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Male condom

What it is

A male condom is made of very thin latex (rubber) or polyurethane and fits over the man's erect penis. Condoms are lubricated to make them easier to use.

Where can you get them?

Condoms are free from local clinics - click here

How it works

A condom acts as a barrier between the penis and the vagina, the penis and the mouth, or the penis and the anus. A condom covers the whole of the penis and stops sexual fluids being exchanged (semen or vaginal fluids). Condoms provide protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well as unintended pregnancy.

There will be instructions with the packet which usually have diagrams that show you how to put them on. Always use a new condom each time you have sexual contact and put a condom on the penis as soon as it’s hard. Make sure it has a BSI or CE Kitemark which is a mark to show that it’s been safety tested and check the expiry date.


  • Protects against sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) as well as pregnancy.
  • No side effects.
  • Only need to use them when you have sex.
  • Easily available - free from youth clinics, contraceptive health clinics and sexual health clinics (click here for link to local services). You can also buy them at any time of day from supermarkets, vending machines in public toilets, petrol stations etc, even if you’re under 16.
  • Come in different shapes, sizes, textures colours and flavours to suit everyone.
  • Some men can find that it takes them a bit longer before they ejaculate if they wear a condom, so they can make sex last longer.
  • Both men and women can access their own free condoms so it’s not left up to one person.


  • Putting it on can interrupt sex.
  • They can split or slip off if they’re not used properly.
  • The man needs to withdraw carefully straight after ejaculation.
  • Some people are allergic to the latex that most condoms are made out of. If so, people can use condoms made out of polyurethane.

How effective is it?

  • Condoms are 98% effective when they’re used correctly.
  • Using some extra water-based lubricant can reduce friction during sex and make a condom less likely to tear (especially during anal sex).

What makes it 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.
  • If it slips off.
  • If the penis touches the area around the vagina before a condom is put on then there can be a risk of STIs and pregnancy. If the penis comes into contact with the anus before the condom is put on then there can be a risk of STIs. This is because as soon as the penis is erect, it leaks a few drops of clear liquid called pre-ejaculate. You can’t always see this liquid but it can contain thousands of sperm, as well as bacteria and viruses that can cause STIs.
  • If any of these things happen, you can get advice about emergency contraception to prevent a pregnancy. Click here for local clinics or pharmacies

Can anyone use this method?

Male condoms are suitable for most people and everyone is entitled to pick up free condoms from a local clinic. Some men and women are allergic to rubber or spermicides used in condoms. In such cases, it is possible to use polyurethane condoms or latex condoms without spermicide.

For more information visit: http://www.fpa.org.uk/contraception-help/condoms-male-and-female