Is Wearing Two Condoms Better Than Wearing One?

Double Bagging Condoms

Double-Bagging Condoms. Photo © 2016 Dawn Stacey

Double Bagging Condoms - Yes or No?

One of the most common questions that I am asked about condom use is whether or not wearing two condoms during sex provides better pregnancy protection than using just one. Along the same lines, many people also wonder if wearing both a male condom and a female condom lower your chances of getting pregnant.

Wearing Two Condoms May Seem Like A Good Idea...

I get it, when you think about it, wearing two condoms at the same time (also known as double bagging condoms) may SEEM like a good idea.

But, this practice is really not recommended. There is no scientific evidence that suggests that wearing two condoms work better than one condom IF you are correctly wearing a condom. So this means that is fine to just rely on wearing just one condom as your birth control method. After all, condoms are 82% to 98% effective for preventing pregnancy.

Also, keep in mind that a male condom should NEVER be used at the same time as a female condom. When used alone, female condoms are 79% to 95% effective. Plus both male and female condoms are the only birth control methods that can also help protect you against sexually transmitted infections.

Why Double Bagging Condoms Isn't Recommended:

Medical professionals (like OB/GYN's, nurse practitioners, etc.) caution that wearing two condoms together can increase the friction between the condoms during sex. This can make them more likely to rip or tear.

Because it is difficult to design research studies that look into the practice of double bagging condoms, there is not a lot of scientific literature that explains why wearing two condoms is not a safe practice. 

That being said, most members of the medical community agree that wearing two condoms at the same time is likely to create too much friction, and this can increase the chance that either one or both of the condoms will break.

What Else Does the Medical Community Say About Wearing Two Condoms During Sex?

Condoms are not designed for double bagging, so many condom manufacturers also advise against this practice. I worked as a health educator and family planning specialist at Planned Parenthood for many years. Part of my education and training there was to teach people not to wear two condoms at the same time. Here are what some other reputable organizations are saying:

  • The National Health Service, the world’s largest publicly funded health service, cautions that it is safer to only use one condom at a time, and that wearing two condoms is “a really bad idea.”
  • The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services advises, "don’t use a female and a male condom at the same time, as this may cause both condoms to break or tear."

Is There Any Scientific Research About Double Bagging Condoms?

As I already have mentioned, there is very little medical research on this topic. The following are the results from three different studies that investigated the practice of wearing two condoms:

  • A study published in The Journal of Human Sexuality says that wearing two condoms at the same time can lead to increased friction -- increasing the likelihood of a condom ripping.
  • The researchers of another study concluded that the probability of breakage when wearing two condoms at the same time was 3.4% -- and when this occurs, the majority of the tears happen near the tip of the condom.
  • The final study claims that the effectiveness and acceptability of double bagging condoms is not known. The results of this research showed that of the 83 men who had practiced double bagging condoms, 19.3% (one in five) reported that wearing two condoms caused the condom to break. The researchers also write that, "although overall breakage rates were slightly higher when two condoms were used compared with when a single condom was used, it was extremely rare for both condoms to break when double-bagging was practiced.

The Bottom Line:

Researchers, for some reason or another, are not scientifically examining the use of double bagging condoms. Because of this, there is a lack of reputable medical data on this topic. Even though there is not a lot of data on the subject, remember that both the medical community and condom manufacturers say that it is not a good idea to wear two condoms at the same time. I admit that there is not any convincing scientific data that suggests that you should not wear two condoms at the same time -- BUT there is also no research that has really tested this practice and supports the use of double bagging condoms.

So the bottom line... the practice of not double bagging condoms falls more under that category of a "recommended practice" rather than "scientific proof." And really, if you are correctly using a condom, then there really is no reason to wear two of them -- one works just fine. It may also be helpful to know that the chance of one condom breaking during sex is relatively low:

  • The CDC indicates that 2 out of every 100 condoms break during use (2% breakage rate).

This is a topic where doctors and health educators have come up with their best recommendations based on the limited research and what we know about condom failure. And from what we know: it is reasonable to think that the rubber on rubber action that occurs when using two condoms (or the plastic on rubber with male and female condoms) will cause added friction. We also know that added friction has been linked to condom tearing -- and this can make a condom less effective. So even without any solid "scientific data" to back this up, common sense offers a  good reason as to why double bagging condoms may not be such a great practice.

Ask Yourself: Why Am I Concerned About This?

It may be more helpful to focus your thinking on WHY you feel the need to wear two condoms during sex. Do you want to double bag condoms because you believe this will give you better protection? If you are nervous about only relying upon condoms, you could explore the use of an additional birth control method. For excellent protection against pregnancy and STDs, how about using a condom along with a hormonal contraceptive method like:

If hormonal birth control is not an option, condom effectiveness can also be increased by using a condom with spermicide. Spermicides are also available over the counter. Although spermicide is 72% to 82% effective when used alone, it is most effective when used with another method of birth control (like a condom). A woman can also consider combining condom use with the use of a diaphragm or cervical cap.

Using a personal lubricant can also help decrease condom friction and lower the chances that your condom will break. When choosing a lubricant, pick a water-soluble brand, not an oil-based one. Many couples report great satisfaction with silicone-based lubricants. These tend to stay slippery longer than those that are water-based and are safe to use with condoms. Because they typically do not cause allergic reactions or skin irritations, silicone-based lubricants are also a great alternative if you have sensitive skin.


CDC. "Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2010: Clinical prevention guidance." Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). December 17, 2010; 59(RR12):1-110. Accessed February 12, 2016.

Munoz K, Davtyan M, Brown B. "Revisiting the condom riddle: Solutions and implications." Journal of Human Sexuality. January 29, 2014; Volume 17. Accessed February 12, 2016.

National Health Service. "Condoms: Know the facts." 11/10/2012. Accessed February 12, 2016.

Rugpao S, Pruithithada N, Yutabootr Y, Prasertwitayakij W, Tovanabutra S. "Condom breakage during commercial sex in Chiang Mai, Thailand." Contraception. 1993 Dec; 48(6):537-47. Accessed via private subscription.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. "Female condom fact sheet." Office of Population Affairs. Accessed February 12, 2016.

Wolitski RJ, Halkitis PN, Parsons JT, Gomez CT. "Awareness and use of untested barrier methods by HIV-seropositive gay and bisexual men." AIDS Education and Prevention. 2001 Aug; 13(4):291–301. Accessed via private subscription.

Walsh TL, Frezieres RG, Peacock K, Nelson AL, Clark VA, Bernstein L, Wraxall BG. "Effectiveness of the male latex condom: Combined results for three popular condom brands used as controls in randomized clinical trials." Contraception. 2004; 70:407–13. Accessed via private subscription.

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