Understand the different kinds of condoms and dental dams, and how they protect you.
Condoms are the best way to practice safe sex and protect against most sexually transmitted infections (STIs or STDs).
Why use condoms?
Condoms are 97 per cent effective. If used properly and consistently they protect against most STIs, as well as pregnancy. Condoms are the only contraception that can prevent STIs.
Condoms protect you against catching an STI from a partner who has one. If you have an STI but don’t know it, they also prevent you from transmitting it to someone else. They work by stopping any bacteria and viruses in your partner’s genital fluid from infecting your own genitals, anal area, or mouth.
Condoms (also known as male condoms)
These condoms fit snugly over an erect penis to protect you from STIs during vaginal, oral, or anal sex. They are usually made of latex or a non-latex material such as polyurethane. If you are allergic or sensitive to latex, consider using an internal (or female) condom.
- Come in different sizes, flavours, and styles (lambskin and sheepskin condoms do not protect against STIs, and novelty condoms, e.g., edible condoms, do not protect against STIs or pregnancy)
- Are easy to buy without a prescription, e.g., washing room vending machines or pharmacies
- Can often be obtained free from health clinics and sexual health clinics
How to use condoms
- Check the expiry date before using.
- Put the condom on before any sexual contact.
- Be careful not to tear the condom when taking it out of the wrapper or putting it on.
- Put the condom on the end of the erect penis and pinch the tip of the condom to remove the air.
- Unroll the condom down to the base of the penis.
- If using lubricant, use a water-based one such as K-Y Jelly. Don’t use petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline), grease, hand lotion, baby oil, or anything with oil in it.
- After ejaculation, hold the base of the condom to stop semen spilling out, and withdraw the penis before it becomes soft.
- Tie the open end in a knot and throw it in the garbage.
Watch the video below about putting on a male condom.
Internal condoms (or insertive or female condoms)
An internal or insertive condom is a tube of soft plastic (polyurethane) with one closed end. It fits inside the anus or vagina to help protect you from STIs during vaginal (frontal) or anal sex. It is a good option if you are allergic or sensitive to the latex in most male condoms.
- Can be put inside the vagina up to six hours before intercourse
- Also cover some of the area around the genitals to help protect against skin-to-skin STIs, such as herpes and genital warts
- Are easy to buy without a prescription in pharmacies or family planning clinics
- Take at least a few tries for most people to feel comfortable using
How to use internal condoms
- Spread the lubricant inside the condom by rubbing the sides of the condom together (add more water-based lubricant if you like).
- Find a comfortable position to insert the condom, e.g., standing with one foot on a chair, sitting on the edge of a chair or lying down.
- Insert one finger into the condom.
- With your other hand, squeeze together the closed end of the condom and place that end into your vagina or anus.
- Use the finger inside the condom to push the closed end as far into the vagina or anus as possible (the outer ring will stay outside the body).
- During intercourse the penis should be inside the condom; the outer ring will lie flat against the body when the penis enters the vagina or anus.
- After ejaculation, remove the condom immediately and before you stand up.
- To remove it, twist the open outside ring to close off the condom and hold the semen inside while you pull it out.
A dental dam is a thin square of latex that can protect you from catching an STI when used during oral sex. It is placed over the vagina to act as a barrier between the mouth and genitals during oral sex or it is used over the anus during “rimming” (oral sex on the anus).
Dental dams can be found in pharmacies and sexual health clinics or bought online.