Broken Condom – What You Need to Know

Condoms are an effective form of barrier contraception and if used correctly can be 98% effective in preventing pregnancy. Condoms also protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV, the virus which can lead to AIDS. Condoms are not 100% effective however and they can occasionally break or split during sexual intercourse, leaving you at risk of pregnancy or contracting an STI. However, there are steps that you can take to minimise the damage if a condom breaks.

An open condom packet on a yellow background
Dr Simran Deo Medical Editor

Medically reviewed by

Dr Simran Deo

Last reviewed: 28 Nov 2019

What to Do When a Condom Breaks

You may not be aware that the condom has broken until after you have had sex. However, if the condom breaks or splits while you’re having sex and you are aware of it happening, stop straight away and withdraw the penis. Please note, that you may have been exposed to sperm even if your partner hasn't ejaculated, although the risk is lower. You may want to consider emergency contraception.

If he has already ejaculated, go to the toilet and pass urine to clear out any sperm that may be around your urethra. This won’t be enough to ensure that you are protected from pregnancy or an STI and there are further steps that you can take:

If you’re worried that you could be pregnant, see your doctor or go to your local sexual health clinic to ask about getting emergency contraception. Alternatively, you can order the morning after pill online. The morning after pill works best when it is taken as soon as possible after sexual intercourse, although it can be used up to 120 hours (5 days) after sex. The coil can be fitted up to 5 days after unprotected sex to help prevent pregnancy. You can also order it using our online doctor service.

If your partner has not recently been tested for STIs then it is advisable to get tested if the condom has broken during sex. Sometimes you may not develop any symptoms so you could be unaware that you are infected and potentially pass it on to your sexual partner. It is important to visit your doctor or sexual health clinic to get tested for STIs so that you can be treated and avoid further potentially serious problems caused by infection. If you prefer to get tested without seeing a doctor, you can order an sti test kit online.

How to Get Emergency Contraception

There are two types of emergency contraception - the morning after pill and the coil. Women over the age of 15 can buy the morning after pill over the counter or can buy it online in complete confidence. You can also ask your doctor to fit you with a coil. It is important to get emergency contraception as soon as possible after sex if the condom has broken.

No emergency contraceptive is 100% effective, but the sooner you take it, the more effective it is at preventing pregnancy.

Levonelle and EllaOne are two different types of morning after pill that can be bought online. Levonelle must be taken within 72 hours if you have had unprotected sex. EllaOne can be taken within 120 hours of unprotected sex. The sooner you take the morning after pill, the more effective it will be at preventing pregnancy.

The contraceptive coil is another form of emergency contraception that can be used after unprotected sex. Visit your doctor as soon as possible after you have had unprotected sex to ask for a coil to be fitted if it is suitable for you. Coils can be effective as a form of emergency contraception if they are fitted within 5 days of having unprotected sex.

Both the morning after pill and the coil are hormonal contraceptives which work by making it more difficult for any sperm to reach an egg. They make the lining of the womb unsuitable for a fertilised egg to implant. The morning after pill may also prevent ovulation, meaning that there is no egg present for a sperm to fertilise and cause a pregnancy.

If a condom breaks during sex, it is important to act as quickly as possible to get the morning after pill, or make an appointment with your doctor to ask about having a coil fitted.

Should I Get Tested for a Sexually Transmitted Infection?

Although emergency contraception can prevent you from getting pregnant after having unprotected sex, it cannot protect you against STIs. Unprotected sex can lead to STIs if your sexual partner or you are infected.

It is very important to get tested for STIs even if you or your partner feels well. Sometimes people can be unaware that they are infected because some STIs show no symptoms.

If left untreated, STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea can have serious implications for your health. Make sure that you get tested if you have unprotected sex, even if you believe that you are not at risk.

How to Get Tested

You can get tested for sexually transmitted infections in a number of places:

  • At a sexual health, genitourinary medicine (GUM) or community contraceptive clinic (call 0300 123 7123 for information about clinics near you)
  • GP surgeries (not all surgeries may offer STI testing though so check first)
  • Some pharmacies offer STI testing for chlamydia

You can also buy STI test kits confidentially online from Superdrug Online Doctor. Depending on which kit you buy, they can test for a number of sexually transmitted infections including chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes and other common infections. You may need to wait before you get tested as many STIs can’t be detected straight away.

How to Prevent Reduce the Chances of a Condom Breaking

Condoms are a very effective form of contraception as long as they are used correctly. However they can react to certain things which may make them weaker and more likely to break or split. Make sure that you store condoms away from heat or light. Never open the packet with anything sharp, and this includes opening it with your teeth. Even the tiniest hole in the condom increases the risk of pregnancy and contracting an STI.

To use a condom correctly and help to prevent a chance of it breaking:

  • Open the foil packet carefully with your fingers
  • Hold the tip gently between your forefinger and thumb (this makes sure that you are applying it the right way around and that no air gets trapped, which can cause it to split)
  • Put the condom over the penis tip
  • Keep squeezing the end of the condom and roll it down over the length of the penis, right to the base.
  • Make sure you are using the right size and the condom fits - this will make it less likely that it breaks.

Condoms don’t last forever - make sure that you check the expiry date before use as they can weaken over time.

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