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Contraception » Condom Myths


I’ve heard that condoms aren’t very reliable.

Used properly and consistently, condoms can be a very effective contraceptive and are the only reliable means of reducing the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STI), including HIV. The FPA (formerly the Family Planning Association) quote an efficacy rate of 98% for condoms when they are used according to the instructions. However with typical use the success rate tends to be significantly lower than this so it is usually better to use condoms along with a more reliable method of contraception.

We’ve tried condoms before, but they always slip off.

When using condoms it is important that the penis is withdrawn from the orifice soon after ejaculation, before the erection is lost. If this is not done, then the condom is likely to slip off. This can, in turn, release semen and lead to pregnancy and/or STI. If slippage of the condom occurs during intercourse, then a tighter fitting condom may be required.

Don’t condoms slip and tear easily?

No! Good quality BSI Kitemarked condoms are extremely strong. They can support a weight of around 10 kilos and stretch to hold the same capacity as two household buckets of fluid. What can cause condoms to tear are sharp edges like teeth, nails and jewellery, so care must be taken when opening the condom packaging and putting the condom on.

Forgetting to squeeze the air from the tip of the condom prior to putting it on can also be a cause of burst condoms.

Thicker ('extra strong') condoms have been traditionally recommended for anal sex. However, a study found that condom breakage rates were similar for standard and thicker condoms. Use of lubricant, duration of sex and penis size were more likely to be associated with breakage than with condom thickness.

Duration of intercourse has been shown to be a significant risk factor for condom breakage. There is a strong association between breakage and sex lasting more than 45 minutes.

Oil based products are also to be avoided because if a condom comes into contact with such substances over 90% of its strength is lost within 15 minutes making breakage or leakage a distinct possibility. Such substances include petroleum jelly, baby oil, lipstick, butter, massage oil etc.

If extra lubrication is required, water based products like Condomi Wet Stuff and KY Jelly are ideal.

If condoms really are effective, why don’t more people use them?

Condoms are the UK’s most popular method of contraception. More people rely on condoms than on the pill!

I don’t like the smell of rubber.

Not many people like the smell of rubber. Many condoms are now fragranced and smell of many different flavours e.g. mint. These can be used for oral sex too.

My partner says he can’t feel anything if he wears a condom.

Over the past few years, the technology has improved vastly and today’s quality condoms are thinner than a human hair and far more sensitive than they used to be. The range of different BSI Kitemarked condoms now available are coloured, flavoured, large, shaped, loose, flared and ribbed – this can make the choosing of condoms much more fun.

Are condoms only intended for people who have lots of sexual partners?

Contrary to popular belief, condoms are as popular with couples spacing their families, as they are with young people. They are highly effective contraception and have no side effects.

If I’m on the pill, do I still need to use condoms as well?

Oral contraceptives provide no protection against STI’s at all. The only reliable method of reducing STI’s is by using condoms. This is known as ‘Double Dutch’, using the pill as well as condoms.

If I carry condoms, would people think I’m promiscuous?

Not any more! They’ll probably think how sensible and prepared you are. The really sensible ones will follow your example.

Aren’t all condoms basically the same?

First of all there are different degrees of quality in condoms as in everything else. Top quality condoms carry both the European CE mark and more importantly, the BSI Kitemark. The BSI Kitemark means that the manufacturer’s quality and production standards are tested regularly by BSI themselves – they do not rely on the manufacturer’s own claims about quality. BSI is your independent quality watchdog. Condoms without the Kitemark are not subjected to the same stringent independent testing.

One of us is allergic to condoms.

There are a small number of people who are genuinely highly allergic to latex products, for them non-latex condoms are the only solution. Other causes which may mimic allergy include skin conditions or infections

Can I be prosecuted for passing on a sexually transmitted infection including HIV?

There have been several prosecutions in the UK relating to the transmission of HIV and other STIs. In England and Wales, to be successfully prosecuted, transmission of HIV has to occur. However, in Scotland the common law offence of ‘Culpable and Reckless Conduct’ is used to prosecute. This means that individuals can potentially be prosecuted irrespective of whether or not the virus has been transmitted. However, these cases are extremely rare.