What are Condoms?

Condoms are made of very thin latex (rubber) and are designed to cover the penis in order to stop the sperm in semen coming into contact with the vagina.
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).

How It Works

How do Condoms work
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

There are male condoms and female condoms.

  • Male condoms

The male type is made of very fine rubber. It is the most commonly used and is rolled over the hard penis. If used correctly it prevents sperm from meeting the women’s eggs. However they have to be used with care in case they burst and must be used BEFORE the penis comes in contact with the vagina.

  • Female condoms

Female condoms are made of a soft polyurethane sheath which lines the vagina and the area just outside before sex. They are held in place by a ring at either end. They prevent sperm from entering the vagina. Female condoms are stronger than the male type but they can slip and you have to make sure the penis goes inside the condom. They are also more expensive than male condoms and less available to buy. Make sure to read the instructions on the packet carefully.

How Reliable A Method Are They?

Effectiveness depends on careful and consistent use. With careful use the male condom is 98% effective and the female condom 95% effective.


  • Help to protect both partners from sexually transmitted infections including HIV as well as pregnancy.
  • No side-effects
  • Condoms are easily available
  • Only need to use them when you have sex
  • Can be used with additional hormonal contraceptives for additional protection
  • Condoms are the only method that a man can use to control his own fertility and make sure that he doesn’t become a father before he’s ready
  • May protect against cancer of the cervix


  • Putting it on can interrupt sex
  • Some people are allergic to the latex used in condoms. This is rare but if you or your partner is allergic, it’s possible to use latex free polyurethane condoms
  • May slip off or burst if not used correctly
  • Man needs to withdraw as soon as he has ejaculated (comes) and has to be careful not to spill any sperm
  • If any of these things happen advice should be sought on emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy
  • Using condoms properly requires practice
  • Female condoms are expensive to buy and are not easily available

What makes a condom less effective?

  • If it is ripped by sharp nails or rings.
  • Oil-based products (e.g. hand cream, Vaseline) can damage latex condoms so it’s important to avoid these and use a water-based lubricant.
  • If it slips off.
  • If it isn’t put on properly.

Where Can I Get Them?

Condoms are available in < the Ilash clinic,>chemists, vending machines in nightclubs and pubs, some supermarkets, GUM clinics, health centres and often in student unions.

Try to buy a brand with a CE mark or BSI kitemark. Remember to check the expiry date.

Female condoms are available at some family planning clinics.

Why Use Condoms?

  • They protect against sexual infections as well as pregnancy
  • They are easily available
  • There are no side effects

How To Use A Male Condom

  • Read the instructions on the packet carefully
  • Make sure the condom fits securely on the hard penis
  • Don’t let anything sharp near them and don’t use your teeth when opening a packet. Be careful with jewelry and long nails.
  • Don’t try and put it on if the penis is not erect
  • Pinch the top of the condom to get rid of any air and with your other hand gently roll it down over the penis
  • After ejaculation (when he comes) hold the condom firmly at the rim and remove carefully to avoid spilling semen. There may still be semen on the penis so keep it away from the vagina
  • If you need lubricant, make sure it’s water based. Don’t use vaseline, massage oil, baby oil or moisturizer because they can damage the condom very quickly
  • Only use a condom once

Look after your condoms

Keeping condoms in your pocket or at the bottom of your bag for a long time might damage the condom. If the wrappers look damaged, then probably the condoms are too old, so throw them away and get new ones. Check the sell-by date. Out of date condoms are less effective.

Quality condoms

Make sure it’s got a BSI kitemark or CE mark on the wrapper. That means they’ve been machine-tested to a really high standard.

Do I  need to use a condom as well as other methods of contraception?

Some women like to use condoms with another method of contraception (e.g. the pill, implant, injection or patch). This gives double protection against pregnancy and also helps to protect against STIs. So you can enjoy sex without having to worry. This is sometimes known as Double Dutch.