Male and female condoms are forms of barrier contraception so they avoid pregnancy
by stopping sperm from meeting an egg. The condom is the only method which also prevents sexually transmissible infections .
Condoms are made of rubber or a special type of thin plastic. Anyone can use them but if you or your partner is allergic to latex or rubber, you must use latex-free condoms. The male condom fits over the erect penis and the female condom is inserted into the vagina
How effective are condoms?
Condoms, if used correctly as instructed, can be effective. There are some novelty condoms which are not as effective. You must check the expiry date and look for the "kite" sign to ensure the condom is of recognised sound quality.
Male condoms are 98% effective - this means that if 100 women used male condoms for one year, 2 of them would get pregnant. Female condoms are 95% effective.
Condoms can be less effective if:
- the condom splits
- the condom comes off
- the penis slips out the condom and enters in the vagina
- the condoms is damaged or ripped by sharp objects such as fingernails or jewellery
- the condom is damaged by oil based creams or lubricants
- if there is contact between the vagina and penis before the condom is put on (as some sperm can be released early in "pre-ejaculate")
Condoms are easily available and simple to use with practice. Condoms are free from family planning clinics.
They can be used if you do not have a regular partner or multiple partners. There are no side effects from using them. They protect from some sexually transmitted infections. You can use condoms in addition to other contraception such as the pill.
Putting a condom on can interrupt sex. Moreover the condoms can make noises during sex, especially the female condom
They are sometimes difficult to fit but you can ask your local family planning doctor or nurse for help. Female condoms are more expensive than male ones. Some men still find it difficult to accept the female condom.
Femidom is the only female condom available in the UK. It is made of lubricated polyurethane (plastic) and looks like a large 'inside out' condom
It is inserted before sexual intercourse and removed afterwards. Instructions come with the condom packet - it is placed in the vagina in a similar way to a tampon.
Spermicides are chemicals which kill sperm. You do not need to use spermicide as condoms are effective on their own. In fact, in the UK, they are phasing out condoms lubricated with spermicide as research has shown that they are not effective in preventing sexually transmissible infections, and may actually increase the risk of infection
Further sources on information
You can find reliable information on the Family Planning Association website: