Condoms are a barrier method of contraception. They stop sperm from reaching an egg by creating a physical barrier between them. Condoms can also protect against STIs if used correctly during vaginal, anal and oral sex.
Male condoms are made from very thin latex (rubber), polyisoprene or polyurethane, and are designed to stop a man's semen from coming into contact with his sexual partner.
- Easy to put on yourself
- When used correctly and consistently, condoms are a reliable method of preventing pregnancy.
- They help to protect both partners from STIs, including chlamydia, gonorrhoea and HIV.
- Available in different shapes, sizes and flavours
- Suitable for unplanned sex - no preparation is needed
- Easy to carry around in your wallet or pocket
- In most cases, there are no medical side effects from using condoms. However, if you're sensitive to latex, there are condoms available that do not contain latex
- Some couples find that using condoms interrupts sex – to get around this, try to make using a condom part of foreplay.
- Condoms are very strong but may split or tear if not used properly. In this case, emergency contraception may be needed
- Some people may be allergic to latex, plastic or spermicides – you can get condoms that are less likely to cause an allergic reaction.
- When using a male condom, the man has to pull out after he has ejaculated and before the penis goes soft, holding the condom firmly in place.
How effective is it?
Condoms are 98% effective when they’re used correctly. With typical use, condoms are 82% effective. Using some extra water-based lubricant can reduce friction during sex and make a condom less likely to tear (especially during anal sex). Make sure it has a BSI or CE Kitemark which is a mark to show that it’s been safety tested and check the expiry date.
What makes it less effective?
- If it is ripped by sharp nails, rings, teeth or whilst opening the packet.
- Oil-based products (e.g. hand cream, Vaseline) can damage latex condoms so it’s important to avoid these.
- If it slips off.
- If the penis touches the area around the vagina before a condom is put on then there can be a risk of STIs and pregnancy. This is because as soon as the penis is erect, it leaks a few drops of clear liquid called pre-ejaculate. You can’t always see this liquid but it can contain thousands of sperm, as well as bacteria and viruses that can cause STIs.
- If any of these things happen, you can get advice about emergency contraception to prevent a pregnancy.
For more information visit the FPA website.