What should I do if a condom breaks or comes off?

Condoms, when used correctly, are very good at stopping STIs from getting passed on when having vaginal, anal or oral sex. They also do a brilliant job at preventing unwanted pregnancy. But it’s an unfortunate fact that condoms can rip, break or come off completely, without you noticing. If this happens, here’s what you should do to protect yourself and your partner.

Prevent pregnancy

If condoms are your only type of contraception, and you’re not using another method like the pill, then emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy after sex. You need to get emergency contraception within 5 days (120 hours) of having sex for it to work effectively.

You can take emergency contraception pills (also known as morning-after pills) or have a non-hormonal coil fitted.

To get the morning-after pill, you can

Prevent STIs

Even a small tear in a condom can mean there’s a chance of getting an STI. Infections do not always show symptoms, so the only way to be sure if you have one or not is with a test. But you should not test immediately - STIs take a few weeks to show up in tests, so if you do a test too soon, you will not get an accurate result.

If you were having sex with a new partner, you have not done a test for a while or you do not know the STI status of your partner, get tested at the right time to rule out common infections.

  • gonorrhoea and chlamydia tests are accurate 2 weeks (14 days) after sexual contact

  • HIV tests is accurate at least 7 weeks (45 days) after sexual contact

  • syphilis test is accurate at 12 weeks (90 days) after sexual contact

Prevent HIV

If the condom breaking has put you at risk of HIV, for example you know your partner is HIV positive with a detectable viral load, you should look into getting PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis). This medicine can stop the virus from developing if you start it within 72 hours of sex.

You can get PEP from your local sexual health clinic or your nearest A&E department

Can you stop condoms from breaking?

Condoms are very rigorously tested to make sure they are strong, safe and keep you protected. Studies have found that only 0.4% of condoms break during sex. Using condoms correctly reduces the chances of tearing or breaking, this means:

  • Do not use any lube or other products that have oil in. This can weaken condoms. So can the thrush treatment, clotrimazole cream.

  • Check the expiry date on the packaging and never use a condom that’s past its expiry date.

  • When you roll on a condom, pinch the tip to stop any air getting trapped

  • Keep them away from heat and light, store them in a cool, dark place - like your bedside drawer

  • Don’t open them with anything sharp (like scissors, or your teeth)

  • Get the right fit - condoms usually come in a range of sizes so check you are using the right size

Published on: 07 February 2024