Condoms can help protect against Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections

Condoms are very thin but are very strong



The Facts

(Useful contacts are at the bottom of this page)

What are condoms?

There are two types of condoms: male condoms and female (or 'internal')condoms. Male condoms are made from very thin latex (rubber), polyisoprene or polyurethane. When used correctly during vaginal sex, they help to protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). When used correctly during anal and oral sex, they help to protect against STIs. Female condoms (also sometimes called femidoms) are similar to male condoms but instead of being put on the penis they are inserted into the vagina or anus first. Female condoms are not available through the C-Card scheme.

Condoms are the only contraception that help protect against pregnancy and STIs.

How do they work?
The male condom is worn on the penis to stop sperm from entering the man's partner's vagina, mouth or anus. The condom has to be put on when the penis is erect, and before the penis comes into contact with the vagina, mouth or anus.

Many STIs are passed from one partner to the other because the sexual fluids (e.g. semen or vaginal fluid) mix together; a condom is a barrier and prevents this from happening. Some STIs pass across through skin-to-skin genital contact and although a condom can reduce the chance of this, there is obviously still a risk because not all skin is covered by the condom.

Although all condoms have a small amount of lubricant on them already to make penetration easier, it is not recommended to add more lube for vaginal sex as this can increase the chance of the condom slipping off. However for anal sex it is very important to use extra lube because unlike the vagina the anus does not produce any natural lubrication, even if the person is very sexually aroused.

Store male condoms in places that aren't too hot or cold, and away from sharp or rough surfaces that could tear them or wear them away. When rolling a condom on, be careful of jewelry, piercings, sharp nails and any oily substances which can damage condoms very easily.

How effective are condoms?
If used correctly and consistently, male condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy. This means that two out of 100 women using male condoms as contraception will become pregnant in one year.

Always use condoms that have the CE mark on the packet. This means that they've been tested to the high European safety standards. Condoms that don't have the CE mark won't meet these standards, so don't use them. All C-Card condoms have the CE mark.

What else should I know?
Many people find putting on a condom doesn't feel like an interruption if both partners have agreed to using one. Mentioning using a condom in advance means both people can relax and enjoy sex if it happens!

If they're not used properly, male condoms can slip off or split. If this happens, practise putting them on so that you get used to using them properly. Or try using different kinds. There are lots of different sizes, shapes, colours, textures and flavours to choose from, so you'll be able to find one that suits you best.

What if I'm allergic to latex, or my partner is?
If you're sensitive to latex, use polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms instead. Non-latex condoms are available free through the C-Card Scheme

What if the condom splits?
Although condoms (when used correctly) offer reliable protection against pregnancy, you might want to use another method of contraception as well. This is to protect you against an unintended pregnancy if the condom fails. If the condom splits or comes off and there is a risk of pregnancy, emergency contraception can be used to help reduce this risk.

There are two types of Emergency Hormonal Contraception ('Morning After Pill'). Levonelle is widely available for free from GPs, most pharmacies, Integrated Contraceptive and Sexual Health Clinics (iCaSH), Walk-in Centre and hospital Accident and Emergency areas. It can be taken up to 72 hours/3 days after unprotected sex but its effectiveness drops significantly throughout that time frame. EllaOne can be taken up to 120 hours/5 days after unprotected sex and remains over 99% effective. However this type of Morning After Pill can only be obtained with a prescription, so requires a visit to the GP, Walk-in Centre or iCaSH.

The other way to access emergency contraception is to have an IUD (copper coil) fitted within 120 hours/ 5 days. This is the most reliable type of emergency contraception and once it is fitted it can remain in place to provide reliable ongoing contraception for several years. This is available via an appointment at iCaSH or at selected GP surgeries.

If a woman wants to reduce the chance of pregnancy after having unprotected sex, the sooner she acts the more options she will have.

Testing for Sexually Transmitted Infections
In order for any STI tests to give an accurate result it is ideal to wait two weeks after unprotected sex before giving samples. If symptoms develop during those two weeks, you should attend as soon as possible.

If you believe you have come into contact with HIV as a result of unprotected sex, immediate action is required to get treatment. A post-exposure prophylaxis is available if needed. Ring iCaSH on 0300 300 3030 for advice, or attend an A+E Depsrtment if iCaSH is closed.

Useful Sexual Health Services in Norfolk

iCaSH (integrated Contraception and Sexual Health) Norfolk
Free and confidential clinics that offer testing for a wide variety of sexually transmitted infections and provide a wide range methods of contraception. Clinics are in:
Kings Lynn
(Vancouver House, County Court Road PE30 5EJ)
(1a Oak Street NR3 3AE)
Great Yarmouth
(Breydon Clinic, Northgate Hospital, Northgate St. NR30 1BU)

Tel: 0300 300 30 30

Rouen House Walk-In Centre

Free and confidential health service at which you do not need to be registered - just walk in!

NB Morning After Pill can be accessed here, but for full range of contraception options please go to iCaSH.

Opening times - check website for up-to-date info.
Rouen House, Rouen Road, Norwich, Norfolk, NR1 1RB

Tel: 01603 677500