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If you're ready to have sex, it's important to use safe, effective contraception. Here's everything you need to know about condoms, from putting one on to where you can get hold of them...

Condoms are the best protection we have against STIs

What are they?

Durex, sheaths, johnnies, rubbers... condoms are a thin sheath of latex rubber or polyurethane that fits over a boy's erect penis and prevents the exchange of bodily fluids between partners.

They are chosen by millions of people every day because:

  • They're a safe, effective form of contraception. Easy to use, with no need for hormones or injections.
  • They're the best protection we have against STIs.
  • They can make sex easier (because of their lubrication), more fun (some are flavoured), and more satisfying (some men find sex lasts longer with a condom on).

Choose condoms displaying the British Standards Kitemark (a heart with an S-shape inside). These will definitely be reliable.

How do they work and how reliable are they?

When a man has an orgasm, millions of sperm are released from his penis. A condom collects all these sperm, providing a barrier between them and the girl's vagina and as such no egg can be fertilised.

Out of harm's way, sperm cannot cause pregnancy. If used correctly, the male condom is 98% effective against STIs and pregnancy.

How do I use one?

  1. Wait until the penis is erect (hard).
  2. Once the penis is erect, take the condom out of the wrapper carefully - don't use your teeth!
  3. Unroll the condom a bit to check it's the right way round before putting it near the erect penis. Squeeze the tip of the condom to get rid of any air. Place over the tip of the hard penis.
  4. Still pinching the end, use your other hand to unroll the condom carefully down the full length of the penis. The curled rubber should roll down the outside - not inside - of the condom.
  5. The condom is now on and ready for sex.
  6. Sex happens!
  7. After ejaculating (coming), take the penis out of the vagina carefully while it's still hard. Hold the condom at the base to stop it coming off.
  8. Carefully pull the condom off, holding it at the base so no semen (cum) comes out.
  9. Once the condom's off, hold it with the tip downwards for the same reason.
  10. Wrap the condom in a tissue and put it in the bin - not down the toilet.

Also: If you use a lubricant make sure it's water-based (like KY Jelly) - oil-based lubricants (like Vaseline) can cause condoms to break. If the condom splits, see your doctor or family planning clinic right away. The morning-after pill is more effective the sooner it's taken.

What about female condoms?

The female condom is made of polyurethane and loosely lines the girl's vagina. For more details about female condoms visit the Family Planning Association website.

The female condom is 95% effective.

Where can I get condoms?

You can buy them from chemists, supermarkets and corner shops. Or get them for free from family planning clinics or your doctor.

BBC Advice factfiles are here to help young people with a broad range of issues. They're based on advice from medical professionals, government bodies, charities and other relevant groups. Follow the links for more advice from these organisations.

This factfile was updated on 6 October 2015.