Condoms are made out of fine rubber and create a barrier to prevent infection and sperm from passing between people during sex. They can be used for vaginal sex, anal sex and oral sex.
Condoms are essential for preventing the spread of STIs. They can significantly reduce your risk of infection, even though they do not provide 100% protection against all sexually transmitted infections.
And remember: There's more to sex than sexual intercourse! There are lots of ways to enjoy physical intimacy with your partner without having oral, vaginal or anal sex. Safer sex also includes lots of other activities like kissing, cuddling, rubbing, massage, stroking or masturbation. If you have vaginal, anal or oral sex, it definitely pays to play it safe!
Should I always use a condom?
Use a condom every time you have vaginal or anal sex to minimise the risk of getting or passing on STIs. Consider using condoms for oral sex, especially if you have lots of sexual partners. Even if you don't use a condom every time, or for every type of sex, use one as often as possible—this is safer than not at all. If you have occasionally not used a condom that does not mean it is not worth using a condom every time in future.
Do condoms work?
In preventing STIs
Bacteria, or a virus such as HIV, cannot pass through unbroken rubber! So if used correctly, condoms will prevent the spread of a virus such as HIV. Condoms also reduce your chance of catching chlamydia and gonorrhoea. Remember, some STIs can be transmitted by contact with areas that can’t be covered by a condom, so using a condom cannot guarantee that you will not catch an STI.
In preventing pregnancy
Condoms greatly reduce your chance of getting pregnant. Studies show that if 100 women used condoms every time they had sex for one year, only two of these women would get pregnant.
What are the risks with condoms?
The greatest risk of using condoms is that they will not work properly if they have been damaged by
- heat from living in your pocket for weeks;
- tearing open the packet and piercing the condom at the same time;
- having passed the expiry date.
The other risk is that it is not used properly, for example:
- not put on soon enough;
- not used in conjunction with a lubricant to prevent tearing;
- not held on during withdrawal.
Practice putting condoms on a banana in private if you are embarrassed, so you know what you’re doing and feel confident using them with your partner.
Also, remember! If you are being treated for thrush with antifungal treatment (such as Canestan), this can damage the rubber of a condom and it may not work properly.
If you discover a tear in your condom after sex:
- visit a Family Planning clinic for the “morning after” pill within 72 hours, if you are concerned about pregnancy, or
- visit a sexual health clinic if you are concerned about STIs for advice from a health professional.
Condom basics for teenagers
Where can teenagers get condoms?
The cheapest way to get condoms is on prescription from your family doctor or Family Planning clinic — see below to find your nearest Family Planning clinic. You can also get them from sexual health clinics and youth health clinics. They can be bought at supermarkets, pharmacies, dairies, pubs, clubs and public toilets. They’re everywhere!
LYC Love Your Condom LYC (Love Your Condom) is a community-focused programme designed to create a condom culture across New Zealand. Anyone can order condoms for free from their site and that they’ll be mailed in unmarked envelopes.
How much do condoms cost?
The cheapest way to get condoms is from your Family Planning clinic, sexual health clinic or youth health clinic, or on prescription from your GP. Anyone under 22 years can get a prescription for 144 condoms for $3! Clinics will often give teenagers a box of condoms for free. So no excuses! Otherwise, expect to pay $12–$20 for a pack of twelve from the supermarket or online.
Which condoms should I use?
The main, reputable brands are those available at Family Planning clinics, pharmacies and supermarkets. Check that any novelty, flavoured or coloured condoms do have the expiry dates on them. Condoms marketed in New Zealand must comply with ISO 4074:2002(E) standard.
Does size matter?
Yes, condom sizes do matter! Make sure you or your partner use a condom of the right size. Condoms are more likely to break if they are too tight. The girth (thickness/width) of the penis may be more important than penis length. Try a range of condom sizes (such as Trim, Standard, Large/XL and Superking/XXL) to find which fits you best, or measure around your erect penis using a strip of paper to find the correct diameter of condom for you.
What are the pros of condoms?
- Condoms reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancy.
- Condoms reduce the chance of catching an STI.
- Condoms are readily available.
- Condoms are extremely cheap if obtained through the Family Planning clinic.
- Condoms are easy to use.
- There are many different brands, try different ones until you find one that suits you.
- Condoms have no side effects.
- Condoms help to prevent cancer of the cervix (the opening to your womb).
What are the cons?
- Sex may feel different—but that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t feel good.
- Some people are reluctant to use them—you should be reluctant to have sex with those people!
- Condoms can cause an interruption to love making—use your imagination and make them part of the fun.
- Some people are allergic to rubber—speak to a health professional at Family Planning if this is the case.
How to Use a Condom
Condoms need to be used correctly if they are going to work! And for protection against STIs, this means putting it on before you have any direct genital contact or sex.
When they are on correctly they create a barrier between the two people having sex. This stops infection spreading from one person to the other and also stops sperm from entering the vagina, which can result in pregnancy.
- Step 1
- Check that the packaging is intact and that the condom has not expired – there will be a use by date on the packet.
- Step 2
- When you open the packet, don’t use your teeth... make sure you haven’t torn the condom. And make sure you haven’t torn it with your fingernails.
- Step 3
- Squeeze the tip of your condom to remove any air and unroll it onto the penis, right down to the base. If not circumcised, pull back the foreskin before unrolling. If you put it on the wrong way by mistake, use another one—don't just flip it over.
- Step 4
- If you are using a lubricant to make sex more comfortable, apply it to the condom before sex. Only water-based lubricants are suitable; for example, KY Jelly, Sylk or Glyde. Never use anything oil-based, such as petroleum jelly or suntan oil!
- Step 5
- After ejaculating (cumming), hold on to the base of your condom to make sure that it stays on while you withdraw and the contents are not spilled.
- Step 6
- A condom should only be used once. Dispose of a used condom responsibly! Wrap it in toilet paper and put it in the rubbish bin - never down the toilet or left lying on a floor.
Using condoms for anal sex
Some people feel safer using thicker (‘Extra' or ‘Strong') condoms for anal sex, but there is no proof that they are any safer than regular condoms. Ordinary condoms are no more likely than thicker condoms to break or slip off during anal sex.
You can use female condoms instead of male condoms for anal sex: remove the ring at the end of the condom and place on the penis like a male condom.
Using lubricant with condoms
To protect your condom, use a water-based lubricant, not oil or vaseline.
For vaginal sex: Lubricant can make vaginal sex more comfortable or pleasurable, but you do not necessarily need to use it. Lubricant does not make sex safer, and increases the chance that the condom will slip off.
Spermicides are no longer recommended as they can cause skin reactions in some people.
For anal sex: Put a water, or silicone-based, lubricant all over the condom and inside the anus (but not inside the condom) before anal sex.
You will get better at using condoms the more you use them. If you practice opening and using a condom alone, and in the dark, it might make it easier to do when you have sex.
More information about condoms
Find your local Family Planning Clinic in NZ
LYC Love Your Condom LYC (Love Your Condom) is a community-focused programme designed to create a condom culture across New Zealand, encouraging all gay and bisexual men to use condoms and lube every time they have sex. Anyone can order condoms for free from their site and that they’ll be mailed in unmarked envelopes