Most sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are completely preventable.

Condoms are an excellent way to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), like chlamydia. They also offer extra protection against pregnancy when used with other forms of contraception. When condoms are worn on the penis during sex they prevent semen getting into your partner’s body when the male ejaculates (or comes). The condom should be put on when the penis is erect (hard) and before it comes into contact with your partner’s body. Condoms are normally made from latex (thin rubber). Some people can be allergic to latex so polyurethane can also be supplied.

Some people enjoy using a lubricant during sex. Never use oil based lube (like baby oil) make sure it’s water based. Oil of any type really weakens condoms and can cause them to split. If the condom does split make sure you seek out advice AS SOON AS POSSIBLE to avoid an unintended pregnancy.

How to use a condom

  1. Open the foil wrapper carefully down one side to avoid tearing the condom.
  2. Squeeze the end of the condom to get rid of any air (if air is trapped in the condom, it could cause it to split) and place over the head of the penis.
  3. While squeezing the tip of the condom, roll it down over the length of the erect penis.
  4. Make sure the condom stays in place while you’re having sex. If it comes off, stop and put on a new one. When the man has come and while the penis is still hard, hold the condom in place and carefully withdraw the penis from your partner.

Only when there’s no further contact with your partner’s body should you take off the condom. Wrap the used condom in a tissue and put it in the bin never flush condoms down the toilet.

Getting used to condoms can take a little practice, but don’t worry it doesn’t take long before they start to feel like an essential part of your sex life.

Where can I get condoms?

Even if you are under 16, you can buy condoms in lots of places including chemists, petrol stations, vending machines and supermarkets. Most shops have condoms on the shelf, so you don’t have to ask for them. Remember the staff see condoms everyday so it won’t be uncomfortable even if you do need to ask.

You can also get free condoms with a C-Card, from your local young person’s sexual health clinic, GUM clinic or Family Planning clinic, and from some doctors.

Condom tips to remember

  • Always choose condoms that carry the European CE mark. This is a recognised safety standard that you know you can trust.
  • Oil based lubricants can increase the risk of a condom splitting. Always use a water based lubricant when using condoms.
  • Always put the condom on well before you start to have penetrative sex. Once things get going it’s easy to forget in the heat of the moment.
  • Take care opening the foil wrapper, teeth and sharp nails can damage a condom and you might not notice.
  • Use a new condom every time you have penetrative sex, and never re-use a condom. If you’re strapped for cash you can get them free from your local clinic.
  • Never use two condoms together – whether that is two male condoms or a female and a male condom.
  • Heat can damage condoms. Always store them in a cool, dry place.
  • Check the expiry date – condoms don’t last forever.
  • Try to remember to take condoms with you on holiday to avoid problems getting hold of them while you are away. Condoms can be damaged by oil based products so avoid direct contact with sun lotions, baby oil and some cosmetics like lipstick.