Celebrating National Condom Day, February 14

  • With Valentine’s Day approaching, love is in the air.  Hugs and kisses, roses and chocolate, sex and... condoms.  February 14 is National Condom Day and today begins the annual celebration of National Condom Week.  

    Condoms are not just for the prevention of pregnancy.  In the US, there are approximately 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) each year, with about half occurring among teenagers and young adults.  Often lacking noticeable symptoms, STIs can be transmitted through contact with partners who don’t know they are infected and may lead to other medical complications, including infertility.  

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    The proper use of condoms is the most widely available, proven method to reduce risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, herpes, syphilis, chlamydia, and HPV.  But there is more to know about safe sex and family planning than just keeping a box of latex in your bedroom nightstand.

    RA and Family Planning

    Some medications used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, such as methotrexate, are contraindicated during pregnancy and special considerations must be made before a couple attempts to get pregnant.  For instance, patients with RA who are planning a pregnancy (including the guys who want to father a child) must prepare in advance by making adjustments to their medications.  

    When I asked my rheumatologist questions about family planning, she made it clear that I would need to get off of methotrexate for at least 3-4 months before attempting to get pregnant.  In the meantime, she emphasizes that correct and consistent use of birth control is very important.  Drugs such as methotrexate can cause birth defects and possible miscarriage.

    Male condoms are approximately 97% effective in preventing unintended pregnancy when used regularly and correctly.  Female condoms are estimated to be 75-82% effective.  “Condoms are the only contraceptive option which protects against both STIs and unintended pregnancy,” says Lynn Barclay, president and CEO of the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA).

    Prevention of HIV and STIs

    Condoms and spermicide are an effective choice for the prevention of pregnancy.  However, I learned that if your primary goal in using a condom is to reduce the spread of HIV or STIs, it is important NOT to use condoms lubricated with spermicide.  According to ASHA, regular use of lubricants with spermicide (nonoxynol-9  or "N-9") may cause skin irritation or tiny abrasions that make delicate genital skin more susceptible to STIs.  Wow, very important piece of information to know.

    Even more important is knowing how to use condoms correctly.  ASHA provides detailed information, including illustrations, on proper use of male condoms and female condoms on their website.  When using condoms, follow the simple “Do’s and Don’ts” recommended by ASHA.  


        •    DO use only latex or polyurethane (plastic) condoms.
        •    DO keep condoms in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and heat.

  •     •    DO put the condom on an erect penis BEFORE contact with a partner's genitals.

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        •    DO use plenty of water-based lubricant with latex condoms during vaginal sex to avoid discomfort or potential rips and tears.  NEVER use oil-based products with latex condoms.  Consider silicone-based lubricants for anal sex.
        •    DO hold the condom in place at the base of an erect penis before withdrawing (pulling out) after sex to avoid accidental semen spillage.
        •    DO use a new condom for each sexual act.  Never reuse a condom.
        •    DO stop right away and put on a new condom if you feel one break during intercourse.

        •    DON'T use out of date or expired condoms.  Old condoms can be dry, brittle, sticky, discolored, or weakened and can break more easily.
        •    DON'T unroll the condom before putting it on an erect penis.
        •    DON'T leave condoms in hot places like your wallet or in your car.
        •    DON'T use oil-based products, like baby or cooking oils, hand lotion or petroleum jelly (like Vaseline®) as lubricants with latex condoms. The oil quickly weakens and breaks down latex.
        •    DON'T use your fingernails, teeth, or scissors when opening a condom wrapper. It's very easy to tear the condom inside. If you do tear a condom while opening the wrapper, throw that condom away and get a new one.
        •    DON’T flip a condom over and reuse it if you put it on the wrong way.  Throw it away and get a new one.
        •    DON'T regularly use lubricants with spermicide called nonoxynol-9 ("N-9") as they may cause skin irritation or tiny abrasions that make the genital skin more susceptible to STIs.
        •    DON’T use both a male condom and female condom at the same time.  Friction can cause them to bunch up or tear.
        •    DON’T flush condoms down the toilet.  Always throw condoms away in the trash after use.

    Please have a safe and happy National Condom Day and Valentine’s Day!!


    Lisa Emrich is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers.


Published On: February 11, 2013