Condoms (both male and female versions) are the only contraceptive methods that can, in addition to preventing unintended pregnancy, reduce the risk of transmission of most Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) during sex.
Male condoms are made from very thin latex (rubber) or plastic and fit over a man's erect penis. They are designed to stops a man’s semen coming into contact with his sexual partner.
When condoms are used correctly during vaginal sex, they help to protect against pregnancy and STIs. When used correctly during anal and oral sex, they help to protect against STIs.
Female condoms (sometimes called Femidoms) are made from thin, soft plastic called polyurethane and are worn inside the vagina to prevent semen getting to the womb. When used correctly during vaginal sex, female condoms can also help to protect against STIs.
Further information about condoms:
- male and female condoms are suitable for most people
- standard condoms are suitable for anal sex – there is no evidence that stronger or thicker condoms are better or safer. It’s very important that you use extra lubrication for anal sex to reduce the risk of the condom breaking
- any condoms can be used for oral sex. However, flavored condoms are a good option because they’re not lubricated and come in a range of flavors to suit most people’s tastes
- you only need to use them when you have sex
- they help to protect both partners from some Sexually Transmitted Infections, including HIV
- there are no serious side-effects from using condoms
- male condoms come in a variety of shapes and sizes
- male condoms are easily available
- a female condom can be put in any time before sex
If your condom splits, comes off or is not put on properly during sex you should visit your GP or a Sexual Health Clinic for advice.
Using a condom
If using condoms it is worth bearing in mind these key points:
- always make sure that your condoms are in date and that they have the British Kitemark or European Kitemark
- always keep packets of condoms and individual condoms where they cannot be damaged by strong heat, sharp objects, light or damp.
- always put a condom on before you have any kind of sexual penetration
- never use two condoms together or a condom more than once
- avoid damaging your condom ie. Fingernails or jewelry
- oil-based products (such as body lotions) should not be used with condoms. These damage the condom.
You can find information on how to use a condom here: