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How to Use a Condom (cont.)

Condom Effectiveness

The failure rate of condoms in couples who use them consistently and correctly during the first year of use is estimated to be about 3%. However, the true failure rate is estimated to be about 14% during the first year of typical use. This marked difference of failure rates reflects errors in how they are used.

  • Some couples fail to use condoms every time they have sexual intercourse.
  • Condoms may fail (break or come off) if you use the wrong type of lubricant. (For example, using an oil-based lubricant with a latex condom will cause it to fall apart.)
  • The condom may not be placed properly on the penis. Also, the man may not use care when withdrawing.

The Female Condom

The female condom (brand name: Reality) is a polyurethane pouch intended for 1-time use, similar to the male condom. It contains 2 flexible rings and measures 7.8 cm in diameter and 17 cm long. You can buy them at a drugstore without a prescription. The ring at the closed end of the sheath serves as an insertion mechanism and internal anchor that is placed inside a woman's vagina just before sex. The other ring forms the external edge of the device and remains outside of the vagina after insertion. With your finger, push the inner ring as far into the vagina as it will go. The outer ring stays outside the vagina.

  • The female condom prevents pregnancy by acting as a barrier to the passage of semen into the vagina.
  • Do not have a male partner use a condom at the same time because the condoms may stick to each other, leading to slippage or displacement of either device. If you have a choice, use a male condom for better protection.
  • You may add lubricant to the inside of the condom. After sex, remove the condom gently by pulling it out before standing up.

Dental Dams

A dental dam is a small sheet of latex. These were originally used by dentists during dental surgery. Dental dams can be used to prevent the exchange of bodily fluids during oral sex and prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Dental dams are about 7 inches by 6 inches in size.

Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine


Samra-Latif, Omnia M. and Richard Scott Lucidi. "Contraception." 24 Aug. 2011.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/24/2015
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