Condoms are vital to one’s sex life for many reasons, ranging from protecting pregnancy to protection against STDs and STIs. They also help to protect against HIV/AIDS, which makes them a very important part of safe sex.
Condoms are also used to prevent the spread of HPV, which can cause genital warts. Condoms are very effective in preventing pregnancy, however, there are still cases where they break or slip off. There are many reasons why this happens, but there are many ways to prevent it.
What Can Cause Condoms to Break?
Condoms break for many reasons, ranging from manufacturing defects to improper application. Some of these reasons include:
Condoms are not stored properly, which causes them to weaken and become more susceptible to breakage. If stored under conditions that are too hot or too cold, the latex can become weak and break more easily. Condoms also need to be stored in a dark, dry place in order to stay effective.
For proper storage, follow these rules:
- Condoms should be placed somewhere that is dark, dry, and room temperature.
- Condoms should be kept in their original wrappers.
- Condoms should not be kept in your wallet or car.
Although it's rare, condoms can be improperly made, which can cause them to be inferior in quality. This can be due to the use of substandard materials during manufacturing, machine errors, or improper storage while in transit to the store.
Condoms can break for a variety of reasons during the manufacturing process.
- Inadequate testing. In order to ensure your condom is not defective, it must pass a variety of tests. Condoms are tested for durability, elasticity, permeability, and burst pressure. A condom that has not been tested adequately is more likely to break.
- Improper Quality Control. Quality Control is used to ensure that the condoms that are being produced are up to par. If the quality control is poor, the condoms may not be manufactured correctly.
- Improper Stretching. Stretching can be used to increase the elasticity of the condoms if the latex begins to break down. If this process is not done correctly, the condoms can easily break.
- Improper Molding. If the mold is not cleaned well enough after each use, residue from the previous condom can be left behind. This residue can weaken the next condom that is made.
Condoms that have expired have weakened latex, which makes them more susceptible to breakage. Always check the expiration date before buying a condom, and do not use condoms that have expired. Expired condoms are dry, brittle, and prone to cracking or developing weaker sections that may tear during use.
While proper use of condoms is key to preventing pregnancy and diseases, improperly using condoms can cause them to break. Condoms should be applied immediately prior to intercourse, and should be rolled on to the erect penis with the rolled-up ring around the penis. The condom should be unrolled to the base of the penis, and should be held at the base of the penis while withdrawing the penis after intercourse. It should be removed immediately after intercourse and thrown away. Never reuse a condom.
Although condoms are designed to be easy to use, many people make common mistakes when applying them. Some of these mistakes include:
- Not leaving room at the top for the semen to collect during ejaculation.
- Failing to pinch the tip to leave a reservoir for semen.
- Not holding the base of the condom while putting it on.
- Not removing the air from inside the tip.
- Using a lubricant which contains oil. Oil breaks down latex, which can cause breakage.
- Using a lubricant at all.
Preventing the Failure of Condoms
Condoms can fail for many reasons, but there are many things one can do to prevent failure.
Condom application is very important to prevent breakage. Do not apply the condom until immediately prior to intercourse, and never apply it more than once. Make sure to use a new condom each time, and to store condoms in a cool, dry place. Never try to re-roll a condom.
To apply a condom, one should first make sure the penis is erect. The condom should be rolled out to one side of the penis, with the rolled-up ring around the shaft of the penis. The unrolled condom should be unrolled down the length of the penis to the base. The condom should be unrolled only until the penis is covered, and should not be removed until after intercourse. The condom's reservoir tip should be pinched to remove air, and the tip should be placed at the base of the penis.
Male Condom Effectiveness
Male condoms are the only form of birth control that protects against both pregnancy and the transmission of most sexually transmitted infections. Male condoms are most effective when used consistently and correctly. Correct use of male condoms includes using a new condom before any sexual contact with the same partner, using only water-based lubricants (oil-based lubricants can break down latex, which can cause the condom to break), and using the correct size.
Male condoms are very effective in preventing pregnancy when used consistently and correctly. However, they aren't perfect. There is a risk of the condom breaking and resulting in an unwanted pregnancy, and the effectiveness of preventing STDs and STIs is 98% (which means that 2% of the time, the condom will not prevent the transmission of an infection).
Signs That a Condom Has Broken
It is important to check for signs that the condom might have broken. If the penis is leaking a white liquid, a condom might have broken. Broken condoms are typically apparent, as you'll usually see tears in the condom's latex. However, if you are using lambskin condoms, there might not be any signs that the condom has broken. This is why it's better to use latex unless you're allergic.
A condom might break if:
- It is too tight. (It's important to use the right size condom)
- It is too loose. (If the condom is too loose, it might slip off)
- It is not used with water-based lubricant.
- It is used with oil-based lubricants.
- It's expired or wasn't stored properly.
If a condom breaks, a man should urinate and wash his penis and surrounding area with soap and water. Women should urinate, wash with soap and water around the vagina, and shower. To avoid pregnancy, use an emergency contraceptive such as Plan B as soon as possible within 38 hours.
How Often Do Condoms Break?
Condoms are the only method of birth control that helps protect against both pregnancy and STDs. However, they aren't 100% effective, and there is the risk of the condom breaking or slipping off. If a condom breaks, it's important to know how often this happens.
Much like the risk of pregnancy, the risk of breakage varies depending on how consistently and correctly condoms are used.
According to Planned Parenthood, condoms are most effective when used perfectly, and it’s pretty rare for them to break when used correctly.
An older study from 1993 concluded that 7% of men had experienced a condom break at some point within the year. However, condom manufacturing has changed a great deal since then, and it’s safe to assume that the rate is much lower.
What To Do if You’re Worried About Pregnancy
In the event of a potentially broken condom, preventative measures may help you or your partner avoid becoming pregnant. Here's what the person who could become pregnant should do:
- Shower immediately and wash the genital area with water for 15 minutes.
- Take emergency contraception if it's available. Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy when taken within 5 days of unprotected sex.
- Take a urine pregnancy test when you can. Pregnancy tests can be taken as soon as a week after unprotected sex, but it's best to wait until your next period is due to get a more accurate reading. This will help you confirm whether you've become pregnant.
- Contact your doctor to discuss alternative methods for birth control.
Using a condom is a simple and effective way to prevent the spread of STDs and pregnancy. If you are sexually active, it is important to use a condom to protect yourself and your partner.
Condoms rarely break unless used improperly. There are numerous ways to use condoms correctly, so practice makes perfect. It is critical to read the instructions on the package and to get instructions from your doctor or sexual health clinic if needed.
This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Your specific circumstances should be discussed with a healthcare provider. All statements of opinion represent the writers' judgement at the time of publication and are subject to change. Phoenix and its affiliates provide no express or implied endorsements of third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products, or services.