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Birth Control

We're answering any and all your questions about birth control! Not sure what qualifies as birth control? Check out our method explorer to get started! 

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What is the age limit for purchasing condoms?

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Condoms

Inexpensive, easy to find, and they don't require a prescription—no wonder condoms are so popular! Now is your chance to ask us anything.

How do you put on a condom?

  1. The first thing you want to do before putting on a male condom is to check the expiration date (outdated condoms break easier, so throw them away).
  2. Then you’ll carefully open the wrapper and remove the condom. Don’t use scissors, your teeth, or other sharp objects to avoid tearing the condom.  Just rip open the package.
  3. Make sure the penis is fully erect when you go to put the condom on.
  4. The condom will have what looks like a ring around the outside—make sure that ring is facing up when you place the condom on the penis, so you don’t try to roll it down the wrong way. (You’ll know if it’s the wrong side because the condom won’t roll down very far.) If you accidently put the condom on the wrong way, don’t just flip it over—throw out that condom and start with a fresh one.
  5. Pinch the tip of the condom as you roll it over the penis to reduce air bubbles (they can cause the condom to break). Roll the condom down as far as it will go.
  6. The condom should fit snugly, but if it is too loose or uncomfortably tight, you may want to try a different kind.
  7. When you’re done, be careful when taking the condom off so the semen doesn’t spill out.
  8. Condoms can’t be reused, so throw it away after one use (and definitely don’t try to flush it down the toilet).
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What do I do if the condom breaks?

If the condom breaks, don’t freak out. Use emergency contraception as soon as you can and up to five days after it happens. EC is more effective the sooner you take it.  You may also want to get tested for STIs.

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How effective are condoms against pregnancy?

Condoms can be very effective at preventing pregnancy, as long as you’re using it correctly. That means it’s not expired, it fits correctly, and is worn the whole time you’re having sex. Condoms (male and internal) are also the only methods that protect from STIs. When used correctly and consistently condoms prevent pregnancy about 98 percent of the time. The typical effectiveness rate—where mistakes are made or condoms break—is about 82 percent.

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If I don't have any condoms is Saran Wrap and acceptable alternative?

No! There are plenty of myths out there about condoms, but plastic bags or plastic wrap are no substitute for an actual condom. So make sure to pick up some condoms before things heat up (or keep a stash on hand), because something else will not work in a pinch.

There’s no age restriction on buying condoms, so you can pick them up at your local drugstore or grocery store. Condoms are pretty cheap, but you can also get them for free from many places—check out condomfinder.org to find out where to get free condoms in your area.

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How often do condoms break? What makes them break?

As long as they're stored and used correctly, condoms usually don't break. A broken condom is usually a noticable rip or tear, there shouldn't be any tiny holes unless someone has intentionally damaged them

When condoms break, it’s usually because:

  • Space for semen wasn’t left at the tip of the condom
  • The condoms are out-of-date
  • The condoms have been exposed to heat or sunlight
  • The condoms have been torn by teeth or fingernails

Learn more about condoms here

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Where can I keep condoms so that they don't wear down/break easily?

Unused condoms should be kept in a dry, dark place at room temperature—like a drawer, or under the sink. Extreme temperatures (too hot or too cold), sunlight, and humdity can break down the materials in latex condoms—making them more likely to break or tear. That's why you shouldn’t carry them in your wallet or a car glove compartment. (It's okay to store them there for a day or two if you think you'll need one soon). Always check to make sure your condoms haven't expired. 

When in use, friction can cause condoms to break, which is why you should never wear two condoms at the same time. If your condom does break, here's what you need to know

 

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