Nothing sours a good sex sesh like a condom that breaks while you’re doing the deed. One second, it’s hot and “Oh, baby,” the next it’s “Oh, sh—” and a flood of worries about pregnancy and STIs.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take right away if you’re worried about STIs or want to avoid an Amazon baby registry. We talked with experts to break down everything you need to know if a love glove springs a leak.
Sperm come to the sex party with a single purpose: to swim upstream through the vagina, through the cervix, and into the uterus in search of an egg to fertilize. Fast action is essential.
- Go to the bathroom. “First, try to remove as much semen from the vagina as possible,” says Sarah Melancon, PhD, a sociologist, clinical sexologist, and sexuality and relationships expert for SexToyCollective.com. “Sitting on the toilet and pushing out can help any remaining semen exit the vagina.”
- Make yourself pee. This will help take care of swimmers outside the vagina.
- Get in the shower. Wash the external genitalia with soap and water. “Do not douche, or you risk pushing the semen deeper into the vagina,” says Melacon.
- We repeat. Do NOT douche.
- Use spermicide and fish out any leftover condom. “If you have spermicide on hand, this would be a time to insert some,” adds Carol Queen, PhD, staff sexologist with online sex-toy retailer Good Vibrations. And don’t forget to remove the broken condom, whether it’s intact or in pieces. You can almost always do this yourself — the vaginal canal is only 10–12 centimeters long, and the cervix blocks anything from going further.
- If the condom or any pieces are stuck, call your gyno.
Plan B and emergency contraception
What happens if you don’t realize your Trojan warrior has broken under pressure until after you’ve cuddled, ordered takeout, and binged a few episodes of “Outer Banks”?
Now it’s time to go to Plan B — and we mean literally, “Plan B,” emergency contraceptive (EC). You can get this hormonal EC pill over-the-counter (OTC) on an emergency run to your nearest pharmacy. These can be taken up to a few days after an oops and prevent pregnancy.
“Plan B does not abort pregnancy,” OB/GYN Dr. Heather Irobunda stresses. “It’s just a higher dose of the same hormones that are found in normal birth control pills.”
A copper IUD is also an option. “A copper IUD also can be used for emergency contraception for up to 5 days after sex as a preventative,” says Irobunda.
If a condom slips or breaks prior to ejaculation, carefully withdraw your member. You can then replace the fallen soldier and get back to business.
Remember, however, that precum — the clear liquid secreted from the penis prior to orgasm — can also cause pregnancy. So you’ll still want to take some of the precautions above.
Pregnancy isn’t the only concern when a condom breaks. There’s also the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Unlike pregnancy, there’s an STI risk with a broken condom during oral, anal, and vaginal sex.
- Again Do NOT douche. Don’t even think about using an enema. And using harsh soaps on your genitals or mouth isn’t going to help.
- Schedule STI testing. Call your doctor or an STI clinic to get testing lined up. “It’s important that both people get tested,” says Irobunda. “There’s not much you can do to prevent exposure at that point, but it’s important to know what’s going on.”
When to get tested
It’s important to wait at least 14 days after you think you might have contracted an STI.
If you think you know what you may have contracted, this chart can help:
|When to get tested (after exposure)
|at least 2 weeks
|at least 2 weeks
|at 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months
|if symptoms appear
|at least 3 weeks
|at least 3 weeks
It’s very possible you won’t have any STI symptoms if you contract one. But, be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- unusual discharge
- burning when you pee
- pain during sex
Call your doc right away if you notice any of these symptoms.
Call your doc immediately if you think you’ve been exposed to HIV.
If you or your partner has HIV, Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is the only preventive medication out there that can reduce your risk of contracting HIV. PEP must be taken 72 hours after exposure, and it is taken once or twice daily for at least 28 days. The sooner you take it, the better.
First, get over yourself, bro: it has nothing to do with the size or thrusting power of your Womb Raider. Here’s what’s up.
It’s defective AF. A tiny fraction of condoms leave the rubber factory defective.
User error. Common condom follies include:
- putting a condom on too late (Put it on before intercourse.)
- unrolling the condom before you put it on
- putting the condom on inside out (We get that one. It’s not like there’s a “this side faces out” label.)
- using your teeth to open the condom wrapper, puncturing the condom
- double bagging (Just don’t do it.)
You forgot to pinch when you grow an inch. A lot of times, the problem stems from forgetting the “pinch,” says Irobunda. “When the condom is on the tip of the penis you want to pinch the top before unraveling it to create a reservoir for the semen,” she says. Pinching also helps remove air from the condom. “If you don’t, during intercourse it can create pressure and cause the condom to break,” Irobunda says.
Using the wrong lube. Reach for a water or silicon based lube. “Never use oil based lubricant with latex condoms, which can damage and weaken the latex,” says Queen.
It’s been stored all wrong. Don’t break out that condom that’s been in your wallet so long it’s worn an O-ring in the leather. Breakage “will be much less likely to happen if the condom has been stored properly (intact package, out of heat or sunlight),” adds Queen.
It’s expired. Condom material can degrade over time, making breakage easier. Always check expiration dates.
How durable your condom is depends in part on what it’s made out of. Polyurethane condoms — your classic “rubbers” — are thinner than latex condoms and may provide a more “natural” feel during sex. A 2003 study shows that polyurethane condoms can slip off or break 2.5 times more often than latex ones.
If condoms were basketball players, their shooting percentage would be all-world. As birth control, however, they’re more like Shaq at the free-throw line — a toss up. Counting both breakage and slippage, “The condom failure rate is about 10 percent,” says Irobunda.
Overall, condoms are only 85 percent effective in real-world use, versus 98 percent when used perfectly. (Maybe testers aren’t bumping ugly with a whole lot of enthusiasm?)
Sperm are microscopic little wigglers that can stick around for up to 5 days waiting to pounce (well, swim). So the risk of getting pregnant if a condom breaks is relatively the same as if you weren’t wearing one at all. Even a pinhole is big enough to release the sex hounds in pursuit of an egg to fertilize.
That said, a reminder about basic biology helps. Women can only get pregnant during about a 6-day window each month when they’re ovulating.
Using birth control is about a 99 percent effective for preventing pregnancy (though there’s still a risk of contracting STIs).
There are no guarantees, of course, but remember these tips to avoid future condom catastrophes:
- Condoms aren’t one-size-fits-all. Make sure you get the right fit.
- Check the expiration date (it’s printed on every individual condom wrapper).
- Make sure the condom isn’t dried out or worn.
- Use one condom at a time — save the “double bagging” for the post-coital snack run to the supermarket.
- Don’t use your teeth to open the condom package. Not only are teeth a hazard during oral sex, they also can poke holes in condoms.
- Use water- or silicone-based lube. Never oil-based.
- Roll the condom all the way down to the base of the penis.
- After ejaculation, hold onto the base of the condom while pulling out to avoid slippage and spillage.
- Never reuse a condo (because eew).