Latex condoms can last up to six years if kept in a cool, dry and dark place. But it is safest to use a fresh condom long before its expiration date. Using a condom that has been improperly stored – such as, in a wallet or glove compartment – or that has passed its expiration date poses risks to the structural integrity of the condom, which in turn puts you at risk for irritation, pregnancy and STDs. While there is an increased chance that an expired condom will break, using an expired condom is still better than using no condom at all, say the health experts at Planned Parenthood.
Once a lubricated or unlubricated latex condom passes its expiration date, the latex begins to break down and dry out, making the condom brittle and causing it to lose flexibility and strength. The older the condom is, the more likely it is that the condom will break. This is because the latex degradation is a gradual process that continues over time. A condom that is two years past its expiration date, for example, is drier and weaker than a condom that is one month past its expiration date. The spermicide some condoms are treated with will also become less effective past the expiration date because the active, sperm-killing ingredient in spermicidal lubricant loses its potency over time.
Because an expired latex condom undergoes structural instability over time, there is a chance that both men and women may experience irritation or discomfort during intercourse. A dry, brittle condom can chafe or irritate the sensitive skin on the penis or in and around the vagina, causing discomfort or a slight rash to these areas.
Because an expired condom has an increased chance of breaking, pregnancy can possibly occur. If a condom breaks, even before ejaculation, pre-ejaculate or semen can enter the vagina and conception can occur. Even if the expired condom doesn’t noticeably break or tear, tiny rips or holes in the weakened material can still form without either person realizing it, allowing sperm to pass through and enter the vagina.
Prevention of sexually transmitted diseases is also a major reason for practicing safe sex. Fresh condoms are strong, flexible and durable enough to keep bodily fluids from mixing and thus prevent viruses and infections from being passed or exchanged. But if a weak, dry, expired condom breaks inside the vagina and one or both partners has an STD, it can easily be transmitted to the other person.
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