Both male and female condoms, are the only methods of contraception that prevent STIs.

  • Condoms are worn during sexual activity as a contraceptive.
  • Condoms are the only contraceptive to prevent a sexually transmissible infection. They are available for men and women

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How do condoms work?

Condoms prevent the sperm and egg meeting by providing a physical barrier between them. They also stop body fluids from passing between sexual partners.

What are female condoms?

These are polyurethane sheaths which are inserted into the vagina before sexual intercourse. They are about 15cm long and have two flexible rings to keep them in place in the vagina.

How effective are female condoms?

When used correctly, the female condom can be up to 95% effective as a contraceptive method. If not used correctly and consistently, the failure rate will be much higher.

What are the advantages of female condoms?

  • Help protect women and men against sexually transmissible infections (STIs) 
  • Regular condom use reduces the risk of STIs 
  • They can be used with any kind of lubricant, including oil‑based lubricants 
  • The polyurethane condom allows for heat transmission, which may make sex more enjoyable 
  • They can be inserted prior to sexual activity 
  • The size and shape allow for protection of more area around the vagina 
  • The penis does not have to be withdrawn immediately after intercourse

What are the disadvantages of female condoms?

  • Takes some practice to use correctly
  • Suitable for vaginal sex only, not anal sex
  • More expensive than a male condom
  • Not as widely available as the male condom

What are male condoms?

These are made of latex rubber, natural membranes, or synthetic material – more than 80% are made from latex rubber and can be damaged by oil‑based lubricants.

How effective are male condoms?

Condom effectiveness depends on the motivation, skill level, and experience of the user.

A new condom must be placed on the penis before any genital contact; it must remain intact until the penis is withdrawn, and a new one should be used each time you have sex.

In typical use, it is estimated that 18 women in 100 will become pregnant in a year.

What are the advantages of male condoms?

  •  Help protect women and men against sexually transmissible infections (STIs) 
  • Regular condom use reduces the risk of STIs 
  • Readily available from supermarkets, pharmacies and vending machines at low cost 
  • No significant medical risks or side effects

What are the disadvantages of male condoms?

  • The interruption to sexual activity can be a concern for some people 
  • Breakages can occur or it could slip off 
  • A small number of people are sensitive to latex, spermicide or lubricant 
  • Some people complain of reduced sensitivity during sexual intercourse

What if a condom breaks or slips?

Emergency contraception can be used to prevent pregnancy and it is a good idea to have a sexual health check-up for STIs.

Are condoms right for everyone?

The majority of men can use male condoms. A few men may have a latex allergy. Men who experience difficulty getting or maintaining an erection will find it difficult to use a condom.

The female condom is suitable for most people. It can be used if either partner is sensitive or allergic to the latex in male condoms.

More information

Refer to our handout for instructions on use.