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Condoms, rubber johnnys, rubbers, johnnys, french letters...

Whatever you call them, when used properly condoms are very effective in preventing pregnancy. Condoms do have the added advantage of being the ONLY form of contraception that'll stop you catching STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) , but the pill does provide better protection against unplanned pregnancy. Condoms have the advantage of allowing the male to take an active part in contraception and have no known side effects.

How much and where are they?

Prices vary for condoms but generally are about £3.00 for a pack of three. You can buy them in chemists, supermarkets, pub and club toilets and of course barber shops ( hence the phrase 'something for the weekend?' ). You don't have to be over sixteen to buy them. They are available FREE from a family planning/3Cs clinic or some doctors.

What can go wrong?

Condoms are generally pretty safe. However they can split or fall off. When removing a condom take a quick and discreet look before chucking it just to check it has not been damaged. If you have had a condom fall off during sex, or you think its split then you both should get to a clinic as soon as you can. You will need to think about emergency contraception.Click here to find out more...

So how do I use them?

Condoms are extremely thin so come wrapped in foil. Be careful when you tear the foil as it is easy to damage the condom inside.The condom will feel slippery - this is normal as it is the protective lubricant. Do not use any petroleum based lubricants in addition such as Vaseline as they will damage the condom. If you want use a water based lubricant such as KY Jelly. Wearing two condoms does not make sex safer as they will damage each other!

You must put the condom on before the penis goes anywhere near the vagina as sperm can be released long before you actually ejaculate. The penis needs to be erect before the condom will go on.

Be careful with rings and studs! - they can rip the condom.

Some couples find it a turn on to help each other putting on the condom so whoever does it needs to be careful. You'll notice a thicker ring with the transparent centre. Sometimes there will be a slight teat. This is to safely hold the sperm. Place the ring on top of the penis and slide it carefully down as you unroll it. If it does not seem to want to unravel you probably simply have it upside down. Don't just turn it inside out and try again - there's probably traces of sperm now on the condom. Chuck it and get another!

After sex the erection can fade pretty quick - even if it does not you need to be careful as you withdraw, perhaps holding the base of the condom as you pull out. Don't resume intercourse without a condom as even after you have come seamen will continue to leak from the penis.

Female Condoms

Often called the 'femidom'. It's kind of similar to the male condom but larger and fits inside the vagina. It works the same way as the male condom. They're not as easy to get hold of as male condoms but contacting your nearest Outreach or clinic will help.

What are ribbed, coloured or flavoured condoms all about?

All these types of condoms are also known as 'fundoms' Some people feel that these are not as safe as normal condoms. Ribbed condoms have a slight ripple effect moulded into them, designed to make sex more enjoyable. This may be true for some people but not for others. Coloured condoms are simply that - coloured condoms. You can even get glow in the dark condoms! Widely available are flavoured condoms from beer to melon! This may be a turn off for some people but others may find it enjoyable. If you can it may be fun for you and your partner to try out the different sorts to find out which you like best.

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