What should I do if the condom breaks?

Accidents can happen. Condoms can break or tear during sex.  Remember, every time you have sex, you risk getting pregnant or getting a sexually transmitted infection.

If a condom breaks or tears during sex, this can be stressful, but there are things you can do right away to reduce your risk of STI’s and pregnancy.

Many times, a couple won’t notice that the condom broke until after they have finished having sex. But if you know while you are having sex that the condom has broken, stop what you are doing right away, pull the condom out carefully, and then use a new condom.

If the condom broke near the point of ejaculation or after ejaculation you will need to seek medical treatment to prevent pregnancy and STI’s.

You can wash the genital areas gently with soap and water, but do not douche, scrub, or use a harsh disinfectant of any kind on the genital areas.

Douching can strip away protective bacteria from genital tissues, increasing the chance of infection. Disinfectants can also damage these delicate tissues and cause inflammation that promotes, rather than stops, HIV infection.

After you have gently cleaned, go to a health clinic or emergency room right away.  It is ideal to go with your partner so you can both be tested for STI’s and so they can know how to treat you in the best way possible.  Share all the details of what happened with your doctor or nurse so they can understand the risks. 

The clinic or hospital can tell you whether you should begin HIV post-prophylaxis therapy (PEP), which is a 28-day course of antiretroviral drugs that may reduce your risk of getting HIV. Before they prescribed these drugs, they will give you a rapid HIV test to see if and/or your partner has HIV. 

PEP should be started ideally within in the first 24 hours after an exposure. It can, however, be prescribed within 48 hours of exposure.

At the clinic or hospital, the doctor can also explain about emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy and prescribe ECPs to you if you are younger than 15. Teens who are over 15 can buy emergency contraception pills (morning-after pills) at a drugstore without a prescription. 

Emergency contraception is most effective when taken as soon as possible after intercourse, but it can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex.  If a condom breaks or tears during sex, don’t wait talk to a parent, doctor, or nurse about getting emergency contraception.  It is important to get help as soon as possible.

To prevent condoms from breaking follow these tips:

  1. Keep them away from heat and light
  2. Don’t open them with anything sharp like scissors or teeth
  3. Don’t carry them in a wallet
  4. Don’t use oils or lotions on them.
  5. Make sure the condom is not expired. The material used to make condoms can weaken over time, so check the expiration.
  6. Never wear two condoms at the same time. The friction caused by the two barriers can make breakage more likely
  7. Wear the right size. Make certain that you are using properly sized condoms. If it is too big it can slip off, if it is too small it can break.
  8. Never reuse a condom.

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