You can get free condoms from community contraceptive clinics, sexual health and genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics, some young people's services, e.g. youth clubs and also some GP surgeries.
In addition you can also buy condoms in pharmacies and supermarkets. For cheap online orders visit www.freedoms-shop.nhs.uk
What are condoms?
There are two types of condoms - Male and female - they are made from either very thin latex (rubber) or polyurethane (a type of plastic). Used correctly, they help protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STI's).
How do they work?
The male condom is worn on the penis to stop sperm entering the mouth, anus or vagina. It needs to be put on when the penis is erect and before the penis comes into contact with the mouth, anus or vagina. Always use a water based lube with condoms: e.g. KY jelly, Play, liquid silk etc. Never use an oil based product, such as: Vaseline or massage oil, doing so reduces condoms strength and breakages can occur.
To use a male condom
- Check the expiry date on the condom packet. Open carefully and do not bite the packet. Always check for an approved kite mark.
- Take the condom out of the packet and ensure that it is able to roll down the penis away from you.
- Hold the condom by the teat or the closed end and roll it over the head of the penis, while squeezing air out of the teat to make room for the collection of semen.
- After sex, withdraw the penis while it is still erect. Hold the condom at the base of the penis while the penis is withdrawn.
- Remove the condom from the penis, being careful not to spill any of the semen, throw the condom away in a bin (not down the toilet).
The female condom is made of polyurethane and is worn inside the vagina to stop sperm getting to the womb. It needs to be put in the vagina before there is any contact between the vagina and penis.
To use a female condom
- Take the female condom out of the packet, taking care not to tear the condom.
- Squeeze the smaller ring at the closed end of the condom and insert it into the vagina.
- Make sure the large ring at the open end of the female condom is covering the area around the vaginal opening.
- Make sure the penis enters into the female condom, not between the female condom and the side of the vagina.
- Remove the female condom immediately by twisting the large ring to prevent spillage. Throw the condom away in a bin (not down the toilet).
Male and female condoms should be stored away from excessive heat or cold and away from sharp or rough surfaces that could tear or wear them away.
How effective are condoms
If used correctly and consistently, male condoms are 98% effective. This means that 2 out of 100 women using male condoms as contraception will become pregnant in a year.
Female condoms are 95% effective if used correctly, this means that 5 out of 100 women using them will become pregnant in a year.
Benefits of using condoms
Condoms help protect against many sexually transmitted infections (STI's), including HIV. There are many different sizes including trim to king size ('it should fit your bits') as well as shapes, colours, textures and flavours of condoms. Flavoured condoms are designed for using when having oral sex as sexually transmitted infections can also spread to or from the mouth.
Some people have a view that putting on a condom can interrupt sex but when you consider the risks it is worth it. Many people include putting on a condom as an enjoyable part of sex - foreplay.
If not used properly, male condoms can slip off or split, if this happens to you, try using a different kind - there are lots of different sizes and shapes to choose from so find one that suits you best.
Female condoms can get pushed too far into the vagina, but do not worry it is easy to remove them yourself.
Some people can be sensitive to latex, but if this is a problem you can use a polyurethane condom.
If used correctly condoms can offer reliable protection against pregnancy, however, you should also use another method of contraception also. This is so you are protected against unwanted pregnancy if the condom comes off or splits.
If the condom does split or comes off, you can use emergency contraception (EHC) to help prevent pregnancy, but remember EHC should really only be used for emergencies and should not be used as a regular form of contraception.
If you are concerned about having unprotected sex or a recent condom break whilst have oral, anal or vaginal sex you should attend your local sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic for full sexual health screen.