Sexual health

Can Wearing Condoms Really Cause You to Lose an Erection?

Published: MAY 23, 2024 | Updated: MAY 24, 2024
Losing an erection with a condom is a medical issue, not a deficiency, and it can happen for several reasons.

Have you ever been all ready to go in the heat of the moment, but the minute you put on a condom, you go flaccid? Or have you ever lost an erection during sexual intercourse while wearing a condom?


Condoms are great for many reasons. They protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unwanted pregnancies, and they’re easy to use. Yet, for many people with penises, putting on a condom can mean losing the erection they so desperately want to keep. 

If you experience this, know that you’re not alone. Losing an erection with a condom is a medical issue, not a deficiency, and it can happen for several reasons. Knowing the underlying causes of the problem and potentially seeking medical help can improve your sexual performance.

Here’s a look into condom-associated erection problems and what you can do to maintain an erection better.


What are condom-associated erection problems (CAEP)? 

Condom-associated erection problems or CAEP, “refers to erectile dysfunction (ED) that occurs when using a condom,” says Karyn Eilber, MD, a urologist, urogynecologist, reconstructive pelvic surgeon, and member of the plusOne Wellness Collective. “[Condom-associated erection problems] can affect up to 25% of [people with penises],” Dr. Eilber adds.

A 2016 research study confirms Dr. Eilber's estimate, revealing that between 14% and 28% of people with penises experience erection loss while putting on a condom, while 10–20% experience erection loss while having sexual intercourse with a condom.

Because CAEP can affect sexual experiences, some people go without condoms during intercourse. Unfortunately, a lack of condom use could increase the chances of STIs, especially among those with marginalized identities. 


Why do I lose an erection when putting on a condom? 

According to Dr. Eilber, the exact cause of condom-associated erection problems isn’t entirely known.

“[CAEPs] can happen to anyone, regardless of age or sexual orientation,” says David Shusterman, MD, a urologist, urological surgeon, and infertility expert at New York Medicine Doctors.

However, there are potential risk factors that can increase your chances of experiencing CAEP, including:


Issues with putting on the condom

The previously mentioned 2016 study also found that CAEP could arise from circumstances surrounding the condom application. These include distractions during condom application, issues with the fit and feel of the condom, the condom application taking too long, and excessive alcohol consumption before putting on a condom. 

Sensitivity issues

“Some people might feel less sensation when wearing a condom, which can make it harder to keep an erection,” Dr. Shusterman says.

A 2013 study found that condoms may decrease penile sensitivity regardless of whether the penis is erect or flaccid. Without that tantalizing sensory input, some penises just won't perform.


Feeling anxious or nervous

Dr. Shusterman explains: “Feeling anxious or nervous about using protection or worrying about performance can affect your ability to stay hard.”

Sexual performance anxiety (SPA), a common sexual health problem that contributes to male sexual health conditions like premature ejaculation (PE) and erectile dysfunction (ED) is one potential cause of CAEP. SPA affects 9–25% of people with penises, so if anxiety about your sexual performance is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, know that it really does happen to a lot of people with penises. Your partners aren't just spouting platitudes. 

What causes erectile dysfunction (ED) and what does it have to do with CAEP? 

Erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, is a condition that occurs when you’re unable to get or keep an erection long enough for sexual intercourse. ED can be a short-term problem or can be a lifelong issue in the bedroom. 


“There are many causes of ED, but two broad categories are psychological (depression, anxiety, stress, relationship issues, alcohol and drug use) and physical (conditions that affect the small blood vessels including diabetes and hypertension), obesity, and neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease,” Dr. Eilber explains.

If you suspect ED is causing condom-associated erection problems, please seek help from a medical professional. They can recommend lifestyle changes, or medications, such as the popular Viagra pill, to help keep your erection when applying and wearing a condom.

“It's completely normal to have occasional difficulties in the bedroom, but if ED is a constant issue, it could be a red flag for underlying health issues such as heart problems, diabetes, or hormonal imbalances,” Dr. Shusterman says.

How to maintain an erection while using condoms

Here are some tips on how not to lose an erection with a condom.

  • Stay active: Don’t skip your workouts. “Regular exercise improves blood flow and overall cardiovascular health, which is essential for getting and keeping it up,” Dr. Shusterman advises.
  • Eat a balanced diet: What you eat has a significant impact on every part of your body—including your penis. “Incorporating plenty of fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and whole grains into your diet can help keep things running smoothly down there,” Dr. Shusterman explains.
  • Manage your stress: Lowering your stress levels may improve your bedroom performance. “Stress can wreak havoc on your body and mind, so finding healthy ways to relax and unwind can go a long way in helping you stay erect when the moment calls for it,” Dr. Shusterman says.

Also, please keep in mind that an erection is not necessary to experience sexual pleasure. For example, you or a partner can use a vibrator on the head of your penis to stimulate an orgasm.

Condoms don't have to be erection killers

So, do condoms make it hard to stay hard and cum? In some instances, they can. But the good news is having CAEP is not the end of your sex life! You might need to make some lifestyle adjustments and seek treatment to perform better in the bedroom, but you can find solutions.

If you're experiencing CAEP, face the potential embarrassment of talking about it and talk to a trusted healthcare professional to identify the cause. From there, they'll be able to help you figure out how to make sure you can use condoms and stay hard long enough to satisfy everyone involved.

Taneia Surles

Taneia Surles, MPH, is a freelance health and wellness writer and public health professional. She holds a bachelor's and a master's degree in public health from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has bylines in AARP, Health, Healthline, Insider, Parents, Verywell Health, and publications.

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