Condoms have been slipping off during sex pretty frequently. It’s annoying and is making me paranoid about STDs. What should I do?

Great question! First, it’s great that you’re thinking about how to make sex as safe as possible for both you and your partner. Condoms are a great way to help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs, sometimes called sexually transmitted diseases or STDs) and/or pregnancy. Of course, they’re only effective if you use them the right way, every time you have sex. When condoms slip off, they put both you and your partner at risk for STIs and (if you’re having penis-in-vagina, or PIV, sex) pregnancy.

First, make sure that you’re putting on (and taking off) the condom the right way.

We go over how to put on a condom (and some other condom-related things) here. Make sure that you put on the condom when you’re fully erect (or hard), and NOT on a soft penis. Pinch the tip while rolling the condom all the way to the base. If the condom is only rolled down part of the way, that may be causing the condom to slip off. It’s also important to take off the condom immediately after you ejaculate (or cum/come), when your penis is still semi-hard. Hold the base of the condom when you pull out of your partner.

One common reason condoms slip off is because the fit isn’t quite right.

Try different brands and types of condoms to find the condom that works best for you and your partner. Condoms should fit snugly over an erect penis. If the condom bunches at the bottom or hangs lose, it’s not the right fit for you. Look for condoms marketed as “snug” or “tight” fitting. If you use Magnums, switch to something else—most people don’t need these supersized sheaths!

Make sure you’re using the right amount of lube in the right places.

Some people find that sex feels better if they use lube on the inside of the condom. If you use too much though, things can get a bit too slippery in there. If you like to use lube inside the condom, only use a drop or two at the tip. You can also try not using lube on the inside of the condom entirely, to see if that solves your problem.

That doesn’t mean you should skimp on the lube outside the condom, though! Not having enough lube on the outside can make the vagina or anus tug on the condom a bit—making it more likely to fall off. Put a little lube on the outside of the condom, or in and around the vaginal opening or anus. As we’ve said before, you absolutely NEED to use lube for anal sex! In addition, NEVER use oil-based lubes with condoms—this makes it more likely that they’ll break. Instead, use water- or silicone-based lubes. We talk more about how to use lube and the different kinds of lube here.

Think about whether you’re staying hard the whole time.

It’s completely normal to partially or completely lose an erection (or go soft) during sex. However, condoms are made to fit over an erect penis. If you do go soft, it’s not a big deal. Just withdraw from your partner, take off and throw away the condom, and try something else sexy that doesn’t require an erection. Think of this as an opportunity to explore some other activities. When you’re hard again, put on a new condom. If you can, try not to concentrate too much on whether you have an erection. Odds are that’ll end up backfiring.

Finally, if condoms only slip off in certain positions, consider avoiding those and sticking to ones that keep your condom in place!

Keep in mind that external (sometimes called “male”) condoms aren’t the only kind of condom. Internal (sometimes called “female”) condoms might be a great option for you and your partner. These condoms are inserted inside the vagina or anus before sex. To use them for anal sex, just be sure to take out the internal condom’s ring. We talk more about internal condoms here.

In the meantime, make sure you’re taking care of your and your partner’s sexual health!

Both of you should also get tested for STIs (not just HIV). You can get free or low-cost testing at many family planning clinics, or you can go to your healthcare provider.

If you’re having PIV sex, it’s important to use another, more reliable form of birth control in addition to condoms. Since there aren’t many effective birth control methods for people with penises (yet!), it’s ultimately up to your partner what method they decide to use.

If your partner doesn’t use birth control, they are at risk for pregnancy.

If it’s been less than 5 days since the condom last slipped off, they may want to take Plan B. You can get Plan B at drug stores over the counter, or at many family planning clinics. They can also go to their doctor or a family planning clinic for ella, another kind of emergency contraception. Another option is the copper IUD (sometimes called Paragard). Copper IUDs are the most effective form of emergency contraception when inserted up to 5 days after unprotected sex (or pesky condom slip-ups). They’re also a highly-effective form of long-acting, reversible contraception that works for up to 12 years! Emergency contraception prevents pregnancy, and is NOT the same as the abortion pill. We talk more about emergency contraception here.

If you’re 10-22 years old and live near NYC, you and your partner can come to the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center for completely free, confidential STI testing and treatment, emergency contraception, birth control, and other sexual health services. You can also talk to one of our health educators about how to use condoms and make sure they fit. They may be able to help you figure out what’s going on, and can also give you a variety of condoms to take home to try out!