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Sexual and Reproductive Health

Condon (external)

What is a condom?


A condom, also called an external condom, is a thin covering that fits over a hard penis. It decreases the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) by stopping sperm and body fluids from passing between partners. Condoms can be used for oral, vaginal, or anal sex.

How well does a condom work?

  • With typical use (this means not following the exact directions) a condom is 82% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • With perfect use (this means you follow the exact directions all the time) a condom is 98% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • Condoms used with other forms of birth control give the best protection from pregnancy.
  • Condoms will help prevent pregnancy, STIs, and HIV. 

How do I use a condom?

  • Put a condom on before you have any sexual contact. Use a new condom every time you have sex. Never use 2 male condoms together or a male and vaginal condom together. It increases the risk of both condoms breaking.
  • Never use 2 external condoms together or an external and internal (vaginal) condom together. It increases the risk of both condoms breaking.​
  • Never reuse condoms.
  • Store condoms at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.
  • Most condoms are lubricated. This helps prevent breakage and can increase feeling. If you want more lubrication, use water or silicone-based lubricant on the penis, condom, or sex toy (read the product label). Don’t use oil products (like body lotion or petroleum jelly) with a latex condom—it will break.
  • Anyone can buy condoms. Many sexual health clinics give out condoms for no cost. 
  • Latex condoms may provide better protection than non-latex condoms (like polyurethane) because there’s a higher chance of non-latex condoms breaking or slipping off. However, non-latex condoms are still a good option for people who have a latex allergy. ​
  • Watch this video on using a condom.

How do I put on a condom?

  1. Check the expiry date (don’t use if expired). Squeeze the package to make sure it’s sealed—no air should come out.
  2. Push the condom to one end of the package. Open carefully at the other end. Don’t use scissors, fingernails, or te​eth as you might damage the condom.

    One hand holds a condom package while the other hand carefully tears it open.
  3. Pinch the tip of the condom to squeeze out the air.
    The tip of the condom is pinched between the thumb and index finger.
  4. Put the condom on the end of the hard penis. If uncircumcised, pull back the foreskin.

    While one hand pinches the tip of the condom between the thumb and index finger, the other hand puts the condom on the end of the hard penis.
  5. Unroll the condom all the way down the base of the penis.

    Using the thumb and index finger of one hand, the condom is unrolled all the way to the base of the hard penis.
  6. After you ejaculate (cum) and the penis is still hard, hold onto the condom and pull out. Make sure to do this before the penis gets soft.
  7. Throw the used condom in the garbage—don’t flush it down the toilet.​

What if a condom breaks?

What else is important to know about consent, sexual activity, and birth control?

  • You have the right to decide to have sex or not. Talk with your partner or partners about consent.
  • There’s an 85% chance of becoming pregnant within one year, if no birth control is used for vaginal sex.
  • Use a condom or barrier every time you have sex (oral, vaginal, anal). Condoms help prevent pregnancy, STIs, and HIV.
  • You can lower your risk of HIV by taking an HIV prevention pill every day. Many Albertans can get it for free. Visit HIV PrEP to find out more.
  • Transgender and gender diverse people who have a uterus can use hormonal birth control. It can help prevent pregnancy and make periods lighter and less painful.

Where can I find more information?

If you have questions, need to find a sexual health clinic near you, or want more information, call Health Link at 811 anytime, day or night, to talk to a registered nurse.

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