A guide to the safe use of condoms

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A Guide To The Safe Use Of Condoms

Making sure that sex is safe and enjoyable is an incredibly important part of our lives and, yet, it is something that we do not talk about nearly enough. Contraceptive protection in particular, the condom, is a sticky subject which many shy away from - but that need not be the case. In this article, we will answer some of the questions that you may have about condoms as well as sharing our guide to using - and disposing of them - safely.

 

What are condoms?

Manufactured from thin latex, polyisoprene or polyurethane, condoms are sheaths which fit either onto the penis or inside the vagina. Designed as a barrier against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, male-use condoms are 98% effective when used correctly which translates to two pregnancies out of every 100. Condoms work by preventing semen from entering a woman’s vagina and, some are coated with a thin layer of spermicide for extra protection against pregnancy.

Where do I get condoms?

Shops and chemists - As you probably know, you can buy condoms over the counter in most commercial shops and chemists. These can be a little expensive depending on the brand and the store. Although there is no need to buy the most expensive brand, you do need to make sure that the ones you buy hold BSI kitemark and the CE mark as assurance that the product has passed British standards.

Family Planning Clinics - You can get hold of condoms free of charge from a family planning clinic when registered as a patient. These clinics are available for all patients - even those under the age of 16 and are completely confidential.

If buying condoms from a store or chemist, you will see that there is a huge variety to choose from including:

  • Coloured
  • Ribbed
  • Flavoured
  • With or without teat
  • With or without spermicide

Condoms do, of course, also come in different sizes and choosing the right condom can be a case of trial and error but, as a rule, it is best to choose a product without spermicide as they do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.

What do you need to know?

When used properly, condoms are an effective and affordable form of contraception. To make sure that the product you use is as effective as possible, you will need to get into a few good habits:

  • Avoid oil-based products or lubricants when using latex or polyisoprene condoms as oil can damage the material and make it less effective
  • Only ever use a condom once before disposing of it
  • Always check the use by date before using a condom
  • Store your condoms at room temperature and away from sharp or jagged objects
  • Keep sharp nails and jewellery away when handling condoms
  • If a condom slips off during sex or, is punctured, you may need to obtain emergency contraception as soon as possible

How do I use a condom?

 Putting on a condom for the first time can be a little tricky but, as with many things, practice makes perfect. Before going for the real thing, you may want to practice on an object such as a cucumber or adult toy - you may feel a little silly at first but, this is a good way of getting used to the process; which goes as follows: 

  • Carefully remove the condom from the foil package with fingers, avoiding contact with nails, jewellery, and teeth
  • Place the condom on top of the erect penis (or cucumber)
  • If the condom features a teat, squeeze this gently to remove the air
  • Using both hands, gently roll the condom down to the base of the penis

Removal and disposal

After sex, it is easiest to remove the condom while the penis is still erect:

  • Gently ease the condom off the penis being careful not to spill the contents
  • During removal, always keep the condom away from the vagina
  • Dispose of the condom immediately in a bin (never the toilet). You can first wrap the condom in a tissue if preferred
  • Always use a new condom each time you have sex

Although some people do find that condoms can interrupt the romance of lovemaking, as well as inhibiting some sensitivity, they are the only form of contraceptive which can protect against both unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Condoms are suitable for most people however, if any discomfort does occur, this may indicate an allergy; in which case, you should remove immediately.

Above all, enjoy safe and enjoyable sex – condoms are the best solution to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. If you really are nervous about unplanned pregnancy, you may also consider birth control pills – but these will never, ever protect you against STI’s – you need that extra protection that a condom can provide.

Facts you need to consider and busting the myths

Whilst condom statistics show that they are 98% effective, that fact is based upon the correct usage. If condoms are used and not properly placed on the penis, ripped, torn or punctured in any way,  then those statistics will decrease considerably.

Facts also state that condoms are 100% effective against contracting HIV – this is true, but remember the secondary illness from sexual activity is HPV, centred around the scrotum area, which is obviously not protected by condoms.

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