Condoms protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well as pregnancy.
That’s why it’s so important to use them when you have sex with a new partner. But do you still need to use them in a long-term relationship? Find out what you and your partner need to consider before thinking about having unprotected sex.
Is it safe to have sex without a condom?
It can be, but only in special circumstances. You’ll need to be in a trusted, exclusive relationship, and both you and your partner should have tested negative for STIs. Unless you’re planning a pregnancy, you’ll also need to be using an alternative method of contraception.
For most couples, developing that level of trust takes time. This isn’t a decision to rush, or to make in the heat of the moment.
Why is it so important to use condoms in an intimate relationship?
Sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and HIV are very common. Many STIs don’t have any symptoms so you or your partner could have an infection without knowing it. By using condoms you’re protecting each other from the risk of passing infections between you.
Condoms offer good protection against STIs. To be effective, you need to put them on before you start having sex and wear them until you’ve finished. Sperm can leak from your partner’s penis during foreplay and after sex so it mustn’t touch your vagina unless he is wearing a condom. This is also true if you’re having anal sex.
As well as stopping the spread of STIs, condoms can also help to prevent pregnancy. Other contraception methods, such as an IUD or implant are more reliable. So you may want to consider using one of these as well as condoms. Marie Stopes can help you to decide on a method that’s right for you.
My partner and I want to stop using condoms. How can we do it safely?
First you need to talk things through. Make sure you can both commit to being exclusive and you trust each other to stick to it. Exclusive means you and your partner agree to only have sexual contact with each other.
Your next step is to get tested for STIs. It’s quick and easy, and though you may feel awkward there’s really no need. You can go on your own to the clinic for screening or go together. It doesn't matter provided you both get tested and share your results with each other. Talk to us to find out more.
If one or both of you test positive for an STI you may both need treatment before you think about stopping using condoms. If one of you has a viral STI, such as herpes or HIV, it will be safer to continue using condoms.
If you have been using condoms to prevent pregnancy, you’ll need to switch to an alternative method. There are lots of different options to choose from. We can help you find one that suits you best. Some contraception methods, such as some types of pill, don’t work straight away so continue with the condoms until it has taken effect.
My partner wants to stop using condoms but I’m not sure. What should I do?
It’s always okay to say no. If you really like someone, you might be tempted to take a risk but in the long-term, that’s not going to be good for your relationship. You shouldn’t feel pressured into having unprotected sex to keep him happy. It needs to be a choice you’re both comfortable with.
You could talk to him about why he wants to stop using condoms before you feel ready. There might be other solutions you can explore. You might find that trying a different type of condom will be more satisfying for both of you. There are many different sizes, colours, textures and thicknesses of male condom to choose from. And putting on a condom doesn’t need to interrupt sex. You can continue kissing and touching each other so you don’t spoil the mood.
You might want to try an internal (or female) condom that you insert into your vagina, or anus if you’re having anal sex. They are not as widely available as male condoms, and they are more expensive, but some couples prefer them. You can put an internal condom in before things get too heated so it’s there when you need it.
If your partner continues to insist on ditching the condoms, it might be time to consider if this is a relationship that’s right for you. If your partner doesn’t care about your health and wellbeing, or their own, it doesn’t reflect well on his feelings for you.