Possible Reasons for Condom Failure

Couple embracing in bed, focus on condom in foreground
Adam Gault/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Condoms are one of the most commonly used and effective means of both preventing pregnancy and reducing the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). But they are only effective if the condom does its job properly. Sometimes, condoms fail. Sometimes, they break during sex. Sometimes they fall off. And in fact, there are multiple reasons why a condom might fail. Are you using your condom properly? The answer might be "no" (or you might be in trouble) if:

  • the condom breaks during sex
  • the condom was not manufactured properly
  • the condom expiration date has passed (take the package's expiration date seriously, because they do lose their elasticity)
  • the condom was damaged after manufacture
  • the condom was used more than once

Proper Condom Use

Aside from checking the expiration date, there are a few other things you can do to ensure your condom works.

For one, avoid tearing or damaging the condom when you remove it from its packaging. If you think there's a possibility you may have damaged the condom while unwrapping or unrolling it, toss it and start over.

Speaking of unrolling the condom, you should unroll it over your erect penis, rather than shaking it out like a shopping bag and then trying to pull it on over your penis.

If you're applying lubricant or spermicide, do not use anything oil-based, as it will damage latex condoms.

Always remove the condom quickly after ejaculation. As the penis shrinks, it can allow sperm and other fluids to escape from the condom before the penis is withdrawn.

Why Your Condom Might Break During Sex

Condoms can sometimes break during intercourse, especially during vigorous sexual activity. This can sometimes be due to a weakness in the condom. Penis piercings can also cause condoms to split, as can sharp fingernails or teeth.

When a Condom Is Not Manufactured Properly or Is Damaged

Not all condoms are manufactured well. Only use condoms that are marked as approved by the FDA.

Using Appropriate Lubricant

Using appropriate lubricants is very important. Use only water-based lubricants, such as glycerine or lubricating jellies (which can be purchased at any pharmacy). Oil-based lubricants, such as petroleum jelly, cold cream, hand lotion, or baby oil, can weaken the condom.

Expiration Dates

Be aware that all condoms packets have expiration dates on them. After that date, the condom will not provide the protection you need to avoid pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.

A Word From Verywell

If you do not protect yourself each time you have sex, you risk an unplanned pregnancy. You also risk contracting—or passing on—a sexually transmitted infection. Always use a new condom each time you have sex.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • "Male Latex Condoms and Sexually Transmitted Diseases." CDC’s National Prevention Information Network. Jan 2003. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 15 Nov. 2006.
  • "Unintended Pregnancy Prevention: Contraception." Department of Health and Human Services. 28 Sept. 2006. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.