A condom covers the penis and acts as a barrier between the penis and the vagina, the penis and the mouth, or the penis and the anus.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are passed on through sexual fluids during vaginal, oral or anal sex. As condoms stop sexual fluids being transferred between partners they are also the only method of contraception that protects against STIs.
How do you use condoms?
Make sure you read the instructions before you start, but just in case, here's our step by step guide:
- Check that the condoms have the BSI or CE kitemark on the pack (this says they have been tested to a high standard)
- Take the condom out of the packet, checking the use by date on the packet first and making sure there are no rips in it. Watch out for sharp nails, jewellery and teeth!
- Make sure the condom is put on the penis as soon as it is erect (hard) before it goes near anyone's mouth, vagina or anus. This is because the penis can release a clear, runny liquid during arousal (called pre-cum) that may contain bacteria.
- Pinch the tip of the condom between your thumb and forefinger to get rid of any air
- Lower the condom onto the penis head, still holding the teat at the top. Use your other hand to roll the condom down the penis all the way to the base
- If you're using a water-based lubricant, now is the time to coat the condom. But be careful of oil-based lubricants or products as they can disintigrate the condom
- Check the condom is in place throughout sex
- After ejaculation, hold the condom on at the base until the penis is withdrawn and then take it off, wrap it in a tissue and bin it (not down the toilet)
- Always use a brand new condom if you have any sexual contact again - they can only be used once.
- Lubricants on there own will not provide protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. They must be used with condoms or dams. Lubricants are designed to help reduce friction during sexual intercourse.
- Lubricant can be used during vaginal sex if dryness is an issue
- Lubricant should always be used for anal sex. The anus has no natural lubrication, so using lubricant will reduce the risk of the condom tearing or bursting
- Lubricant should not be put on the inside of the condom or on the penis before putting a condom on
- Make sure you always use a water based lubricant. Oil based lubricants such as massage oil, baby oil and Vasaline can damage latex condoms
- Female condoms are very similar to male condoms, except they fit inside the vagina instead of over the penis. They are made of polyurethane and are slightly wider than a male condom. They are held in place with a ring that lies outside the vagina
How do you use female condoms?
Always read the packet instructions, as they will contain a diagram of how to insert the condom but just in case, here's our step by step guide:
- Take the female condom out of the packet, checking the use-by date on the packet first and making sure there are no rips in it. Watch out for sharp nails, jewellery and teeth!
- Lie or squat down.
- Squeeze the ring at the closed end of the condom between your thumb and finger.
- With your other hand separate the labia (the lips of the vagina).
- Gently push the squeezed ring of the condom into the vagina as far as it will go.
- Now with your middle finger push the inner ring as far up into the vagina as you can so that it rests just above the pubic bone. The outer ring should hang outside the body.
- Don’t worry if the condom is a bit loose – that’s how it’s meant to be.
- It can help if you guide the penis into the vagina so that it goes into the condom and doesn't risk rolling it up into the vagina.
- After the man has ejaculated twist the outer ring of the condom to keep the semen inside the condom and gently pull it out.
- Wrap the condom in tissue and bin it (not down the toilet).
- It's a good idea to put the condom in before the penis touches the vagina or genital area.
- You can put the condom in when you are lying down, squatting or with one leg on a chair. It's worth experimenting with putting the condom in to find the position that suits you best.
- As with male condoms you should always use a new condom every time you have sex and check the 'use by' date on the packet.
- A dental dam or oral dam is a thin, rectangular sheet of latex that can be used during oral - anal or oral - vaginal sex to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections.
- Apply a water based lubricant to vaginal or anal areas before putting the dam in place. This may increase sensation and prevent friction during oral sex
- Before oral sex, place the dam flat over the vagina or anus completely covering the area
- Hold the dam in place during oral sex and don’t let it flip over.
- Use each dam only once, then throw it away and wash your hands
Be sure to use a new dam if switching between oral-anal and oral-vaginal