Getting used to condoms can take a little practice, but it doesn't take long before condoms start to feel like an essential part of your sex life. Here are some of the main things you need to know about condoms.
Only use condoms with a CE quality mark
Always choose condoms that carry the European CE mark, a recognised safety standard. Don't use novelty condoms unless they carry the European CE mark.
Condom before contact
Always put on the condom before there's any contact between the penis and the vagina, mouth or anus.
New sex, new condom
Use a new condom every time you have sex.
The 30-minute condom rule
If you're having a long sex session, change condoms after 30 minutes. Friction can weaken the condom, making it more likely to break or fail.
One condom at a time
Never use two condoms together, whether that's two male condoms or a female and a male condom. They will rub against each other, and this friction can weaken them and make them more likely to break or fail.
Keep condoms cool
Heat can damage condoms, so store them somewhere cool and dry.
Condoms don't last forever
Check the expiry date on the packaging, as condoms don't last forever and may be past the point at which they are effective to use.
Safer sex on holiday
Buy condoms before going on holiday to avoid problems with language and trying to find somewhere to buy them.
Don't use lotion or oils with condoms
Use plenty of water-based lubricant, such as K-Y Jelly (available from pharmacies), especially for anal sex.
Don't use body lotions, moisturiser, massage oil, body oil, lipstick or any other oil-based product (such as petroleum jelly, or Vaseline) with latex condoms. This is because they can weaken the condom, making it less effective.
Oral sex and condoms
Using a condom during oral sex can help protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including those that affect the mouth or throat, such as herpes, gonorrhoea and chlamydia. Try using flavoured condoms for variety.
Don't put condoms down the toilet
Wrap used condoms in a tissue or piece of paper and put them in a dustbin. Don't flush used condoms down the toilet.
Buying condoms online
If you buy condoms online, don't buy from auction sites such as eBay. Make sure that any condoms you buy have the CE mark and haven't gone past the use-by date on the packaging.
Remember, use a condom every time you have sex to protect against STIs. To protect against unintended pregnancy, use another form of contraceptive as well, such as the longer-acting methods (the implant, injection, IUS and IUD).
For more information on sexual health (including HIV), call the Sexual Health Line free on 0300 123 7123, or phone your local NHS sexual health clinic.