So you’re having sex, and everything’s going great. Then you head to the bathroom. All of a sudden, you come to a horrifying realization: the condom broke. Whoops.
Having a condom break during sex is scary, but it happens. Even though you should be using a condom every time you have sex, particularly if you aren’t monogamous and/or aren’t regularly getting tested, the truth is that condoms are not 100% effective in practice — which means that, yes, there’s a small chance they could break during sex. In fact, one survey of 544 men found that 7.3 percent of the time they had sex, the condom broke or slipped off.
If you find yourself in a situation where the condom breaks, don’t panic — take action. Here’s what you need to do.
1 If you haven’t ejaculated yet and you notice that the condom broke, stop immediately and replace it with a new one.
If you feel the condom break in the heat of the moment, you may be tempted to just ignore it and keep going. But if you can feel the condom break while you’re having sex and you haven’t ejaculated yet, stop immediately and remove it, then put on a new one.
2 If you’ve already ejaculated, go to the bathroom right away.
If it wasn’t until after sex that you realize the condom broke, go to the bathroom right away. “Theoretically, urinating afterwards might help to push out some pathogens, so there’s no harm in doing that,” saysDr. Karen Brodman, a gynecologist in New York.
If your partner has a vagina, they should also urinate immediately and wash with warm soap and water. “Cleaning off ASAP may help decrease exposure to sperm and viruses,” she says. And if you just had anal sex, the same applies: go to the bathroom and bear down until all fluids have been expelled from your rectum, then wash with warm soap and water.
But be warned: peeing and cleaning yourself after sex “certainly cannot be relied on to prevent infection or pregnancy,” she says. Sure, it may lessen the risk to a minor degree, but it does not eliminate it entirely.
3 If your partner doesn’t want to become pregnant, go to the pharmacy to buy emergency contraception.
To reduce the risk of pregnancy, your partner should act as quickly as possible. “If she is not using another contraception method, such as birth control pills or an IUD, then she should use emergency contraception,” Brodman says
It’s important to note that most emergency contraceptives are more effective the sooner you take them, so be sure to have your partner make a trip to the pharmacy or call her doctor right away. (It’s also worth noting that it’s simply good etiquette to accompany her to the pharmacy or even offer to pay for it — yes, even if it’s a one-night stand.)
4 If you’re concerned about HIV exposure, consider taking PeP.
If you’re worried about having been exposed to HIV, ask your doctor about PeP, or post-exposure prophylaxis (it’s different from PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, which people must take consistently to prevent contracting HIV). When taken within 72 hours after HIV exposure, PeP is considerably effective (though not 100% effective) at preventing transmission, but you must take it once or twice daily for 28 days for it to work. Your doctor will help you determine if you’re a good candidate.
5 Get tested for STIs.
Take a deep breath: in most cases, there’s no need to rush to the nearest clinic the very next day, says Brodman: “[I] don’t want people to think they must be seen on a Saturday or Sunday morning when most offices are closed.”
That said, you should try to get an STI test within the next 3-4 days after exposure; it’s also a good idea to go to your doctor or to a clinic instead of doing an at-home test, which can sometimes yield inaccurate results.
When you arrive at your doctor’s office or at a clinic, the doctor or nurse will usually “assess your risk of infection,” Brodman advises. Typically, you’ll be asked to fill out a questionnaire about your sexual history and provide a urine test, as well as a blood test if you’re testing for STIs like HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and syphilis. If you had unprotected oral or anal sex, your doctor might ask for a throat swab or a rectal swab.
For most STI tests, you’ll have to wait a few days to a week for results. Some clinics, however, do offer rapid HIV testing, which can offer results in up to 20 minutes. But note that the incubation period for HIV is typically one to four weeks, so “it may take time for infection to show up on a blood test,” says Brodman.
If you test positive, “get treated and inform your partner” immediately, she says. If your results come back negative, your health care provider will likely urge you to get a follow-up test three months afterward or sooner if you start to exhibit symptoms. If you test positive, “get treated and inform your partner” immediately, Brodman says.
6 Check your condoms.
To prevent a condom from breaking again in the future, it’s important to make sure you’re storing and putting on condoms correctly. Well-endowed? Maybe your condoms are a bit snug. If you’re on the smaller side, perhaps they’re too big. Either way, your condom should fit. “If too small, there is a higher risk of breaking; if too big, there is a risk it will come off,” Brodman explains.
You should also always make sure that your condoms aren’t old or expired, as they tend to “degrade and weaken with time,” she says. If a condom is more than a few years old, you should probably toss it. Additionally, consider where you keep your condoms. If exposed to heat, they’ll break more easily, so don’t keep them in a wallet in your sweaty back pocket. Instead, keep them in a cool place, like in a bedroom drawer, Brodman says.
7 Check your lube.
If you use lube, be careful about what type you use, as some can break down condoms. “Make sure you are using latex-compatible lube, such as water-based lube, with latex condoms,” says Brodman. “Oils like vegetable oil, coconut oil, and petroleum jelly will weaken and damage condoms.”
8 Make sure you’re putting the condom on correctly.
This might sound obvious, but you should always double-check to make sure you’re using the correct technique when putting on condoms. You should be leaving room at the tip and putting it on on the right side up, and don’t open the package with your teeth or unroll the condom before putting it on. Review the situation and figure out what went wrong, and next time, take your time putting it on.
By Isadora Baum