Condoms 'too small for 20% of UK men': Study reveals problem that results in increased rate of contraceptive failure

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The Independent Online
AN UNUSUAL survey at a London hospital clinic has revealed that the standard British condom may be too small for nearly one in five British men.

When Dr Stuart Tovey, consultant physician in charge of the Lloyd Clinic, the department of genito-urinary medicine at Guy's Hospital in London, interviewed about 300 patients, he found that a quarter had problems putting condoms on and 19 per cent said they were too tight.

'Our results suggest a proportion of men have penises sufficiently large to cause difficulties in putting on condoms and for these men condoms are likely to come off or split more often, which may influence the acceptability of condoms,' Dr Tovey says in tomorrow's edition of the British Medical Journal.

He said yesterday it was assumed that as the condom was elastic, its size was not important. 'But when it is still rolled up, it really is not at all stretchy. The problem is the width. When the condom is not wide enough, men cannot roll it down correctly, so it is more likely to come off, or they pull it and split it with their finger nails.'

He said the British Standard limits the width of condoms and even a proposed new EC standard would be too small for some men. The flat width for the British standard is either 48mm (1.89in) or 52mm (2.05in) and minimum length is 160mm (6.2in). The EC proposes a width range of 44mm (1.73in) to 56mm (2.2in) and minimum length of 170mm (6.69in).

One brand of condoms from the US, where a range of sizes is available, is 65mm (2.56in) wide and 220mm (8.66in) long.

He said that for some men a condom of 70mm (2.76in) flat width would not be too large. 'One patient made a video for us to look at. There is no way that man could have used a standard British condom,' he said.

Dr Tovey said he was confident that the men who said that condoms were too small were being truthful.

'These men are our patients and we have examined them clinically. I had been concerned for some time that a significant proportion of men had difficulties using condoms. There was a real need to produce some scientific data,' he said.

The survey included 188 white men, 76 black men and 14 Asian males. Of those who said the condoms were too tight, three-quarters experienced condoms coming off and 68 per cent reported splitting, compared with half of men who had no problems with condoms.