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Condoms are the best way to protect you and your partner against sexually transmitted infections when having intercourse. When a woman also uses a spermicide, condoms are 98 per cent effective at preventing pregnancy if used correctly.

Traditionally, male condoms were the only condoms available. Recently female condoms have been developed, which are worn inside the vagina during intercourse.

The Male Condom

A male condom unrolled

A male condom is a thin covering that can be put over a man's penis to prevent sperm from being released into the vagina. Male condoms are more readily available than female condoms. Male condoms can be made from latex, polyurethane or lambskin, however only the first two types protect against sexually transmitted infections as well as pregnancy. Latex condoms are the most widely available, but polyurethane condoms are a good alternative for people with latex allergies. Condoms are 88 to 90 per cent effective when used alone but when combined with a spermicide used by the woman, a condom can be up to 98 per cent effective. When this method is used perfectly, the pregnancy rate is two out of 100. However, in typical use, the pregnancy rate is 18 out of 100.

Condoms come in different sizes and colours. A lubricant is often used to make sex more comfortable and to prevent the condom from tearing; some brands include a lubricant or spermicide or both.

How to use condoms

Condoms should be stored away from heat and light. Check the expiry date before you use a condom. A new condom should be used for each sex act.

  1. Wait until the penis is hard, then carefully open the condom package. Make sure you don't rip the condom.
  2. Put a small drop of water-based lubricant (like K-Y, Wet or Astroglide) into the tip of the condom. Lubricant inside the condom will help your partner feel more during sex.
  3. Pinch the tip of the condom to squeeze out the air and place the condom on the tip of the erect penis. This leaves a space for the semen after your partner has ejaculated and prevents any air bubbles from being trapped. Friction against air bubbles is the most frequent cause of condom breaks.
  4. Roll the condom down over the penis as far as it will go.
  5. Add a water-based lubricant. Water-based lubricant makes the condom less likely to break. Oil-based substances break down the latex making tears more likely. Never use Vaseline, hand lotion, massage oil or vegetable oil as a lubricant with latex codoms.
  6. Check the base of the penis several times during sex to make sure the condom has stayed in place.
  7. After ejaculation, remove the condom while the penis is hard, carefully holding the condom at its base.


  • protects against sexually transmitted infections as well as pregnancy
  • you don't need a prescription
  • you only use it when you need to
  • condoms are available in drugs stores, grocery and corner stores
  • allows male partner to be involved in birth control decision-making
  • they are inexpensive and provided free at many clinics
  • it does not cause any hormonal changes in your body


  • sex is interrupted to put the condom on
  • condoms with spermicides may be irritating to the woman and often taste bad
    (vaginal irritation can increase your risk of sexually transmitted infections like hepatitis and HIV)
  • the man must pull out following ejaculation
  • some men feel condoms are tight or restrictive
  • allows male partner to be involved in birth control decision-making
  • condoms can break or slip off
  • people with latex allergies may be allergic to condoms

If a condom does break you may wish to contact your doctor or clinic for emergency contraception or to be tested for sexually transmitted infections.

Female Condoms

A female condom is a polyurethane pouch used to line the vagina and prevent sperm from being released into the vagina. It can also be used to protect the anus from disease during anal sex. The female condom has a plastic ring on each end. A soft flexible ring is used to hold the condom in place on the cervix; another ring on the outside of the body holds the condom open. A female condom protects against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Female condoms are between 79 and 95 per cent effective, depending on how they are used.

How to use a female condom

A female condom has a plastic ring at each end.

A female condom can be inserted up to eight hours before sex, but a new condom should be used before each sex act. Do not use it in combination with the male condom, it makes both condoms more likely to tear. To insert the condom:

  1. Squeeze the ring on the closed end with one hand, with the other hand open the vagina or anus
  2. Insert the inner ring and the pouch of the condom into the vagina or anus
  3. With your index finger gently push the inner ring and pouch as far as it will go, about an inch of the condom stays outside the body. Be cautious not to tear the condom with a ring or fingernail.

During sex, check to make sure the outer ring is staying outside the body and that the penis has not slipped underneath it. When sex is complete, gently remove the condom while holding the base.


  • protects against sexually transmitted infections as well as pregnancy
  • you don't need a prescription
  • it can be inserted up to eight hours before intercourse so sex can be spontaneous
  • you only use it when you need to
  • people with latex allergies can use these condoms
  • condom doesn't feel tight or restrictive for the male partner
  • less likely to break than a male condom
  • the man does not have to withdraw immediately after ejaculation
  • useful for women whose male partners are unwilling to wear a condom
  • it does not cause any hormonal changes in your body


  • more expensive than male condoms and less available
  • you must plan ahead before you have sex
  • hangs outside of the vagina and may appear unappealing
  • moves around during sex and may be noisy
  • some women are uncomfortable about inserting it into their vagina or anus





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