Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content


4-minute read

Condoms are a simple form of contraception that's available both for men and women. They protect against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

What are condoms?

A condom is a very fine sheath made of rubber or plastic that's designed to stop body fluids from mixing during sexual activity.

Condoms can be used for vaginal, anal or oral sex. They act as contraceptives, and also reduce your risk of getting or spreading sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Types of condom

There are 2 types of condom.

  • Male condoms are rolled onto an erect (stiff) penis.
  • Female condoms are inserted into the vagina (or anus).

You can use either a male or a female condom during sex, but not both. Friction can cause either or both to break or slip.

How do condoms work?

Condoms act as a physical barrier, preventing body fluids from passing between people during sex.

How well do condoms work?

Condoms work well if they are applied and used correctly. If used incorrectly, or if the condom breaks, it's possible this could lead to an unintended pregnancy.

Condoms can be combined with other forms of contraception, such as contraceptive pills, vaginal rings, contraceptive injections, implants and IUDs, to provide more effective contraception and prevent STIs at the same time.

Male condoms are 98% effective with perfect use. Almost 12% of women will still get pregnant using condoms, generally because the condoms are not used properly. The male condom needs to be removed from the packet carefully, held at the top properly as it's rolled down onto the erect penis, and held at the base as it's carefully removed and disposed of after sex.

Female condoms are 95% effective with perfect use. About 20% of women will still get pregnant using a female condom, usually because the condom is not used properly. The female condom also needs to be held correctly, inserted and pushed up into the vagina, while the outer ring of the condom remains outside. After sex, the female condom also needs to be removed very carefully and disposed of.

Family Planning NSW has a full range of fact sheets on contraception, including information on the male and female condoms and how to use them.

What could go wrong with condoms?

If the condom breaks or comes off during sex and you're worried about pregnancy, emergency contraception is available. This should be taken as soon as possible (within 5 days, but sooner is better).

It's very important that both partners know if the condom has broken or come off — it's always possible that one partner won't have noticed and the woman needs to know in case emergency contraception needs to be arranged.

Condoms are perishable so they need to be kept in a cool place and used before the expiry date. It's important not to use oil-based lubricants — such as petroleum jelly or massage oil — with latex condoms since this can cause them to break.

There are generally no side effects, unless you have an allergy to latex (rubber) male condoms. Female condoms are made of polyurethane.

Advantages and disadvantages of condoms

Main advantages:

  • safe to use
  • small and easy to carry
  • easy to buy (you don't need a prescription)
  • able to protect against STIs as well as unwanted pregnancy

Main disadvantages:

  • can only be used once
  • they are perishable; they need to be kept in a cool place and used by the expiry date
  • male condoms can only be used with water-based lubricants
  • female condoms can be tricky to insert and remove

Condoms and STIs

Condoms are the only form of contraception that offers some protection from STIs.

However, they can't protect you from infections like herpes, genital warts or syphilis that can be spread through skin-to-skin contact.

Find out more about sexual health here.

More information

Family Planning NSW has a full range of fact sheets on contraception, including male and female condoms and how to use them.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2020

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Condoms and Contraception

Contraception is a way to prevent pregnancy. Using condoms can prevent pregnancy and can also protect you against getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Read more on WA Health website

Safe sex and condoms

Safe sex and condoms - what you need to know to make sure you are having safe sex

Read more on SA Health website

Condoms and Lube - Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations

Condoms and Lube: Condoms provide an effective strategy to prevent HIV as they stop the passing of fluids from one partner to the other. Condoms are best...

Read more on AFAO – Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations website

Here's exactly when you should be using condoms

Condoms give the best protection against STIs. You should use a condom every single time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

Read more on NSW Health website

Read this for everything you need to know about condoms

Condoms are the only form of contraception that protect against both pregnancy and STIs. Using condoms means you never have to worry and can just focus on having fun.

Read more on NSW Health website

Internal Condom - Sexual Health Victoria

The internal condom is a soft pouch made of latex or polyurethane, that has two flexible rings at each end. It is inserted into the vagina or anus before having

Read more on Sexual Health Victoria website

Here's what to say if you need to talk about condoms

Need to talk about condoms? It can seem difficult but it doesn't have to be. Here's exactly what to say when you need to have the 'Condom Conversation'.

Read more on NSW Health website

Here's what you should do if the condom breaks

We’ve all been there, and it can be a scary moment. But if the condom breaks, don’t panic – just follow these easy steps below.

Read more on NSW Health website

Putting on a condom - a quick and easy step-by-step guide

Putting on a condom is simple…once you know what you’re doing. Follow these steps to make sure you’re doing it right and It’ll soon be second nature.

Read more on NSW Health website

Want to know where to buy condoms in NSW? Look no further.

You can buy condoms from shops, supermarkets, petrol stations, chemists etc. But did you know that you can also get them for free?

Read more on NSW Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.