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Condoms include both external condoms (also called “male” condoms) and internal condoms (also called “female” condoms). When used properly, they can prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy. Condoms can be bought at most drug stores, corner stores and grocery stores. Health clinics, youth clinics, and sexual health clinics often have free external condoms available to the public.

A new condom should be used every time you have intercourse, as well as with each new partner, and when switching from anal to oral or vaginal penetration. The condom should be put on before the penis/external genitals touch the partner's genitals or anus.

External ("male") condom

The external condom is made of thin latex that fits snugly over the penis. There is a tip at the top to hold ejaculate (cum).

Condoms made of latex or non-latex* give the best STI protection. Don't use condoms with the spermicide nonoxynol-9 as it can cause irritation and increase the chance of getting HIV. Lambskin or sheepskin condoms protect against pregnancy, but are not effective for preventing STIs, including HIV. Novelty condoms, such as “edible” condoms, do not offer protection against either STIs or pregnancy.

Condoms come in many styles, colours, flavours and sizes. Condoms that fit well will feel better and are less likely to fall off or break. With the right fit, you are more likely to use them. Try some different ones out to find what suits you best.

Keep external condoms in a cool, dry, dark place. Heat, light and moisture break down condoms and increase the risk of breakage.

How to use an external condom:

  • Check the expiry date on the package
  • Be careful not to tear the condom when taking it out of the packet
  • Add a drop of water-soluble lubricant to the inside of the condom if you like
  • Check to see which way the condom rolls and put the condom on the end of the erect penis
  • Pinch the tip of the condom to remove the air in the tip
  • Unroll the condom down to the base of the penis
  • After intercourse, withdraw the penis before it becomes soft; hold onto the condom to make sure that semen does not spill out
  • Slide the condom off the penis, tie the open end in a knot and throw it in the garbage 

* Non-latex materials include nitrile, polyurethane and polyisoprene.

Internal ("female") condom

The internal (female) condom is made from synthetic nitrile, a type of material that is thinner than latex but stronger so less likely to break. The internal condom fits inside the vagina/internal genitals or inside the rectum. The internal condom is a good option for people who are sensitive or allergic to latex.

Some people prefer the internal condom over the external condom for a number of reasons:

  • It actually gives more STI protection because part of the condom stays outside the body and covers more of the skin around the genitals.
  • It can be put into the vagina up to 2 hours before intercourse and it does not need to be taken out immediately after intercourse.
  • It can be used for both vaginal and anal sex, but it has not been approved for anal sex (this is considered "off label" use).
  • It can be used with any type of lubrication.
  • It is not affected by temperature or humidity and has a shelf life of 5 years.

How to use an internal condom:

There are two ways to use the internal condom. It can be put over the erect penis before having intercourse or it can be inserted into the vagina (or anus) before intercourse.

  • Find a comfortable position, lying, sitting or standing with one foot raised
  • Hold the smaller ring (at the closed end) and squeeze it between the thumb and middle finger
  • Put it into the vagina or anus, pushing it inside as far as possible; the outer ring will stay outside the body
  • Make sure that the penis is directed inside the condom and not to the side of it
  • During intercourse, the outer ring will lie flat against the body when the penis enters the vagina or anus
  • Soon after sex, twist the condom and gently pull it out, making sure that no ejaculate is spilled
  • Tie it in a knot and put it in the garbage

Reports of broken condoms are rare, but it is possible if the penis are pushing against the end of the condom. Find out what to do if a condom breaks.

Condoms and oral sex

Condoms are recommended for oral sex because some STIs, including herpes simplex, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis, are easily passed during oral sex. External condoms can be cut lengthwise and held against the vagina or anus to make a barrier. Flavoured and non-lubricated condoms may taste better than regular latex condoms.

Some tips for pleasure and condoms

Some people say that sex is just not the same with condoms. Others feel that using condoms is less intimate or it means you don’t trust your partner. On the other hand, many people see regular condom use as a sign of caring. Using condoms can show that you are willing to take steps to keep yourself and others healthy.

Learning to be comfortable with condoms and making them a regular part of your sexual life can improve your confidence with sex and prevent STIs. Keep condoms nearby so that they are easy to use when you need them. Studies show that over time, you will notice the condom less and the pleasure more.

Make condoms part of foreplay. Have your partner put it on or in you. Think of it as something you can be creative with and also build into a routine.

Losing erections and not being able to ejaculate may be a problem for some people when they use condoms.  Here are some things you can try:

  • Masturbate with a condom on to get used to the sensation
  • Masturbate until close to ejaculation (cumming), then put the condom on and finish
  • Do all the things you like to do sexually, but with a condom on; focus on what feels good 
  • Use water-soluble lubricant (lube) on the inside and outside to improve sensation 


HealthLink BC – Condoms help prevent STIs
How to put on a condom – YouTube video demonstration
SexandU.ca – A guide to non-hormonal contraception
Toward the Heart – Search by city or postal code to find clinics in BC that provide free safer sex supplies
Avert.org – Using condoms, types and sizes
Avert.org – The internal condom
How to use an internal condom for vaginal sex – Youtube video demonstration
Planned Parenthood – Internal condoms: Youtube video demonstration

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