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What is a condom

Condoms are made from very thin latex (rubber), or plastic (polyisoprene or polyurethane).

They are 98% effective if used correctly and used every time you have sex.

How does a condom work?

Condoms are a barrier method of contraception. They stop semen from making contact with a sexual partner; thus making a physical barrier between them.

Condoms can protect against some STIs, if used correctly during vaginal, anal and oral sex, as well as act as a contraceptive.

You can access a leaflet for more information about condoms here:

Are there any advantages to condoms?

  • You only need to use them when you have sex
  • They help to protect both partners from sexually transmitted infections
  • There are no serious side-effects to using condoms
  • They come in a variety of shapes and sizes so should feel comfortable
  • They are easily available

Are there any disadvantages?

  • They can slip off or split
  • Some people are sensitive to latex – but this is rare
  • The penis has to be pulled out after ejaculation, and before the penis goes soft, holding the condom firmly in place.

Can anything make condoms less effective?

  • If the penis touches a partner’s genitals before the condom is put on
  • The condom comes off or splits
  • The condom gets damaged (sharp fingernails, jewellery etc)
  • Oil-based lubricants can damage latex/polyisoprene condoms
  • Creams or medications can damage latex/polyisoprene condoms e.g. thrush cream or pessaries

Where can I get condoms?

Condoms are free at sexual health services, including at Unity sexual health.

You can buy condoms – from supermarkets, pharmacies, other shops, online, or vending machines.

Some pharmacies provide free condoms for under 25s. Not all pharmacies offer this service so it’s best to check with your local pharmacy first.


More information including how to use condoms can be found here.


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