Male condoms offer the best protection against sexually transmitted diseases for both partners – but only if they're used properly. Every condom packet has an instruction leaflet inside – take the time to read it, especially if you start using a different type.
If you've been using alcohol or drugs this can impair your ability to use them properly.
Did you know that some people are allergic to natural rubber (latex) condoms? Don't worry though, hypoallergenic non-latex versions are now available in most pharmacies and chemists shops and online.
Top tip - Male condoms are also good for covering sex toys as sexually transmitted infections can be carried on them.
Condoms are only used during sex. They are removed afterwards and thrown in the bin. You should always use a new condom each time you have sex.
If used correctly, male condoms are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy. They are made less effective if used incorrectly so make sure you take time to read the instructions in the pack carefully.
Remember, never use oil-based lubricants with condoms and always check the use-by date on the condom. Also be careful with fingernails and jewellery which can snag or rip condoms.
Condoms are available for free from your sexual health clinic and from other sexual health organisations. They may also be available from your GP.
Pharmacies and supermarkets sell condoms usually in packs of 3 or 12. Don’t be embarrassed about buying them, people who work in these shops are used to selling them and it’s nothing to be shy about – in the supermarket you could use the self-service if you prefer.
Some NHS Boards offer schemes where you can register for access to free condoms. Some are only available to people aged under 25, but others are open to anyone. Often you won’t need to give your name or personal details, but they may give you a card so that you can access condoms from a variety of locations quickly and easily.
Click on the areas below to find out about condom schemes in your area
Also, be sure to check for the CE mark and the expiry date on any condoms you are planning to use.