No method of contraception is 100% reliable, but condoms are very effective if used correctly and have the added advantage of protecting you and your partner from STIs too.
Follow the Instructions
If you use a condom correctly every time you have sex, you are very unlikely to get pregnant or contract an STI such as gonorrhea or herpes. The NHS says that condoms are 98% effective when they are used properly, which means that just two per cent of women whose partners use a condom will get pregnant in a year.
However, there is room for error, and statistics show that condoms are really only about 82% effective because they are not always used in the right way. The best way to keep yourself safe and not get pregnant is to use condoms correctly every time you have sex. This means using it from start to finish and making sure it is rolled on the penis in the right way before there is any genital contact.
Using condoms and another form of birth control such as the pill or and IUD is a good way of getting extra protection against pregnancy and STIs. Condoms should not be worn on the penis at the same time as a female condom, as they are designed to be used on their own.
Worried About STIs?
If you have had unprotected sex or sex with a condom which has failed, either due to human error or because it has split, you may want to get tested for STIs as well as pregnancy. While it is easy to buy a pregnancy kit at a pharmacy, you may feel anxious or embarrassed about visiting a sexual health clinic. Thankfully, you can now send off for a home testing kit. If you are looking for London STI testing kits, you can get them free online from https://www.checkurself.org.uk/order-a-test-kit/ and other sexual health sites like https://www.bexleysexualhealth.org/.
Other Useful Tips
Condoms are not just for vaginal sex: they can also help to protect against STIs during anal and oral sex as well. You can get free condoms from some GP surgeries, sexual health clinics and contraception clinics. They need to be stored at room temperature and away from sharp objects or surfaces that could tear them, and you must always check the use-by date.