Condom (male)


  • Easy to put on yourself
  • Available in different shapes, sizes and flavours
  • Suitable for unplanned sex - no preparation is needed
  • Easy to carry around in your wallet or pocket
  • If you're sensitive to latex, you can use polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms instead.

Condoms are the only contraceptive method that protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The male condom is a sheath or covering that is worn over the penis during sex. They are designed to stop a man's semen from coming into contact with his sexual partner. They can be used by men having sex with women or men to prevent pregnancy and protect against STIs.

Each condom can only be used once, so protection only lasts as long as the condom is intact and worn on the penis.

To prevent pregnancy the condom must stop any sperm from reaching the vagina. Small amounts of sperm are released from the penis before ejaculation, so for condoms to be effective they must be used during any contact between the penis and vagina. Putting on the condom late or removing the condom during sex will result in much higher risk of pregnancy.

Condoms are often used by people who are not in long term relationships, or who prefer not to use a long term or hormonal method of contraception. Condoms are easy to carry around and can be thrown in a bin after use. Condoms are easy to put on with a bit of practice.

*for typical use (effectiveness for perfect use 98%)

How it works

Things to consider

Condoms are a good method of contraception if you remember to keep them with you when you think you are going to have sex. You should also be confident about putting them on or asking your partner to put one on.

Condoms become less effective at preventing pregnancy if:

  • The penis touches the area around the vagina before a condom is put on
  • The condom splits or comes off (using wrong size)
  • The condom gets damaged by sharp fingernails or jewellery
  • You use oil-based lubricants (such as lotion, baby oil or petroleum jelly) with latex condoms – this damages the condom
  • You are using medication for conditions like thrush, such as creams, pessaries or suppositories – this can damage latex condoms.

What if?

The condom splits or comes off:

If this happens, you need to consider two things:

  • Pregnancy
  • STIs

If you are worried about pregnancy, you can use emergency contraception.

The non-hormonal coil (IUD) can be used as emergency contraception up to five days after unprotected sex. Depending on the type of pill, you need to take an emergency contraceptive pill up to 72 hours (three days) or up to 120 hours (five days) after unprotected sex.

To find your nearest EC service, visit

You should take an STI test as you may have been exposed to an infection such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea. It can take time for some STIs to show up in tests - learn when STIs show up in tests before you take one.

If you believe you may have been at risk of HIV you should access preventative medication (PEP) within 72 hours (three days). This will reduce your chance of becoming infected with HIV, but must be started within three days of exposure.


Condoms are not suitable for:

  • People with latex allergy, though non-latex condoms are available
  • Men who have difficulty keeping an erection may not be able to use male condoms.

Side effects & risks

  • Latex allergies are rare, but possible.
  • Condoms can come off so remove them as soon as you have finished having sex and the penis is still erect.


Take the condom out of the packet, taking care not to tear it with jewellery or fingernails – do not open the packet with your teeth.

  • Place the condom over the tip of the erect penis, checking the roll of condom is on the outside
  • Use your thumb and forefinger to squeeze the air out of the tip of the condom
  • Gently roll the condom down to the base of the penis
  • If the condom won't roll down, you're probably holding it the wrong way round – if this happens, throw the condom away because it may have sperm on it, and try again with a new one
  • After sex, withdraw the penis while it's still erect – hold the condom onto the base of the penis while you do this
  • Remove the condom from the penis, being careful not to spill any semen
  • Throw the condom away in a bin, not down the toilet
  • Make sure the man's penis does not touch his partner's genital area again
  • If you have sex again, use a new condom.

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Condoms come ready lubricated to make them easier to use, but you may also like to use additional lubricant, or ‘lube’. This is particularly advised for anal sex, to reduce the chance of the condom splitting.

Any kind of lubricant can be used with condoms that are not made of latex. However, if you are using latex condoms, do not use oil-based lubricants, such as: body oil or lotion, petroleum jelly or creams (such as Vaseline). This is because they can damage the latex and make the condom more likely to split. Lubricants are cheap and available in most pharmacies, at sexual health clinics and online.

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No. There are no restrictions on buying condoms, or on getting free and confidential advice about using condoms or other contraception.

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If the condom splits or comes off, you can visit a clinic or pharmacy to receive emergency contraception (EC). This must be taken within five days of having unprotected sex. To find your nearest EC service, visit

You should also take an STI test as you may have been exposed to an infection when the condom split.

If you are a man who has sex with men and think you are at risk of HIV because a condom has split or come off, preventative medication (PEP) is available. This will reduce your chance of becoming infected with HIV, but must be started within three days of exposure. To find your nearest PEP service, visit

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You may choose to use condoms as well as another form of contraception if:

  • You have not used your regular form of contraception correctly (e.g. missed pills) and you need a backup method until the effectiveness is re-established
  • You may feel that your regular form of contraception is not sufficiently effective and would like additional protection
  • You may use a highly effective method of contraception to prevent pregnancy (such as the implant) and use condoms in addition to prevent STIs.

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For most people, there are no serious risks associated with using condoms, although some people are allergic to latex condoms. You can get condoms that are latex free.

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Yes. You should use a condom for oral sex because gonorrhoea, chlamydia, oral HPV and herpes can be passed on this way.

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Yes. Menstrual blood is a natural fluid and will not have any impact on the condom’s effectiveness.

If you are using condoms to prevent pregnancy you should use them during sex on every day of your cycle, including during your period, when there is still a small risk of pregnancy.

If using condoms to prevent STIs then you should use them during sex on every day of your cycle, including during your period.

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Yes. If you think you are at risk of STIs, you should use a condom during sex when pregnant to protect yourself and your baby from contracting an infection.

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When you feel ready to have sex again, it is safe for you to use a condom. You may need to use one even if you are returning to another method of contraception, as it can take time for other methods to start working.

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Where can I get it?

You can get condoms free from the NHS – ask your local sexual health clinic or your GP. You can also buy condoms from most pharmacies and many supermarkets.

You will also see condoms in vending machines in pubs and clubs, and available to order online. Make sure to check the use-by date on the packaging, and always use condoms with CE marking. This means they’ve been tested to European safety standards.

If you are going abroad, take your favourite brand from the UK. That way you won’t have to rely on a local brand which could be packaged in a foreign language or which may not have been produced to the same standards.