It's much smarter to talk about condoms before having sex, but that doesn't make it easy. Some people — even those who are already having sex — are embarrassed by the topic of condoms. But using condoms properly every time is the best protection against STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) — even if you're using another form of birth control like an IUD or the Pill.

What Might My Partner Say?

It can help to know what a condom looks like, how it works, and what it's like to handle one. Buy a box of condoms so you can familiarize yourself before your talk.

Then, to get comfortable with talking about condoms with a partner, practice some opening lines. If you think your partner will object, work out your response ahead of time. Here are some possibilities:

Your partner says: "It's uncomfortable."
You might suggest a different brand or size. Wearing a condom also may take some getting used to.

Your partner says: "It puts me right out of the mood."
Say that having unsafe sex puts you right out of the mood. Permanently.

Your partner says: "If we really love each other, we should trust each other."
Say that it's because you love each other that you want to be sure you're both safe and protected.

Your partner says: "Are you nervous about catching something?"
The natural response: "Sometimes people don't even know when they have infections, so it's better to be safe."

Your partner says: "I won't enjoy sex if we use a condom."
Say you can't enjoy sex unless it's safe.

Your partner says: "I don't know how to put it on."
This one's easy: "Here, let me show you."

When Should I Talk to my Partner About Condoms?

You'll want to pick the right time to bring up the subject with your partner. The best time to do this is before you're in a situation where you might need a condom. When people are caught up in the heat of the moment, they may find they're more likely to be pressured into doing something they regret later.

Try bringing up the topic in a matter-of-fact way. You might mention that you've bought some condoms and checked them out. Offer to bring the unopened condoms along. Or suggest that your partner buy their favorite brand (and then bring some of yours with you, just to be safe). Offer to try different types of condoms to find which works best for both of you.

Make it clear that you won't have sex without a condom. If someone threatens you or says they'd rather break up than wear a condom, it's time for you to say goodbye. Tell them you won't have sex with someone who doesn't respect you or themselves enough to use protection.

How Do You Use a Condom?

Here are some tips for using condoms:

  • Check the expiration date (condoms can dry and crack if they're old). Don't use a condom if it seems brittle or sticky — throw it away and get another one.
  • Choose condoms made of latex, which is thought to be more effective in preventing STDs. (If one of you has an allergy to latex, use polyurethane condoms instead.)
  • If you use lubricants with condoms, always use water-based ones. Lotion, petroleum jelly, or baby oil can break down the condom.
  • Open the condom packet with your hands, not your teeth, and open it carefully so you don't tear the condom.
  • Choose a condom with a reservoir tip to catch semen after ejaculation. Lightly pinch the top of the condom and place it at the top of your (or your partner's) penis. This gets rid of trapped air, which can cause a condom to burst.
  • Roll the condom down until it's completely rolled out — if it's inside out, throw it away and start over with a new condom.
  • Remove the condom immediately after ejaculation, before the penis softens. You or your partner should hold the condom at the base of the penis (the part nearest the guy's body) while he pulls out to prevent the condom from slipping off.
  • Slide the condom off the penis, keeping the semen inside. Since condoms can clog the toilet if they are flushed, tie it off or put in a plastic bag and throw it out.

These aren't the only tips on discussing and using condoms. If you want more advice, talk to older siblings, a trusted adult, or parents. Yes, parents. Not everyone feels comfortable talking about sex with their parents, but lots of teens do.

Health professionals are also great sources of advice on sex and sexuality. A doctor, nurse, or someone at a local health or family planning clinic can offer you confidential advice.

The best way to prevent pregnancy and STDs is not having sex. But if you do decide to have sex, use a condom every time to protect yourself.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

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