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Condoms

Condoms are the only form of contraception that protect you against most sexually transmitted infections (STIs). There are some STIs that even a condom will not protect you against (see gonorrhoea and genital herpes for more).

condomsUsing a condom every time you have sex means you have less chance of:

  • becoming pregnant
  • getting an STI including HIV/AIDS.

Using a water-based lubricant like KY jelly or Durex Play each time you use a condom reduces the risk of the condom breaking.

Avoid oil-based lubricants such as petroleum jelly (vaseline), baby oil, massage oil or other body lotions as this can cause the condom to break, rip or tear.

Most condoms on the market are for guys, but female condoms are also available.

The male condom

The male condom is a fine latex sheath, which is worn on an erect or stiff penis. The condom collects the sperm and stops it from entering the vagina and uterus.

How well do they work?

Condoms are 99% effective with careful and consistent use. To make sure you’re using them properly you should:

  • check the sell-by date
  • read the instructions carefully to make sure you’re putting it on properly. This can take some practice. Watch this demonstration video (it’s not X-rated, but a useful how-to)
  • make sure you take it off the right way by holding the base of the condom as you withdraw. Otherwise, there’s a chance the condom might fall off and spill semen into the vagina.
  • use a new one every time you have sex.

Side effects

There are no side effects when you use a condom, unless you have an allergy to latex rubber or to the lubricant. This is unusual.

However, if you do have an allergic reaction you may be able to use a non-latex condom.

Advantages and disadvantages

Some advantages to using condoms are:

  • they decrease the risk of pregnancy and STIs including HIV/AIDS
  • they’re easy to find and you don’t need to go to a doctor to get them
  • they’re relatively inexpensive.

Disadvantages include:

  • the latex is perishable so they need to be kept in a cool place and used before the expiry date
  • they often break if they’re used with oil-based lubricants like vaseline, baby oil, massage oil, vegetable oil or other oils. It’s best to use a water-based lubricant KY Jelly or Durex Play.

Where do you get them?

You can usually buy condoms and water-based lubricant at:

  • supermarkets
  • pharmacies
  • youth health centre
  • sexual health clinics (eg the Well Woman Centre)
  • vending machines in pubs and venues.

Contact the Irish Family Planning Association for more information.

The female condom

The female condom also collects the sperm and stops it from entering the vagina and uterus. It’s made of non-latex polyurethane and lubricated with a silicone-based lubricant.

Oil-based lubricant can also be used with the female condom.

How well does it work?

According to Think Contraception, female condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy and STIs with careful and consistent use. However, according to the Irish Family Planning Association they’re only 95% effective.

Check with your local sexual health clinic about which form of contraception is best for you. Go to Think Contraception for a list of clinics around Ireland and see other contraception for more.

Before using the female condom, read the instructions on the packet. This will show you how to insert it into the vagina correctly.

The female condom should be used only once and not at the same time as a male condom, as this can cause it to tear or move out of place.

Side effects

The only possible side effect is an allergic reaction to the polyurethane or the lubricant on a female condom. However, this isn’t common.

If you’re worried about an allergy, talk to your doctor or contact the Irish Family Planning Association.

Advantages and disadvantages

Some advantages of using female condoms can include:

  • they can be inserted right before sex and don’t need to be removed immediately afterwards
  • they reduce the risk of pregnancy and STIs
  • you don’t need to go to a doctor to buy them.

Some disadvantages can include:

  • the price – they’re more expensive than the male condom
  • availability – they’re harder to find
  • ease of use – they can be tricky to insert.

Where do you get them?

You can usually buy female condoms from sexual health clinics and some pharmacies.

Talk to your local GP or make an appointment at your nearest sexual health clinic to find out where else you can buy them.

For more information about the female condom, see the Well Woman Centre. See other contraception for details about other options.

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This article was last reviewed on 23 April 2017

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