This article on condoms what they are and how they work, the pros and cons of condoms and how to use them safely!

What are condoms?

Condoms are made out of fine rubber and create a barrier to prevent infection and sperm from passing between people during sex. They can be used for vaginal sex, anal sex and oral sex. They greatly reduce the chance of

  • Unwanted pregnancy
  • Sexually transmitted infection (STIs) /HIV

How do condoms work?

Condoms are gently rolled onto the hard penis before sex, ensuring that you put the condom on before genital contact. Once on correctly they create a barrier between the two people having sex, preventing infection spreading from one person to the other and also preventing sperm from entering the vagina, resulting in pregnancy.

How to apply ? – they need to be put on correctly to be effective –

  • Firstly, check the packaging is intact and the condom has not expired. There will be a date on the packet.
  • Open the wrapper carefully – not using your teeth or sharp nails as you may tear the condom, making it useless
  • Hold the condom at the top to expel air and roll it firmly onto the penis, right down to the base of the penis
  • If you are using a lubricant to make sex more comfortable (always use lubricant for anal sex) apply it to the condom before sex. Only water based lubes are suitable, for example KY jelly, Sylk or Glyde. Never use anything oil based, such as petroleum jelly or suntan oil!
  • Spermicides are no longer recommended as they cause skin reactions in some people.
  • After ejaculating (coming) hold the condom at the base of the penis to ensure it stays on while you withdraw
  • Dispose of the used condom by wrapping it in tissue and putting it in the bin.

Where can you get condoms from?

The cheapest way to get condoms is on prescription from your family doctor or Family Planning Centre – see below to find your nearest FPC

They can be bought at supermarkets, pharmacies, garages, dairies, pubs and clubs and public toilets. They’re everywhere!

What types of condoms are available?

The main, reputable brands are those available at Family Planning Centres (FPC), pharmacies and supermarkets. Check that any coloured/gimmick condoms do have the expiry dates on them. 

Condoms marketed in New Zealand must comply with ISO 4074:2002(E) standard.

How much do condoms cost?

The cheapest way to get condoms is from your FPC or family doctor on prescription. This charge will depend upon your age and whether you hold a Community Service Card.

Otherwise expect to pay $12 – $20 for a pack of twelve from the supermarket or online.

What is the success rate of condoms?

Condoms are very successful in preventing STIs.

Bacteria or a virus such as HIV cannot pass through unbroken rubber! Therefore, if used correctly, condoms will prevent the spread of HIV.

Condoms also reduce your chance of catching chlamydia and gonorrhoea.

Condoms greatly reduce your chance of getting pregnant. They are 98% effective: Studies show that if 100 women used a condom every time they had sex for 1 year, 2 of these women would get pregnant.

What are the risks with condoms?

The greatest risk of using condoms is that they have been damaged –

  • by tearing open the packet and piercing the condom at the same time
  • by storing them in a warm place
  • by having passed the expiry date.

The other risk is that the condom is not used properly –

  • not put on soon enough
  • not used in conjunction with a lubricant to prevent tearing
  • not held onto during withdrawal.

Also please note that if you are being treated for thrush with antifungal treatment (such as Canestan) this can damage the rubber of a condom.

If you discover a tear in your condom after sex then

  • Visit the FPC for the morning after pill within 72 hours, if you are concerned about pregnancy
  • Visit the sexual health clinic if you are concerned about STIs for advice from a health professional.

What are the possible benefits?

  • Condoms reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancy
  • Condoms reduce the chance of catching a STI
  • Condoms are readily available
  • Condoms are extremely cheap if obtained through the Family Planning Centre
  • Condoms are easy to use
  • There are many different brands, try different ones until you find one that suits you
  • Condoms have no side effects
  • Condoms help to prevent cancer of the cervix

What are the possible disadvantages?

  • Sex may feel different
  • Some people are reluctant to use them
  • Condoms can cause an interruption to love making
  • Some people are allergic to rubber – speak to a health professional at the FPC if this is the case for an alternative

Useful articles and websites

To find your local Family Planning Clinic in NZ visit- www.familyplanning.org.nz

For information on the Combined Pill, or the Progesterone Only /Mini Pill, visit these informative articles.


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Paula Skelton is a qualified NZ nurse and midwife, a midwifery & childbirth educator and the mum of three lovely girls.

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Can you just ask for a prescription for condoms at the FPC or do you need to have an appointment for the prescriptions?

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