Male Condom

What is a male condom?
A condom is made of a very thin latex (rubber) sheath that should be worn over the penis before genital contact (including oral sex). Condoms stop the sperm from meeting the egg. Consistent and correct use of the male latex condom reduces the risk of transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

What is the efficacy of the male condom?
The male condom is 98% effective if it always used correctly according to the instructions. It prevents pregnancy and STIs. This means that 2 women in 100 will get pregnant in a year.
When using condoms, it is important to:

  • Use ones of good quality
  • Avoid chemical or physical damage
  • Avoid use with an oil-based lubricant e.g. Vaseline
  • Put the condom on the penis before genital contact and withdraw the penis after ejaculation
  • Discard the condom if it is worn the other way round
  • Take care to avoid spillage whilst withdrawing, by holding the base of the condom
  • Use each condom only once
  • Check the expiry date
  • Check that it has the CE mark on the packet

Good quality condoms must conform to the British Standards Institution specification (BS 3704 1989) and good quality condoms sold in the European Community must conform to the new single European condom standard. Only condoms carrying the BSI kite mark and the European Standard Logo, also known as the European CE mark, are assured to comply with and meet recognised quality standards and reliability criteria. Therefore, you are encouraged to check that the condom has the BSI kite mark and CE logo, and that the packet has not expired!

What are the reasons for not using a condom?
Some people may be allergic to condoms, although this is rare. In this case, non-latex condoms (e.g. Avanti, which are commonly found in pharmacies) should be used.

How to put on a condom:
The packet contains instructions.
To use a male condom correctly, follow these steps:

  • Use a condom every time you have sex.
  • Check the expiry on the date of the packet.
  • Carefully open the foil packaging that the condom is wrapped in, taking care not to tear the condom.
  • Hold the tip of the condom between your forefinger and thumb to make sure it's put on the right way round and no air is trapped inside (the condom may split if air is trapped inside).
  • Place the condom over the tip of the penis.
  • While squeezing the tip of the condom, roll it down over the length of the erect penis.
  • If the condom will not unroll, it's probably on inside out – start again with a new condom as there may be sperm on it.

Should I use a lubricant with a condom?
Most condoms come ready with lubricant. If needed, water-based lubricants are recommended to be used on condoms.

I have just had a baby. Can I use condoms?
Yes, you can use condoms after you have had a baby.

Can I use condoms after a miscarriage?
Yes, condoms can be used immediately after a miscarriage.

Do I need to use spermicide?
No. Condoms do not need additional spermicide to kill sperm.

Can a condom be used for oral sex?
Condoms can be used for oral sex. Flavoured condoms can be used.

Which condoms are best for anal sex?
Standard condoms are suitable for anal sex. Lubricant is recommended to be used during anal sex to reduce the risk of the condom breaking.

Where can I find condoms?
Condoms can be bought from a pharmacy and shops over the counter without a doctor's prescription.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of condoms?

  • Under the control of the couple
  • No systemic effects
  • Easily available
  • Protection against most STIs, including HIV
  • Prevent pregnancy
  • May protect against cervical cancer
  • Additional spermicide is not recommended or needed


  • Perceived as messy
  • Perceived as interrupting sexual intercourse
  • May slip or slit if not used correctly or is the wrong size or shape
  • Requires forward planning
  • Loss of sensitivity
  • Cannot be used in conjunction with oil-based lubricants such as petroleum jelly


  • Allergy to latex or spermicide
  • Erectile problems such as failure to maintain an erection

Can anything make condom less effective?

  • A condom may burst or split. This can occur because you may have either put the condom on inside out, or not expelled any air, or because the condom has come into contact with a fat-soluble product, such as petroleum jelly or baby oil, which causes the condom to break.
  • Various substances and preparations, including all oil-based products, affect the efficacy of the condom. These include intra-vaginal medications for fungal (such as thrush) or other infections.
  • Other common condom failures are due to condoms being torn while opening the aluminium packet, or while being put on with ragged fingernails and jewellery. While opening the condom packet, the condom ought to be pushed out of the way by squeezing it to the side to avoid tearing it. The condom packet should then be squeezed, helping the condom to slip out, and not pulled out using the fingernails. The condom packet should not be opened with one's teeth or scissors in case the condom inside gets damaged. If a condom is ripped whilst it is being applied due to ragged nails or rings, a new condom must always be used.
  • Another common mishap is condoms slipping off inside the vagina following loss of erection after sexual intercourse. Condoms slip off during intercourse, or remain in the inside of the vagina when the penis is removed following intercourse because the man loses his erection and fails to hold onto the condom when he removes his penis from the vagina. The condom can also easily slip off when applied inside out. Thus, a condom should be applied before the penis comes into contact with the vulva. The condom should be placed on the erect penis and unrolled carefully along the whole length of it. Using the other hand, the person using it should squeeze the condom at the head of the penis to expel any air. Once ejaculation has taken place the penis should be withdrawn, holding the condom onto the base of the penis to ensure that it is not left in the vagina.
  • Some couples find difficulty applying the condom, complaining that it is either too small or too big. Many men and women also stop using condoms because of complaints of loss of sensitivity. It is believed that one reason why men complain of loss of sensitivity with condoms is because they find them too tight. Few people know that condoms come in different sizes and can be bought to accommodate different sizes of penis. All condoms can expand, so they should not be too small. Furthermore, flared condoms are more suitable for men who complain that the condom is too small, and thus may help alleviate the problem of condom tightness. Contoured condoms are more suitable for men who find condoms too big. There are also extra-large sized and small sized condoms.
  • You use too much or too little lubricant