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Condoms are the best way to protect yourself against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unwanted pregnancy. Condoms are a barrier contraceptive made from latex rubber or a very thin plastic called polyurethane.

Types of condom

There are two basic types of condom available in the UK - male and female. The female condom is sometimes called a femidom, because Femidom is its brand name in the UK.

Male condoms

During sex, male condoms are worn on the penis to prevent semen (sperm) from entering the woman's vagina when the man ejaculates (comes). The condom should be put on when the penis is erect (hard) and before it comes into contact with your partner's body.

For Instructions on the use of male condoms visit our Condom Instruction pages

Female condoms

Female condoms allow women to share the responsibility of choosing what type of contraception to use before having sex with their partner. Female condoms can be inserted at any time before sex, but must always be inserted before the penis touches the genital area.

To use a female condom, follow these steps:

  1. carefully remove the female condom from its packaging, taking care not to tear it
  2. place the closed end of the condom into the vagina, holding the soft inner ring between your forefinger or middle finger and thumb
  3. use your other hand to separate the folds of skin (labia) around the vagina, then put the squeezed ring into the vagina
  4. put your index or middle finger or both in the open end of the condom until the inner ring can be felt and push the condom as far up the vagina as possible, with the outer ring lying against the outside of the vagina
  5. the outer ring of the condom should rest closely on the outside of the vagina at all times during sex - if the outer ring gets pushed inside the vagina, stop and put it back in the right place
  6. make sure that the penis enters the condom - take care to ensure that the penis does not go between the condom and the wall of the vagina
  7. Immediately after sex, slightly twist and pull the end of the condom to remove it, taking care not to spill any sperm inside the vagina. If this happens, you will need to seek advice about emergency contraception from your GP or pharmacist.

Where to get Condoms

Condoms are available free from:

  1. contraception clinics (sometimes called family planning clinics or CASH Clinics)
  2. sexual health, or genito-urinary medicine (GUM), clinics
  3. some GP surgeries

You can also buy condoms from:

  1. shops
  2. pharmacies
  3. supermarkets
  4. garages
  5. vending machines in some public toilets

For information of on other forms of Contraception visit our Contraception page.

Telephone: 0800 0461303

(Confidential Advice Line)