant – or none at all.
16 to 25 percent said they’d done this
Most condoms are made of latex, which can be damaged by oil-based lubricants, like baby oil or Vaseline. If you put water-based lubricant inside and outside the condom, it feels nicer and is less likely to tear.
8. Not holding the condom when you pull out
31 percent of men and 27 percent of women said they’d done this
You should take the penis out of the vagina before it goes limp, and hold the condom round the base of the penis when you do, to make sure, no sperm leaks out.
9. Reusing the condom
1 to 3 percent said they’d done this
No condom brands have made a re-usable condom! You should always use a fresh condom every time you have intercourse, even if you carry straight on again in the same lovemaking session. The sperm sloshing around inside the condom can leak out. And to prevent infections, also use a new condom if you switch between oral, vaginal or anal sex.
10. Not checking the date
3 to 19 percent said they’d done this
Check the date on the pack of condom brands. If the condom’s out of date, don’t use it. Keep condoms in a cool dry place to make sure they’re in top condition
Do you have a condom blunder to share? What are your favourite condom brands? Do you know your condom size? Comment below or share with Love Matters (LM) on our Facebook page. If you have a specific question, please ask LM experts on our discussion forum.