Condoms are a form of barrier contraception. They prevent pregnancy by stopping sperm from reaching an egg.
Condoms can also help stop sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, being passed from one sexual partner to another. They protect against STIs when used in penetrative sex (vaginal or anal) and oral sex.
Condoms are the only form of contraception that protect against both pregnancy and STIs.
It is important to use condoms correctly, and to make sure the penis doesn't make contact with the vagina before a condom has been put on, to avoid the risk of STIs being passed between partners.
Find out how to use a condom.
If used correctly, male condoms are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy. Female condoms are thought to be around 95% effective.
Condoms are made from very thin latex rubber or a very thin plastic (either polyisoprene or polyurethane). Each pack should display either the British BSI Kitemark or the European CE symbol as proof of quality, and should clearly state the expiry date of the condoms. Do not use out-of-date condoms.
Both male and female condoms are available in the UK and are suitable for most people. The male condom fits over a man’s erect penis. The female condom is put into the vagina and loosely lines it. It is up to you and your partner which type of condom you use.
There are many different varieties and brands of male condom. Currently, only one brand of female condom, called Femidom, is available in the UK.
Most people can safely use condoms. However, they may not be the most suitable method of contraception for everyone:
Read more about things to consider when using condoms.
Everyone can get condoms for free, even if they are under 16. They are available from the following places in your local area:
You can also buy male and female condoms from:
If you buy condoms online, make sure you buy them from a pharmacist or other legitimate retailer. Always choose condoms that carry the European CE mark or British BSI Kitemark as a sign of quality assurance.
For information on condoms and all sexual health services, call Sexual Health Direct, run by FPA, on 0845 122 8690.
It is important to consider which form of contraception is right for you and your partner. Take care to use condoms correctly, and consider using other forms of contraception for extra protection.
Sperm can sometimes get into the vagina during sex even when using a condom. This may happen if:
As well as condoms, you can use other forms of contraception, such as the contraceptive pill, for extra protection against pregnancy. However, other forms of contraception will not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You will still be at risk of STIs if the condom breaks.
Some male condoms are lubricated with spermicide, a chemical that kills sperm. These condoms are slowly being phased out as research has found that a spermicide called Nonoxinol 9 does not protect against STIs such as chlamydia and HIV and may even increase the risk of infection.
It is best to avoid using spermicide-lubricated condoms, or spermicide as an additional lubricant.
Condoms come ready lubricated to make them easier to use, but you may also like to use additional lubricant. This is particularly advised for anal sex to reduce the chance of the condom splitting.
Any kind of lubricant can be used with male or female polyurethane condoms. If you are using male latex condoms, do not use oil-based lubricants, such as body oil, petroleum jelly or creams, as they can damage the latex and make the condom more likely to split.
If you are using medication on your genital area, such as a cream or pessary to treat thrush, it may have an effect on latex condoms. Check the instructions or ask your doctor if the treatment will affect latex condoms.
Condoms are a barrier method of contraception. They stop sperm from reaching an egg by creating a physical barrier between the two, preventing unwanted pregnancies.
Condoms are the only form of contraception to offer protection against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They help protect against STIs if used correctly during vaginal, anal and oral sex.
The penis should not make contact with the vagina before a condom has been put on. This is because semen can come out of the penis before a man has fully ejaculated (come). If this happens, or if semen leaks into the vagina while using a male or female condom, seek advice about emergency contraception from your doctor or a sexual health clinic. Also, consider having an [STI test].
It is best to use another method of contraception as well as a condom. This will protect against unintended pregnancy if the condom splits or comes off.
The male condom fits over a man’s erect penis and should be put on before the penis comes into contact with his partner's vagina, anus or mouth. To use a male condom:
Putting on a condom doesn't need to interrupt sex, and many people see it as an enjoyable part of foreplay.
The female condom is made of polyurethane and is worn inside the vagina to stop sperm getting to the womb. It needs to be put in the vagina before there is any contact between the vagina and penis. It can be put in up to eight hours before sex.
If you have sex more than once, use a new condom. Never reuse condoms and never use two condoms together. Always check the expiry date on the packet.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.