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GB-NON-02457 | Date of Preparation: April 2020



Condoms are barrier methods of birth control. You’ve most likely seen a condom before and you probably know how it works.

It stops sperm fertilising an egg by putting a barrier between the two.1,2


Condom key facts

Condoms are made of very thin latex or synthetic plastics1,2 and don’t contain hormones.3,4
They’re available in male and female versions (but the male version is much more widely used).


Widely available and easy to use1,2


Condoms don’t need forward planning – they can be used spontaneously1,2


They protect against STIs1,2

  • For the male condom, the typical effectiveness is around 82%,* but 98% when used perfectly. For the female condom it’s around 79% typically,* or 95% if used perfectly5
  • Can be used instead of hormones or as extra layer of protection
  • Only option that protects against many STIs1,2
  • Putting them on can interrupt sex1,2
  • The male condom can split or be accidentally torn when putting it on1
  • The female condom could be accidentally pushed aside or get pushed inside the vagina2

The pros and cons listed are not exhaustive. Talk to your doctor or nurse for more information.

*These are "typical" effectiveness rates, which is how effective the method is with an average person. Typical rates tend to reflect real life usage (including inconsistent and incorrect use). "Perfect" effectiveness rates are how effective the method is when used perfectly. Refer to the patient information leaflet for "perfect" use.

Common questions

Who are condoms not suitable for?

Some people may be allergic to the latex or plastic that condoms are made from.1 You also need to be comfortable touching your genital area to use condoms,3 and if using male condoms it may be more difficult if you don’t always keep an erection during sex.4

Where can I get them?

You can buy male condoms from pharmacies, grocery stores and other shops.1 You can also get them for free from sexual health clinics, or your GP.1 Female condoms are not as widely available as male condoms, and can be more expensive.2

Similar contraceptive types

This contraceptive is a type known as spontaneous – for more contraceptives like this, click below



Tell me more

So what do I do now?

Now you have a few options for types of contraception that might be right for you, you should have a chat with a GP/doctor or nurse.


Sexual health clinic

Find and visit a contraception clinic near you for information about your available choices.

Find out more


Pop into your local pharmacy and ask about your options.

Find a pharmacy

GP clinic

Make an appointment with your nurse or doctor so you can chat about what options are best for you.

Find a GP

You may want to download information on your options to help with your discussion.

Download now

PDF - 0.5MB