What Should I Do If a Condom Breaks?

Panic-Free Tips to Reduce Your Risk of HIV


Accidents happen. There's few accidents, though, that can cause the kind of anxiety you may feel when a condom breaks during sex. If you're ever in this situation, don't freak out—there are concrete steps you can take to reduce your and your partner's risk of HIV infection.

If a condom breaks during genital intercourse, stop immediately and pull out carefully. Avoid panicking, if you can. Instead, take the time to calmly assess what just happened, asking yourself and your partner:

  • Is the condom still on the penis or has it disappeared inside the vagina or rectum?
  • Were you just starting to have sex or were you near the point of ejaculation?
  • Did the breakage happen after ejaculation?

If you're relatively confident that there was no exchange of bodily fluids—say, if the condom broke just as you were starting to have intercourse—then you may decide to start again with a new condom.

Take the time (if you haven't already) to check the expiration date on the condom and be sure to use an approved water- or silicone-based lubricant.

Sometimes, of course, you may not realize that the condom has broken until after the sexual encounter is over (which can feel even more scary). If you think that semen or other bodily fluids may have escaped or made contact, you can wash the genital areas gently with soap and water. It's best not to douche, scrub, or use a harsh disinfectant of any sort.

Douching can strip away protective bacteria from mucosal tissues of the vagina. It can also physically disrupt the delicate membranes. Disinfectants can also damage mucosal cells and cause an inflammatory response that promotes (rather than inhibits) HIV infection.

If there has been ejaculation, try to remove as much semen from the vagina or rectum as possible. Women can do this by squatting down and pushing with their vaginal muscles, almost like trying to have a bowel movement.

If you engaged in anal sex, sit on the toilet and bear down to expel as much semen as you can. Feel free to wipe and rinse, but take care that you don't stress the delicate tissues of the vagina or rectum.

If Bodily Fluids Are Exchanged

If an exposure has occurred after the condom broke (or if you are in any doubt), go immediately to your nearest clinic or emergency room, ideally with your partner. You can then discuss what happened, sharing as much detail as possible with the intake doctor or nurse.

They can advise you whether you should begin HIV post-prophylaxis therapy (PEP), a 28-day course of antiretroviral drugs that may reduce your risk of getting HIV. Before treatment is prescribed, a rapid HIV test will be given to assess whether you and/or your partner has HIV. Even if both tests are negative, you may still want to proceed with treatment if there is any chance that you are within the window period, during which HIV tests can sometimes deliver a false negative result.

PEP should be started ideally within in the first 24 hours after an exposure. It can, however, be prescribed within 48 (and maybe 72) hours of exposure.

How to Reduce Condom Breakage

  • Never use an expired condom or one that has been stored in either hot or cold temperatures (such as in your glove compartment or wallet).
  • Never wear two condoms at once—the friction caused by the two barriers can cause a condom to break.
  • Never use oil-based lubricants, such as Vaseline, and avoid Nonoxynol-9 products which can inflame vaginal and rectal tissues.
  • Use plenty of lube when having intercourse.
  • Make certain that you are using properly sized condoms. Don't go too big (which can cause a condom to slip off) or too small (which can cause a condom to break).
  • Never reuse a condom.

A Word From Verywell

Condoms are only part of an informed prevention strategy. If you have HIV or are at risk of contracting it, it's a good idea to reduce your number of sex partners, avoid alcohol or other substances that can impair your judgment, and be conscientious about who you have intercourse with.

In addition to condoms, consider taking HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a single daily pill that can reduce your risk of HIV by 72 percent or more. When used with other tools of prevention, your risk can be reduced considerably. 

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Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). "PREEXPOSURE PROPHYLAXI 404S FOR THE PREVENTION OF HIV INFECTION IN THE UNITED STATES." Washington, D.C.; 2014.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).. "Updated Guidelines for Antiretroviral Postexposure Prophylaxis After Sexual, Injection Drug Use, or Other Nonoccupational Exposure to HIV— United States." Atlanta, Georgia; 2016.