What to Do If a Condom Breaks

Steps to Take to Prevent HIV Infection or Pregnancy

condom

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Few accidents bring on the kind of panic that a condom breaking during sex can cause. After all, that thin sheath of latex or polyurethane is often the only thing protecting two intimate partners from a sexually transmitted infection or an unwanted pregnancy—or both, depending on the situation.

Though in the moment a broken condom can invoke fear of serious repercussions, it's more than likely that no harm will be done if the situation is dealt with promptly. It may also provide an opportunity to review how to properly choose and use condoms to reduce the risk of breakage in the future.

Immediate Steps

If a condom breaks during intercourse, stop immediately and assess with your partner what has happened by considering three questions:

  • 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 sure the condom broke after ejaculation and that there was an exchange of semen or other bodily fluids, try to remove as much semen from the vagina or rectum as possible. Women can expel semen from the vagina by squatting and pushing with their vaginal muscles (as if trying to have a bowel movement).

Both men and women who were engaged in receptive anal sex when ejaculation took place can discharge semen and other fluids by sitting on the toilet and bearing down.

Afterward, the genital area can be gently washed with soap and water. Do not douche, scrub, or use a harsh disinfectant.

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

Preventing HIV Infection

If you know, or even suspect, that fluids were exchanged as a result of a condom breaking during sex and your HIV status or that of your partner is positive or unknown, the ideal next move is to go to the nearest clinic or emergency room with your partner.

Explain to the intake doctor or nurse exactly what has happened. You'll likely be given a rapid HIV test to assess whether you and/or your partner has HIV. Even if both tests are negative, you may still be advised to start, a 28-day course of antiretroviral medication, a combination drug containing emtricitabine and tenofovir available as either Truvada or Descovy.

This medication is used to help treat HIV infection and works by slowing the spread of the virus in the body. When given to prevent HIV infection, it's called HIV post-prophylaxis therapy (PEP). 

Although ideally PEP should be started within 24 hours pf possible exposure to HIV, it often is still effective if prescribed within 48 (and maybe 72) hours of exposure.

Preventing Pregnancy

Pregnancy is the other potential consequence of condom breakage when another form of contraception is not being used. For a woman in this situation, emergency contraception can effectively prevent pregnancy.

There are several options: Two so-called "morning-after pills" and a particular type of intrauterine device (IUD):

  • Plan B One-Step (levonorgestrel): Available over the counter, this pill is in a class of drugs called progestins. It works by preventing ovulation or preventing an egg from being fertilized by sperm; it may also change the uterine lining. It is a single-dose contraceptive to be taken within 72 hours (three days). There are numerous generic versions of Plan B One-Step, including Next Choice One DoseAfterPillMy Way, and Take Action.
  • Ella (ulipristal acetate): Also a single-dose contraceptive, Ella requires a prescription. It works by delaying ovulation or preventing it, or by changing the lining of the uterus. It can be taken within five days, but the sooner the better.
  • ParaGard IUD T-380A: This T-shaped contraceptive device is wrapped in copper, which it releases in tiny amounts to prevent pregnancy. It does this by interfering with the movement of sperm toward an egg and by making changes in the uterine lining. If inserted by a doctor within five days, ParaGard can lower the risk of pregnancy by 99.9%.

Preventing Condom Breakage

  • Never use an expired condom or one that has been stored in either hot or cold temperatures (such as a wallet or the glove compartment of a car).
  • Don't double up on condoms: Wearing two at once creates friction that can cause one of them to break.
  • Never use oil-based lubricants, such as Vaseline, and avoid Nonoxynol-9 products which can inflame vaginal and rectal tissues. Look for an approved water- or silicone-based lubricant and use plenty of it.
  • If you're male, make certain you're using properly sized condoms. A too-large condom could easily slip off; one that's too small is more likely to break.
  • Never reuse a condom.

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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.
  1. PrEP | HIV Basics | HIV/AIDS | CDC. Cdc.gov. Updated October 17, 2019.

  2. Chakraborty D, Maity A, Jha T, Mondal N. Spermicidal and Contraceptive Potential of Desgalactotigonin: A Prospective Alternative of Nonoxynol-9PLoS ONE. 2014;9(9):e107164. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0107164

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