External Condom

  • 88 - 98 % Effective
  • STI Protection
  • Single use

What is the external condom?

The external condom is a thin pouch that is usually made of latex (rubber) and also available in polyurethane (plastic) or polyisoprene (synthetic rubber). You put it on an erect (stiff) penis or sex toy before it enters the vagina, mouth or anus during sex.

Fpv Condom
Photo of external condom

How effective is the external condom?

External condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy if used correctly, every time you have sex. Incorrect use, slips or breaks can mean that external condoms might only be 88% effective at preventing pregnancy.

How does the external condom work?

The external condom protects against pregnancy and sexually transmissible infections (STIs) by creating a barrier between a penis or sex toy before entering the vagina, mouth or anus. The external condom stops ejaculate (cum) from the penis entering the vagina, which will prevent pregnancy. The external condom stops exchange of fluids and direct contact of genitals or sex toys between partners, which will prevent STIs. You will need to use a new external condom every time you have sex. Use a new condom if you switch from one kind of sex to another (for example from anal to vaginal or vaginal to oral).

How to use the external condom?

Check the expiry date before use. Squeeze the tip of the external condom to remove air, then roll it down on the erect penis or sex toy as far as it will go.

External condom on erect penis

Each external condom can only be used once and then be thrown away into a bin (not down the toilet). To prevent pregnancy and sexually transmissible infections (STIs), the external condom should be put on the penis or sex toy before touches the vagina, mouth or anus.

External condoms can be used with water-based or silicone-based lubricants (lube). Lube is a jelly or liquid like material that can help to reduce friction during sex, which prevents condoms from breaking. It can also make sex more comfortable and pleasurable for all partners.

Oil-based lube cannot be used with latex external condoms, as it can damage latex, increasing the risk of pregnancy or STIs. Silicone based lubricant cannot be used with silicone sex toys as this may damage the toy and increase the risk of transmitting STIs. Check the lube product label before using.

Where can I get the external condom?

External condoms and lube are available from supermarkets, pharmacies/chemists and petrol stations. Some clinics, youth services and community health services provide them for free. Visit SHV's clinics to get free external condoms.

What stops the external condom from working?

External condoms might not work if they are:

  • used incorrectly.
  • used with oil-based lubricant.
  • past their expiry date.
  • used at the same time as certain vaginal medications (check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist).
  • the wrong size for the penis.
  • torn when opening the packet.
  • kept in hot places for a long time (like a car glove box in summer).

What is good about the external condom?

  • Protects against sexually transmissible infections (STIs).
  • Low cost or free.
  • Easy to use.
  • Little or no side effects.
  • Can be bought without a prescription.
  • Available in different sizes.

Are there any side effects from using the external condom?

They can occasionally cause irritation of the vagina, penis or anus.

Can the external condom cause any serious health problems?

Some people are allergic to latex. Non-latex external condoms are available.

Reasons why the external condom may not be a good option:

You or your partner have difficulty keeping an erection.

What if I had sex without using an external condom?

If you or your partner do not want to get pregnant, you might need emergency contraception, if you had sex without using an external condom or other contraception (check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist).

If you or sexual partner(s) are concerned about STI risk, you might need STI and BBV testing.

If you or sexual partner(s) are concerned about HIV risk, you might need post exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

What if pregnancy happens while using the external condom?

It is safe to continue the pregnancy or to have an abortion.

Can I use external condoms after I have had a baby?

You can use external condoms any time after giving birth.

What else should I know about the external condom?

  • Wrap used external condoms in tissue and throw away safely. Do not flush external condoms down the toilet.
  • The external condom is one of many types of contraception. See other contraceptive options

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Where to get more information and support

If you are using the internet for information, only use reliable and reputable websites, such as the ones provided above.

This website and any related materials are for general information purposes only and should not be relied on as (or in substitution for) medical or other professional advice. You should seek specific medical or professional advice for your individual circumstances.

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The copyright for material on this website is owned by Sexual Health Victoria (or, in some cases, by third parties) and is subject to the Copyright Act 1968. We permit you to reproduce or communicate our copyright material if you are a not-for-profit educational organisation, for the purpose of providing the information to your students provided that you include any disclaimers associated with that material. Any other reproduction or communication of our material requires our prior consent, via our consent form which you can complete and submit.

Last updated: 30 August 2021

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