(There are types of condoms, also female condoms that go inside the vagina, but here we're talking about male condoms.)
How well does it work?
Typical use: 14 percent Perfect use: 3 percent
(Read more about what 'failure rate' means in how well does it work?)
Pros and Cons
- Prevents pregnancy and also protects against STDs.
- You don't need to see a health care provider or get a prescription.
- Easy to get - you can buy them at most pharmacies, supermarkets.
- Few side-effects - a few people are allergic to latex and need to use another type.
- Easy to use.
- You can stop using condoms to try and get pregnant whenever you like.
- You’ve got to use a condom each time you have sex.
- You've got to get the man to co-operate.
- You can't use them without your partner noticing.
How do condoms work?
All types of condoms prevent pregnancy by keeping sperm out of the vagina.
You can also use them to protect against STDs when you’re having oral sex or anal sex.
Allergic to condoms?
Latex condoms are best at preventing pregnancy and protecting against STDs. But if you’re allergic to latex, you can use condoms made of polyurethane or lambskin.
Polyurethane is the best option after latex. These types of condoms are slightly thinner and more expensive. One advantage is that you can feel your partner's warmth through them more easily. This can make sex feel more intimate.
Polyurethane condoms prevent pregnancy and protect against STDs about as well as latex ones. But because they are thinner, they’re slightly more likely to break and slip off during sex than latex condoms.
Lambskin condoms only prevent pregnancy. These types of condoms won't protect you against STDs.
The most common and mildest type of allergic reaction is dryness and itchiness. The worst forms range from a serious rash to a life-threatening shock reaction.
Spermicide lubricated condoms
Spermicide lubricated condoms contain a chemical called nonoxynol-9. This kills sperm - or at least, it stops them moving.
Some people who use condoms lubricated with spermicide find they cause redness, itching or irritation. Women are more likely to get side effects from spermicide. It can also make them more likely to get get urinary tract infections.
If your only option is to use a lubricated condom or not to use a condom, it’s still much safer to use the condom.
How to use condoms
- Tear open the package carefully
- Pinch the tip
- Roll the condom over the penis
To find out all the details, see putting on male condoms.
- There are usually instructions on the package to show you how to put on a condom. Read them carefully if you're not sure.
- Use a condom only once. Check out your condom size.
- Condoms have an expiration date on the package. Make sure the condom isn't out of date.
- Put the condom on before you touch a woman's vaginal area with your penis. The fluid that comes out before you ejaculate can pass on STDs. And you might have already released some sperm that could get your partner pregnant.
- If the condom is brittle or stiff, throw it away and use another one, because brittle or stiff condoms are more likely to slip or break during sex.
- If you'd like extra lubrication, use a water-based lubricant. Spit can also work well. Avoid using oil-based lubricants because they can damage latex condoms.
- See below for a list of safe and unsafe lubricants under 'How do I take care of condoms?' below.
Taking off a condom
1. Take your penis out before it gets soft.
2. Hold the condom at the base as you pull out so no semen spills.
3. Wrap the condom in a tissue and throw away it away in a garbage bin. If you prefer you can tie a knot at the base to stop the sperm coming out. Don't put the condom down the toilet.
What happens if my condom breaks?
Sometimes condoms break. This can happen if the condom size doesn’t fit properly or just because of bad luck. Check the condom size next time you buy it.
Luckily this hardly ever happens. If used properly, on average latex condoms only break four times out of every 1000. Polyurethane condoms break four times out of 100.
If a condom breaks, it’s less effective at preventing pregnancy and STDs.
If this happens to you, pull out quickly and replace it. If a condom breaks and any fluid could have got inside the vagina, think about using emergency contraception.
Emergency contraception - the 'morning after pill' - can prevent pregnancy up to five days after having sex. The sooner you take it, the better it will work.
What happens if the condom slips off and I can't get it out of my vagina?
Try not to panic. You can usually reach it with your finger in your vagina. If not, contact your nearest health care provider for an appointment. Because sperm might have leaked out of the condom you should think about using emergency contraception - the 'morning after pill'.
How do I take care of my condoms?
There are many types of condoms. Store condoms in a cool, dry place. Avoid keeping them in a back pocket, wallet, or glove compartment for long periods because the heat could damage them.
Use water-based lubricants with latex condoms. Safe lubricants for all condoms:
- K-Y lubricating jelly
- Silicone lubricant
Unsafe lubricant for latex condoms include baby oil, butter, cream, body lotions, massage oil, mineral oil, Vaseline (petroleum jelly), rubbing alcohol, suntan lotions, certain kinds of yeast infection creams, cooking oil - and whipped cream!
How often do I have to use a condom?
Simple - every time you have sex!
What do condoms cost?
Between thirty-five cents and one US dollar per condom. But often you can get them free from family planning clinics.
Where do I get condoms?
You can buy condoms at most drug stores, some supermarkets, and at family planning clinics. Sometimes condoms are sold in vending machines at bars or public toilets. Sometimes health clinics will give you condoms free of charge.
Why do people like condoms?
- Easy to get
- Inexpensive way to protect against both pregnancy and STDs
- Lightweight and disposable
- Don’t need a prescription
- May help a man stay hard longer
Some people say that they have better sex when they use condoms because they’re able to focus on sexual pleasure without worrying about pregnancy or STDs. Putting on condoms can even be part of foreplay - read more about putting on male condoms.
What are the disadvantages of using condoms?
Roughly six people out 100 who use condoms are allergic to latex. If you’re allergic to latex, you can use polyurethane condoms or ask your female partner to use a female condom.Some couples find using condoms reduces sexual pleasure. If you’re worried about this, click here for some tips.Some men feel pressured to maintain an erection to keep a condom on. If your female partner uses a female condom, this is not a problem.Men may feel self-conscious and embarrassed about using condoms, so practise if you think you may be one of them. Putting on condoms can be very sexy and included as part of foreplay!
Do condoms protect against STDs?
How do I talk with my partner about using condoms?
Talking about condoms with your partner is important. You might feel nervous, but think about it – if you're a woman, wouldn’t you be even more nervous telling them you’re pregnant? And telling them you've got an STD is hard for both men and women. It’s so worth it to talk about condoms beforehand.
You can practice beforehand what you’re going to say. Think about what your partner will say about using condoms. If you need help, read more in talking about condoms.