In the heat of the moment, checking that the condom you’re about to use isn’t expired probably isn’t the top of your list of things to do. However, it should be.
Expired condoms are a real concern and we’re breaking it all down so you don’t find yourself with a condom that isn’t going to do the job you wanted it to do.
What are condoms made of?
Typically, condoms are made out of one of three materials: latex, polyurethane or lambskin.
“Some people have a latex allergy, so polyurethane is a really good option,” says Dr Leah Millheiser, at Stanford University School of Medicine.
“Some people report that they feel more using lambskin, but the problem with lambskin is that it doesn’t necessarily prevent STD transmission.”
What all of these different materials have in common is that they don’t last forever.
Read more: 10 condom mistakes you’re probably making
So how long do they last for?
“Latex condoms generally last for an average of five years after manufacture date, but this can vary with lubrication and spermicide,” says Dr Jessica O’Reilly, host of the @SexWithDrJess Podcast.
“Rather than calculating how long they’ll last, it’s best to look at the expiration date printed on the package. Storage is key – if they’re stored near heat or bright light, this can shorten their shelf life.”
Dr Millheiser suggests a trick for remembering how long your condoms last for, although she recognises it might seem silly.
“I always recommend that when you get condoms, you have a box, just write with a sharpie on the box or write on the actual packet, just the month and date of expiration to remind you,” she says.
“Most men actually don’t look at the expiration date and don’t think about condoms having an expiration date.”
Read more: 5 seriously hot things you didn’t know you could do with lube
Why do they even need an expiration date?
Dr Millheiser says it is a known fact that after a certain amount of time, the condom degrades. “This means that it’s easier for the condom to break and fail during sexual activity,” she says.
Dr O’Reilly explains that, additionally, over time the spermicide in the condom can lose its potency and the latex and lubricant can dry out.
In addition to being less effective, she says that these expired condoms can irritate skin (and skin down there is not a place you want irritated).
Read more: 5 ways to make sex with condoms feel so much better
Is it really bad to use an expired condom?
Yes and no. On one hand, Dr O’Reilly warns that you will have a higher risk of STI transmission and unintended pregnancy, neither which is good.
However, both doctors agree that using an expired condom is better than nothing.
“If all you have access to is an expired condom – it’s either that or nothing – use the expired condom because there is a chance that it won’t break,” Dr Millheiser says.
“You would have it to test it right after, meaning fill it up with water, like a balloon, and see if anything comes out because you might not know if it broke. But if you have a choice between an expired condom or nothing, use the expired condom if you have no other access to condoms that are not expired.”
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthsa.co.za
Image credit: iStock