A-Z

Sexual Health (young people)

Condoms and other barrier methods

Condoms
Condoms can protect against both sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. If used properly they are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy (NHS Choices 2015), but average use has an 18% pregnancy rate (Centre for Disease Control 2015).  

When people start having sex they are often more concerned about pregnancy than sexually transmitted infections, but condoms can protect against pregnancy and STIs including Chlamydia, HPV and HIV.

 

Explains that his main reason for using condoms is not to leave the girl pregnant.

Explains that his main reason for using condoms is not to leave the girl pregnant.

Age at interview: 19
Sex: Male
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Mainly, well, I don't know, I mean, if a girls at a point she will want to have sex just as much as me kind of thing. And well, mainly men really as well, 'cos it's mainly the men that never think about that, they just you know, men just go for it no matter what. But I think yeah, really just should be both of us that should think about it.

So when you use condoms, why do you use them?  What is your main reason for using them?

Well my reason is you can't control, you might leave her pregnant you know, that is the main reason.

OK.

As well as for other reasons, like catching something, whatever, but mainly for not leaving girls pregnant.
 

Explains why she has always practiced safe sex. (Actor)

Explains why she has always practiced safe sex. (Actor)

Age at interview: 24
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
(The accompanying video and audio clips are played by an actor)

As far as I'm concerned if there's no condoms, there's no nookie. 

Well you see, when I'm not with them, I don't know what they're up to, so they could be out there mucking about for all I know. And I don't wanna catch anything, I don't wanna get pregnant, so I gotta be safe.

I think, in my personal experience, fellas' well a couple' they're just childish, they just want to have a good time, they don't want a proper relationship. They wanna have fun, and then see you later, going to see the boys and hanging out with the boys. So I think girls tend to be a bit more serious when it comes to things like that.

Where does your attitude for safe sex come from, did you discuss it with friends or with your mother or somebody?

No, I don't know where it comes from to be honest. It's just, I don't know. It may really stem from the fact that I didn't want a baby. When I first became sexually active it was mainly the fact that I didn't want a baby, that's where it first started from, and then the more I learned about STIs and AIDS and HIV, it just got stronger. I was like, no condom, no nookie. I'm happy to have none. But no, I think it all just started from the fact that I didn't want children. 
 

Advises others to wear condoms to prevent STIs and unwanted pregnancies.

Advises others to wear condoms to prevent STIs and unwanted pregnancies.

Age at interview: 23
Sex: Male
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Make sure you use it, make sure you use your contraception all the time. That's all I can, that's all I can say you know make sure you use it. Don't do nothing without it, that's all I can say.

Okay is there anything you would want to tell other young people regarding sexual health in general or sexually transmitted infections?

If you suspect you have anything then make sure you go to the clinic right away you know, or talk to someone you can trust about it, may be get some moral advice from them. But otherwise just always you use contraception, I mean especially the guys, make sure you do. You know what I mean because if anything comes to worse it's always you, so make sure you do.

One woman, who had caught chlamydia and genital warts after unprotected sex with her boyfriend, said that she was now really careful to avoid any genital contact without a condom.

Condoms are free from GP surgeries, sexual health clinics, school and college nurses, and many young people’s/community centres. They can also be bought from shops. There is a condom card (c-card) scheme in many cities, that young people can sign up for, which allows them to get free condoms from participating chemists.

 

Explains that her main motivation as a teenager was to avoid pregnancy rather than STIs - but...

Explains that her main motivation as a teenager was to avoid pregnancy rather than STIs - but...

Age at interview: 22
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
(The accompanying video and audio clips are played by an actor)

You said you had some information about sexual health for instance about safe sex, prevention of unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections?

I think infections aren't so, I mean pregnancy is a bigger worry than infections to a lot of teenagers and that's something that's not so widely spoken about, for me anyway.

When I was a teenager I think that pregnancy was the main issue rather than infections and I found myself with an infection once and I had to go and sort it out and I didn't really have a lot of support from you know, people to talk to, I didn't talk to my peers about it.

I felt like I'd been an idiot and it was just stupid of me for being lax you know, and since I've made sure that you know, there's absolutely no contact before the condom went on you know because you think well, the most important thing is to make sure that he doesn't ejaculate you know what I mean, and you can have as much contact then, and that's something I think that I wasn't really aware of as much, I was more concerned about not getting pregnant, you know at that stage, and then after that things changed.
 

Makes the point that condoms are too expensive. (Actor)

Makes the point that condoms are too expensive. (Actor)

Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
(The accompanying video and audio clips are played by an actor)

They feel less concerned because they can't get pregnant. So they feel less concerned about, about all those things. But the only thing, the only thing I will say is about sexual disease, I mean using condom and everything. There is one thing I will reproach. First you talk about it at the beginning, everybody talk about it, you have to wear condom. 

And I don't know, like on TV, I never saw any advertisement on TV about condom here. And after you go to the pharmacy and it's extremely expensive to buy condom. And for sure you can have it for free in the Family Planning, but maybe you don't think, or before you don't plan 'Oh tonight I'm going to have sex, so in the afternoon I'm going go to the Family''  

So it makes that if you are in the street, I'm sorry but I found it really expensive. I think for me a condom it should be about 10p. One, and not three, four'I don't know, it's too expensive. And they are just little things that make you forget that you are.. not make you forget, I mean you, you forget yourself,  that you have to use condoms. But I don't know, it's' for this I found that really should improve a bit. 

I think so, the condom it should be less expensive. It's a stupid thing but it's true, because the minimum wage is '4.20 per hour here when you are working, and after you go to another pharmacy here, I think for five condom it's something like '4.00 or something. So you know, I mean it's ridiculous to talk like this but it works like this. It's like, when you have just a little job to make you survive, each penny you think about it because maybe it will help you to eat properly the day after. So I don't know, it should be less expensive.

So why don't people use condoms every time they have sex? Sometimes people think it's OK not to use them each time or forget about the risks of STI or pregnancy after drinking alcohol

 

Indicates that initially she was very aware of the need to use condoms and that later on she...

Indicates that initially she was very aware of the need to use condoms and that later on she...

Age at interview: 19
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I mean at school I was always very aware of the fact that I would never ever sleep with a man without a condom it was just 'god that's really silly', but I think as you get older you start to lose that, I started to lose that a little bit and I think I would realise now that that is not a good thing to lose, to be like, oh you know that'll be okay, even if I am on the Pill, it's just that I should be.
 

Explains that under the influence of alcohol young people have a false sense of security.

Explains that under the influence of alcohol young people have a false sense of security.

Age at interview: 25
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I mean, it was always in the back of my mind, you know, panic don't get pregnant and don't catch Aids were the two main things. So after quite a few drinks you know, you feel a bit 'oh well, I won't catch Aids, I won't get pregnant, I'm too drunk, I'll be fine'. Your judgement goes quite a lot, it can sway you quite a lot and like I said to you, that I always, I had condoms in my purse. 

If I was even too drunk to think 'oh I can't be bothered, I'm too drunk to get them out of my bag' then they were in my bra so that was even more, that was a warning of hey I'm going to have sex now, I should get these out. But I think when people do that, I don't know if it's because, I think a lot of people think 'it's not me, I won't catch anything, that's impossible'. Or, I don't do drugs and he doesn't do drugs, no we haven't got Aids. 

I think they kind of think that they're never going to catch anything and they're okay. And under alcohol their judgement is definitely swayed so it just makes it easier to not think about using anything. And I think that because the morning-after Pill, you can just pick it up from your local chemist as well, I think, I'm not generalising and saying that more people make more mistakes now because it's so easy.  

I think there is less pregnancies because you can just go to your chemist and pick the morning-after Pill afterwards but I think that people take more risks, almost. I mean there were a lot of programmes, you know, when I was in my late teens, a lot of programmes on the TV about Aids and HIV and a lot of campaigns and it struck fear into your hearts and you thought 'oh my God, I'm going to catch Aids if I sleep with someone without using condoms'.  But now I don't really see it that much.

Having sex without condoms could also be due to a lack of awareness about STIs and HIV and pressure from male partners to have sex without a condom.

 

Indicates that sometimes girls are pushed into having unprotected sex. (Actor)

Indicates that sometimes girls are pushed into having unprotected sex. (Actor)

Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
(The accompanying video and audio clips are played by an actor)

I think girls care more about getting pregnant and catching something. But boys are more careless about it and what, what I've seen with my friends, some boys, they're quite pushy for you to have sex with a girl, without using a condom.

OK.  

It's like they don't have a condom, they want to have sex. You say, 'Well I don't want to do it,' but then they'll say, 'But it's OK', you know, and then they'll just pressure you and then you end up having it.

Many people use condoms at the beginning of a relationship, but stop using them when they know each other better, or when they've both had an STI check-up. People we interviewed who were in their 20's were more confident about discussing sexual history and using condoms than younger people.

 

Explains why it is important to discuss the possibility of another sexual partner and the need...

Explains why it is important to discuss the possibility of another sexual partner and the need...

Age at interview: 22
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
(The accompanying video and audio clips are played by an actor)

But we've also discussed you know things, like because I've said to him I get really concerned that you know okay you're with me now, at the moment and I don't mind not using a condom and going onto the pill but other people might say 'I'm on the pill' or you know they're fine and all stuff like that and it's so easy to catch things. 

You know you need to get back into the flow of putting a condom straight on. And he's gradually getting used to it. I think I'm just bullying him into doing it now

So the risk involves not just for him but also you?

He wouldn't sleep with someone while I was going out with him, I'm one hundred percent on that, absolutely certain. I mean recently we just split up and he has gone and slept with someone else since then which you know, I was devastated as it is you know, we'd only just split up and he's gone and done that, I was more concerned about whether he had used a condom. 

He said "Yes I've used a condom," and I said you know, "what about oral sex?" "Yes I've used a condom for oral sex". I said "Okay but what about oral sex with her?"  "No I haven't done that"  "Okay fair enough".  

You know but I did feel like you know mother superior telling him that you know you've got to do this and that'

I sit here thinking well why put yourself at risk, why catch something nasty that's going to make you itch or smell, that you're going to pass onto other people, I mean something's aren't curable. I mean the fact that some things are not curable why on earth would you want to go and put yourself at that risk?  

But you know okay, condoms are fine but it does, I mean okay it does feel better without a condom but you know, only do it when you know that you're safe and you know you're not going to be at risk at all.

Some people we interviewed remember being embarrassed asking for condoms from their GPs, family planning or Brook clinics when they were teenagers. Other said that they didn't like the feel of the free condoms which they thought were 'too thick' or 'too boring'. Wider ranges of condoms are now usually available free from clinics and youth centres.

 

Thinks that condoms provided by the NHS are boring and those you buy at chemists are more fun to...

Thinks that condoms provided by the NHS are boring and those you buy at chemists are more fun to...

Age at interview: 22
Sex: Male
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Well the shop ones are better than the GP ones 'cos they're just, plain old boring ones, aren't they?

They're, they're either too thick or, you know, they, it's boring

I think the chemist ones are just, the novelty side of things, you know, they're bright colours, flavoured and, you know, put on glow in the dark ones and it, it just makes you laugh when you get 'em and when you use them and it just amuses both, you know, yourself and the person that I'm with.

I would think that they need to get young people on their you know, designing board or something and get them to give some ideas and take some ideas and, you know, make their selection a bit more varied.

More geared to young people?

Yeah.
 

Says that he feels embarrassed to buy condoms from a chemist and that he prefers to get them from...

Says that he feels embarrassed to buy condoms from a chemist and that he prefers to get them from...

Age at interview: 22
Sex: Male
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
No, I usually send a friend down to the local chemist and get the, I still find it embarrassing to go into the chemist and buy condoms I don't know, I think it's just a thing that's drummed into, you know, young boys well, you know, at an early age, you know, when you're growing up, you know, 'Don't do this, don't do that', and it just sticks in your head. 

Plus you go into the local chemist and someone or other knows you or, you know, knows your family or, you know, knows your brother, or somehow knows you and it's just too embarrassing to take a pack of condoms up. At first I went to a local advice centre but it, the same one where I'd been told about, you know, STIs and pregnancy, contraceptives and stuff and they run a sexual health clinic so I was able to get some condoms from them. 

I mean, they laughed and joked about it 'cos, 'cos they'd known me for years, you know, but it didn't matter that much.  
 

Explains that there are a variety of condoms available in the market and that in comparison free...

Explains that there are a variety of condoms available in the market and that in comparison free...

Age at interview: 22
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
(The accompanying video and audio clips are played by an actor)

I mean you go into a sexual health clinic and like they always give you really boring condoms, I mean it's always the extra safe or the flavoured condoms, which are really boring. You know condoms are really boring, people don't like using them because they desensitise you, they don't feel as good. And there are condoms on the market that do feel good.

There are, you can get these Performance, is it, I don't know if it's Performance or Performa condom which would delay your man so you know that sex lasts a little bit longer. I mean I find the Inspiral condom you get from Boots is brilliant, it's got, it's got like spring loaded and it's got a big tip so you know it doesn't feel, for a man I can imagine it doesn't feel like you're all squeezed in. 

You've got the Advantix, Advantee is it? The condom which again you know it's quite thin and you know it's got a big head on it. And you know, the condoms are too expensive, I mean you go into a chemist and you don't want to be paying five quid for like a packet of condoms

I mean okay fair enough sexual health clinics you know, they can't afford to be buying those types of fancy condoms, you can understand that, but I mean, you know at the end of the day the Government need to be putting that incentive out there, you know condoms are cheap, you can just go and pick them up for a fraction of the price and you know. If it's there then you're going to use it.

Many buy their own condoms, but find them expensive. Cost is another reason why people may stop using them.

 

Makes the point that condoms are too expensive. (Actor)

Makes the point that condoms are too expensive. (Actor)

Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
(The accompanying video and audio clips are played by an actor)

They feel less concerned because they can't get pregnant. So they feel less concerned about, about all those things. But the only thing, the only thing I will say is about sexual disease, I mean using condom and everything. There is one thing I will reproach. First you talk about it at the beginning, everybody talk about it, you have to wear condom. 

And I don't know, like on TV, I never saw any advertisement on TV about condom here. And after you go to the pharmacy and it's extremely expensive to buy condom. And for sure you can have it for free in the Family Planning, but maybe you don't think, or before you don't plan 'Oh tonight I'm going to have sex, so in the afternoon I'm going go to the Family''  

So it makes that if you are in the street, I'm sorry but I found it really expensive. I think for me a condom it should be about 10p. One, and not three, four'I don't know, it's too expensive. And they are just little things that make you forget that you are.. not make you forget, I mean you, you forget yourself,  that you have to use condoms. But I don't know, it's' for this I found that really should improve a bit. 

I think so, the condom it should be less expensive. It's a stupid thing but it's true, because the minimum wage is '4.20 per hour here when you are working, and after you go to another pharmacy here, I think for five condom it's something like '4.00 or something. So you know, I mean it's ridiculous to talk like this but it works like this. It's like, when you have just a little job to make you survive, each penny you think about it because maybe it will help you to eat properly the day after. So I don't know, it should be less expensive.

Many people have experienced a condom splitting or falling off, and in such cases they usually get emergency contraception

A father of two said that he doesn't mind using condoms at all, although he knows that other men have very different attitudes. Some people don't like condoms and say that they are a 'hassle', 'a pain', or that they spoil the moment.

 

Indicates that he and his partner use condoms as their main form of contraception, that men are...

Indicates that he and his partner use condoms as their main form of contraception, that men are...

Age at interview: 23
Sex: Male
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
It's me and the way life is if the woman becomes pregnant it's his fault, it's all, it's just, it's just the way life is. Some things you have to just accept in life. I mean it's like obviously you could have a daughter and your daughter come back pregnant you're going to look on the guy, it's always usually instantly the guy you know.  

So I'm more responsible for it, it's just things in life, that's just the way life is realistically, because I mean there's lots of stereotypes on guys it's just the way life is. It's like if you're living with your partner and your house is an absolute tip they look on the female, they don't look on the man, they look on the woman.  

So it's the same with sex, when it comes to contraception they usually look, it's always the guy you know what I mean?  So like if a girl come along and say "Mum I'm pregnant," my dad would go "Where is he?".  It's always him you know they're looking at you. You know what I'm trying to say, and if I'm the one who got the girlfriend my mum is going "Well where was your contraception?" it's you, so as a guy it's usually you that answers, the arrow is on you. So I'm really responsible for it mainly yeah.

I mean some people, I've got some friends who are not really bothered because the girls are not bothered. It's like they'll say "I haven't got a condom babe," they say "I don't care," you know some people are not bothered but some they always say "I always have my thing." The girl could look like Halle Berry if I haven't got something I ain't doing it  you know.  

So everybody, I can't really generalise because in my age group there's a lot of people, some bother, some don't, some are very conscious, some are not so conscious. You know what I mean.

Okay, the ones that do bother, why do they bother?

Because realistically when it comes to sex it takes two so if you say "I ain't got nothing," but the girl is still saying "Come on then," then he ain't going to risk no temptation, same vice versa so it's really they encourage each other so that's why they do it.

There are many different types of condoms (non-latex, different textures, sizes, colours, and flavours as well as the female condom) available so there's usually one to suit. 

The National Screening Chlamydia Programme has the following recommendations to help people enjoy sex and keep healthy:

  • Use condoms every time you have sex. This can reduce your risk of getting or passing on chlamydia and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV.
  • If you have oral sex, cover the penis with a condom or the female genitals with a latex or polyurethane (plastic) square (dam).
  • If you are not sure how to use condoms correctly, there are normally instructions in the packet. Alternatively, see the information on condoms, on NHS Choices
  • Each time you have a new sexual partner, both of you should get a chlamydia test.
  • Have a chlamydia test every year while you are under 25.
  • Avoid sharing sex toys. If you do share sex toys, wash them or cover them with a new condom before anyone else uses them.

Female condoms are also widely available but are not often used.

 

Victoria thinks that it is a good idea to always use a condom even when not engaging in...

Victoria thinks that it is a good idea to always use a condom even when not engaging in...

Age at interview: 24
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Lots of people don't realise that if you're, you know, just sort of body rubbing or dry humping or just touching it or using your mouth or something you can catch all manner of things from it. But you just don't realise because you think, 'Well it's not sex, I'm not going to get pregnant so I'm not going to get an STI." You can catch anything anyway and indeed pubic lice you catch without having sex is the main one that you would catch. But all sorts of things that use, the way you touch the bodily fluids, you can catch something, you know like possibly not Chlamydia but Herpes definitely you could get that and that's incurable and Gonorrhoea you can do that as well, HIV it requires probably blood as well as sexual fluids but if you've got a cut on your finger that's enough, you know, things like that.

Other barrier methods

Diaphragms and caps 
These are both barrier methods of contraception, and are usually made of silicone or latex. They fit inside the vagina and cover the cervix (entrance to the uterus – womb) so that sperm can't get into the womb. They both need to be used with spermicide (chemicals that kill sperm).

They can be inserted up to 3 hours before having sex and should be left in place at least 6 hours after sex. They can be left in longer than this but should not be left in longer than the recommended maximum time (check leaflet for details). They are reusable and once they have been removed should be washed with warm water and mild, unperfumed soap. They come in different shapes and sizes and must be fitted for the correct size by a trained doctor or nurse.

“If diaphragms and caps are always used according to instructions they are 92–96 per cent effective when used with spermicide.” - FPA 2015

Most women are able to use a diaphragm or a cap but they are not suitable for all women and this should be discussed with a doctor or nurse. The diaphragm or cap only provides limited protection against STIs and is only used to prevent pregnancy.
 
Sponges and spermicides
The sponge is a doughnut-shaped device made of soft foam coated with spermicide inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix. Spermicides come in a wide variety of forms, including jellies, creams, foams, films and suppositories and they are used to coat the vagina and cervix in a chemical barrier killing the sperm.

Last reviewed January 2016.
Last updated January 2016.

donate
Previous Page
Next Page