Healthy lives for young people
Contraception

Condoms (male)

Condoms are made of very thin latex (rubber) and are designed to cover the penis in order to stop fluids being transferred between partners.

Quick guide

How they work

Condoms protect against unwanted pregnancy by stopping the sperm contained in semen coming into contact with the vagina. Read more

Pros & Cons

Condoms are the only method that protect against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
You only need to use them when you have sex
Sometimes they can split or slip off
Some people are allergic to the latex used in condoms

Read more

Where to get them

You can get free condoms from Brook services, young people’s services, contraception clinics, GUM clinics and some GP surgeries.  Read more

What they do

Condoms protect against unwanted pregnancy by stopping the sperm contained in semen coming into contact with the vagina (which could lead to an egg being fertilised).

A condom covers the penis and acts as a barrier between it and the mouth, vagina, penis or anus. This prevents sexual fluids being transferred between partners, which provides protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Condoms are the only method that protect against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • You only need to use them when you have sex
  • There are no serious side effects
  • They come in different shapes, sizes, textures, colours and flavours which can make sex more fun
  • They’re easily available
  • You can use them in addition to other methods (e.g. the pill, implant, injection) for extra protection
  • You can use them on sex toys, too

Cons

  • Sometimes they can split or slip off – if this happens or you are worried you may need emergency contraception
  • Some people are allergic to the latex used in condoms. This is rare but latex free polyurethane condoms are also available
  • Some people find talking about condoms awkward

Where to get them

You can get free condoms from Brook services, young people’s services, contraception clinics, GUM clinics and some GP surgeries. Use our Find a Service tool to find places near you.

Under 16?

You can also buy condoms, even if you’re under 16, from pharmacies, supermarkets, vending machines in public toilets and online.

How do they work?

How do you use condoms?

When used correctly condoms are 98% effective at protecting against pregnancy.

  1. Before opening, feel for the rib of the condom inside the packaging and push it to the side so that when you tear it open you don’t tear the condom as well
  2. Unroll the condom a bit to check it is the right way round (it will only unroll if it’s the right way). Do this BEFORE it touches the penis
  3. Pinch the tip of the condom between your thumb and forefinger to get rid of any air
  4. Put it on the penis as soon as it is erect (hard) and before it goes near anyone’s mouth, vagina or anus
  5. Use your other hand to roll the condom down the penis all the way to the base
  6. If you are having anal sex, you should use additional water-based lubricant which you can apply directly to the anus or on the outside of the condom
  7. Check the condom is in place during sex
  8. After ejaculation, hold the condom on at the base until the penis is withdrawn and then take it off, wrap it in tissue and throw it in the bin (not down the toilet)

If you’re doing all this but the condom 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 at your local sexual health service. They won’t judge you – they’re there to help and you have a right to enjoy sex safely.

Read our in-depth guide to using condoms.

Condom dos and don’ts

DO

  • Check the expiry date – out of date? don’t use it. It could split
  • Check for the BSI kite mark or CE mark on the pack. If it’s not there, don’t use them – you can’t rely on them
  • Always use a brand new condom – they can only be used once
  • Use lube if you need it, just make sure its water based (eg KY jelly) or look for condoms that are lubricated
  • Take care that you don’t rip them with sharp nails or jewellery

DON’T

  •  Don’t use a condom if there are any rips, holes or damage to the pack
  • Don’t use two condoms together as this increases the chances of them splitting or tearing
  • Don’t use oil-based products (eg Vaseline or hand cream) with latex condoms as it can make them less effective. Always use water based lubricant
  • Don’t use condoms if the wrappers look damaged
  • Don’t use the condom if you’ve already tried putting it on the wrong way. It’s easily done but you should throw it away as it may have touched some pre-come, or semen which could mean there is a risk of pregnancy.

What to do if the condom breaks

Accidents happen and if the condom has broken, split, slipped off or you’re worried it was used incorrectly, don’t panic. Use our Find a service tool to find your local sexual health service where you can have a quick, simple and painless test for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and emergency contraception if there is a risk of unwanted pregnancy.

Warning

Avoid using spermicide lubricated condoms. 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).

Embarrassed about buying condoms?

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.

If its easier, go to a clinic with a friend or a partner.Bringing up the subject of condoms when you’re about to have sex can be tricky. Get some tips for talking about it in advance with our page on talking about condoms.

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