Male-external condom

An external (male) condom is:

  • 98% effective when you use the method correctly every time. 
  • 82% effective when you don’t always use the method correctly every time.

What is it?

A male condom is a barrier method put over the erect penis before sex. It helps to prevent getting or passing on a sexually transmitted infection (STI), including HIV, and helps to prevent pregnancy.

Most external condoms are made of latex.

How condoms work

The condom is rolled onto an erect penis before sex. The condom prevents sperm from being passed from the man to his partner. They are used for penetrative sex (vagina or anus) and oral sex.

  • Take the condom out of the packet, taking care not to tear the condom. Do not open the packet with your teeth.
  • Hold the teat at the end of the condom between your finger and thumb to make sure it goes on the right way round and that there is no air trapped inside.
  • Still holding the teat, place the condom over the tip of the erect penis.
  • Gently roll the condom down to the base of the penis.
  • If the condom will not unroll, you are probably holding it the wrong way round. If this happens, throw the condom away, as it may have sperm on it, and start with a new condom.
  • After sex, withdraw the penis while it is still erect. As you do this hold the condom at the base of the penis to make sure it does not come off.
  • Remove the condom from the penis, being careful not to spill any semen, wrap it in tissue and put it in the bin. Do not flush it down the toilet.
  • Make sure the man's penis does not touch the genital area again and, if you have sex again, use a new condom. A condom is for single use only.


  • Condoms are widely available for sale without a prescription.
  • Allows both partners to take responsibility for contraception.
  • Condoms can be used with other methods of contraception to practise safer sex and prevent unplanned pregnancy and STIs.
  • They can help to protect both partners from sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
  • They have no medical side effects.
  • They are useful if you want to avoid taking hormones.


  • Putting a condom on correctly needs practice.
  • Taking one out will need practice. You must hold the base of the penis when withdrawing after sex to stop the condom from slipping.
  • Condoms can get damaged if handled roughly or used with an oil-based lubricant like Vaseline.
  • Must be used before expiry date on the packet.

Click here to download the 'How to put on a condom' leaflet.