What are condoms?
- A male condom is made of very thin latex (rubber) or polyurethane (plastic) which is put over a man's erect penis.
- A female condom is made of very thin polyurethane. It is inserted into the vagina and loosely covers it.
- Condoms are called barrier methods of contraception and they work by stopping the sperm meeting an egg.
How effective are condoms?
Contraceptive use can either be perfect (always correct) or typical (more accurate, as it’s sometimes difficult to use contraception correctly every time).
Typical number of unintended pregnancies in the first year of use:
- Male condoms 15 in 100
- Female condoms 21 in 100
What makes it less effective?
- Condoms are most effective when you use them correctly (correct size and fit) and consistently (worn every time).
- They are more effective if they fit correctly. A condom that is too large may slip off and a condom that is too small may split or burst.
- Make sure your condom foil carries the British Kite Mark or CE standard. This means that your condom conforms to quality standards. Novelty condoms are designed for fun and some may not carry the British Kite mark - always check as these condoms cannot be used for contraception/protection against STIs.
- Be aware that there are risks that sperm/semen can still get into contact with the vagina/anus/genitals when using condoms.
- This can happen if:
o The condom splits
o The male condom slips off the penis
o The penis enters the vagina or anus outside the female condom
o Sharp fingernails or jewellery damage the condom
o You use oil-based products (such as baby lotions) with latex condoms, which can damage them. Always use a water based lubricant instead.
o You don't wear the condom for the entire time the penis is in contact with the vagina/anus. Please make sure a condom is used when the penis is in contact with the vagina/anus and not just at the point of ejaculation (pre-ejaculation fluid can leak out from the penis before ejaculation and this can contain sperm).
Consider Emergency Contraception or Post Exposure Prophylaxis if you suspect a condom failure.
Where can I get condoms?
Male and Female condoms are free from the Free Condoms service, including at every Sandyford Clinic.
There are over 300 venues across Glasgow & Clyde where you can drop in and pick-up Free Condoms.
What are the advantages of condoms?
- You only need to use them when you have sex.
- They protect both partners from some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
- There are no hormonal side-effects from using condoms.
- Male condoms come in different types, shapes and sizes.
- Male condoms are widely available.
- A female condom can be put in any time before sex.
Are there any disadvantages of condoms?
- They can be less effective than some other methods at preventing pregnancy
- Some people find condoms can interrupt sex. However, you can make applying condoms more fun by incorporating it into your sexual activities. Be creative!
- A male condom can sometimes slip off or split (research shows that polyurethane condoms split more often than latex condoms). Always make sure you use the correct size of condom. Condoms are more likely to slip off if they are a loose fit. Condoms are more likely to split if they are a tight fit.
The Free Condoms service offers a 'variety pack' so that you can try each of the 3 condom sizes (trim fit, standard, large fit) available to make sure you get the right condom for you.
- When using a male condom make sure that the penis is withdrawn soon after ejaculation. Make sure that you don't spill any semen (the fluid that contains sperm) when withdrawing the penis and removing the condom.
- Some people are sensitive to the chemicals in latex condoms, though this is rare. Latex free condoms are now available if you have a sensitivity to latex.