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External condom

External condom


Other names: male condom


what is the external condom?

The external condom, also called the male condom, covers an erect penis to prevent sperm from entering the vagina upon ejaculation. It is one of the most widely used methods of contraception.


It prevents a pregnancy from occurring, but also protects against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

External condom


The external condom is a type of barrier method


The external condom belongs to a group of contraceptives called barrier methods. Barrier contraception methods work by physically stopping the sperm from fertilising the egg. Some barrier methods (e.g. condoms) also provide protection against some sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

How does the external condom work?


External condoms work by catching the sperm as it is released and stopping it from entering the vagina.


The tip of the condom has a reservoir which collects semen and prevents it from entering the vagina during ejaculation.


This stops the sperm from getting to the womb and fertilising an egg.

How effective is the external condom?

Compared to modern hormonal methods, condoms are less reliable and effective in protecting against pregnancy, but they are the only method that will protect against STIs, including HIV/AIDS.


The external condom is 82% effective with typical use meaning that 18 women out of 100 using this method will become pregnant in one year. However, when used perfectly it can be up to 98% effective.





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Approximately 2 out of every 100 women in a year will experience an unintended pregnancy.




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Approximately 18 out of every 100 women in a year will experience an unintended pregnancy.


A few things can stop the external condom from working. External condoms can break, split, or slip off the penis during sex. Vaginal medications such as thrush treatment can make the condom less effective, and some condoms cannot be used with oil-based products (such as moisturiser, lotion and Vaseline®). Condoms must not be stored in intense heat or cold or used if they are past their use by date. if you are concerned or unsure about the condom you have used, you may need to use emergency contraception (EC).

What is an external condom made of?

External condoms are thin latex (rubber), polyisoprene, polyurethane sheaths that are worn on the erect penis during sexual intercourse.

    No. Just like the female condom, it is hormone-free and doesn’t require additional contraceptives to work.

    Most people can safely wear external condoms. However, they may not be the best method for everyone.


    • Some people are allergic to latex condoms but there are alternatives such as polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms.


    • Some people have difficulty keeping an erection with a condom on.

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    PP-UN-WHC-GB-0083 September 2023


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