Condoms also stop sexual fluids being transferred between partners which provides protection against STIs.
Condoms are one of the only methods of contraception that protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Find out more information about internal or ‘female’ condoms which fit inside the vagina.
Some key facts are:
A condom covers the penis or sex toy and acts as a barrier between it and the mouth, vagina, penis or anus.
Condoms protect against pregnancy by stopping the sperm contained in semen coming into contact with a vagina. As condoms stop sexual fluids being transferred between partners they are also the only method of contraception that protects against most STIs.
When condoms are used correctly they are 98% effective at protecting against pregnancy. This means that two women out of every 100 who use condoms as contraception will become pregnant within a year. They are the only method of contraception that protects against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Some people like to use condoms with another method of contraception (e.g. the pill, implant, injection), so they can enjoy sex without having to worry about pregnancy and STIs.
You can get condoms FREE from:
Or buy your condoms, even if you're under 16, from:
If you feel embarrassed to get condoms – don’t be. There is no need to feel embarrassed about asking for condoms, as it's nothing to be ashamed of. Deciding to use condoms shows that you have respect for your body and are responsible enough to look after your sexual health.
If you go to a service to get condoms, you will usually have a private consultation where they will ask you a few questions and they may show you how to use condoms by giving a demonstration on a plastic penis.
You and a friend or partner can also go to a clinic together and keep each other company. This might make it a bit easier for you.
If you follow the instructions on the pack it will make it much less likely that you will have any problems. We also have a video below that you can watch:
Never use two condoms together as this increases the chances of them splitting or tearing.
Some condoms have spermicide on them and these are being phased out because research has shown that a spermicide called nonoxynol 9 doesn’t protect against some STIs (and may even increase the risk). Avoid using spermicide lubricated condoms if you can, or using spermicide as an additional lubricant.
Look after your condoms
Keeping condoms in your pocket or at the bottom of your bag for a long time might damage them. If the wrappers look damaged throw them away and get new ones. Always check the expiry date: out of date condoms are less effective.
If you're doing all this correctly, and the condom still won't go all the way down your penis, you may need to use a different sized condom. You can have a chat about condoms with a member of the team at your local Brook service, young person's service, contraception and sexual health clinics, or at your GP surgery.
The condom is inside out
It’s easily done! If you or your partner put the condom on the wrong way, you should throw it away and use a fresh one. This is because the inside of it may have touched some pre-come, or semen which could mean there is a risk of pregnancy.
There are lots of different brands and types of condoms, but they should all have one thing in common: a BSI kite mark or CE mark - these stamps show that the condom has been tested to high safety standards.
When a condom is past its expiry date, it is more likely to split during sex, because the latex is starting to perish.
Brands: There are lots of different brands of condoms such as Durex, Mates, Trojan and Pasante. Different people prefer different brands.
Size and shape: Condoms come in all different shapes and sizes; so finding a condom that fits and is comfortable is really important. One size definitely does not fit all, and trying out different types is the only way to find the one that's right.
Colour and flavour: Condoms come in every colour imaginable. This is mostly to make them more fun to use and it doesn't affect the way that they work. Condoms can also be flavoured so that they smell and taste of something (like strawberry or chocolate), to make oral sex safer and more fun.
Texture: Some condoms are textured or ribbed on the outside for increased stimulation of the vagina or anus. Condoms are usually made of latex and this can be thinner or thicker. Thinner latex condoms provide more sensation for the male, while thicker "extra strong" condoms can be safer because they're less likely to break.
Specialist condoms: Some condoms contain an anaesthetic gel in the tip; this can help make sex last longer by slightly numbing the head of the penis.
Latex free: Most people are able to use latex condoms with no problems, however occasionally people can have an allergy to latex. All the major brands now make non-latex condoms so; if you have a latex allergy you can ask for these at your local service or buy them from a high street chemist, like Boots or Superdrug and from some larger supermarkets.
Make sure it's got a BSI kite mark or CE mark on the wrapper. That means they've been tested to a really high standard.
You can use condoms immediately after having a baby.
You can use condoms immediately after having a miscarriage or abortion.
Bringing up the subject of condoms in the heat of the moment can be tricky. Get some tips for talking about it in advance with our page on talking about condoms.