Here's what to do if the condom breaks (don't panic)
I was 16 the first time it happened. I had just finished having sex with my boyfriend and then it happened — the “Oh shit.” moment.
Those “Oh shit.” moments are hard to miss. An immediate knot forms in your stomach and the tingles of panic began to form. The condom had broken — at some point, it was unclear when, and my boyfriend started freaking the fuck out. Saying he wasn’t great with this stuff would be a huge understatement. Despite being three years older than I was, he refused to ever buy condoms or talk about buying condoms because it made him too uncomfortable. Basically, I made terrible relationship decisions. (I was a teenager, don't judge me.)
But even as an adult, a broken condom can be incredibly panic-inducing. You feel like your safety net has disappeared and, whether it’s a one night stand or someone you’ve been dating for years, the anxiety is real. So, what should you do if the condom breaks? Well, do your best to keep your cool and take a few important steps.
If you notice the condom break during sex
Stop having sex. OK, that’s step one. If you have another condom, you may want to put that on and have another go — any damage is already done, so to speak, so if you feel like carrying on, that’s your call. If, on the other hand, you feel panicky and like the mood has been totally killed, that’s OK too.
Now, it’s time to think ahead. If your condom has broken, the safest thing to do is get an STI test. You may really trust your partner and maybe you were only using the condom to prevent pregnancy, but it’s crucial to remember that not only do a lot of people get STIs when they think that they’re in a faithful relationship but aren’t, you can even get STIs in a faithful relationship. Because a lot of STIs are asymptomatic, you may assume that your partner is clean when you don’t see any visible symptoms — or you might assume the same thing about yourself. But you can still be carrying something, so when in doubt, always get tested.
If you notice the condom broke after you finished
If you don’t notice the condom has broken until after, a lot of the above still applies. The safest option is to get an STI test. But there’s also a chance you’ll want to get Plan B and/or take a pregnancy test.
The morning after pill is a very effective emergency contraceptive. These levonorgestrel pills can actually be taken up to five days after unprotected sex, but they become less effective the longer you wait — so it’s best to do it as soon as possible. In fact, if you use it within three days then you can lower your chance of pregnancy by 75 to 89 percent, according to Planned Parenthood. There are different brands, like Plan B One-Step, Take Action, My Way, and After Pill which all use levonorgestrel as a base for emergency contraception. You should be able to get one of these at your local pharmacy, but you may prefer to visit a family planning service or your local Planned Parenthood. If you don’t get your period in a few weeks after the pill, it’s best to take a pregnancy test.
If you’re someone who tends to worry and likes to plan in advance (*volunteers as tribute*), in some areas you can order the morning after pill online, so you have it on-hand in case you need it.
Be careful, even if your male partner didn't finish
Say you noticed the condom breaking before your partner finished or that they didn’t finish at all — if your partner has a penis, you still need to be careful. Pre-cum (or pre-ejaculate, if you’re fancy), doesn’t contain sperm in itself, but some men release a little bit of semen with their pre-cum — meaning, yes, in rare cases pre-cum can get you pregnant. It’s definitely not the norm, but better to be safer than sorry. Some people might not want to go through with the morning after pill if there was no ejaculate — that’s your call — but you need to know that pregnancy is a possibility.
Communicate your needs
It’s completely natural to have a practical approach to a condom breaking — I totally did. It was all, “What are the next steps? What do I do now?” When I’m nervous, finding practical steps makes me feel better. But as it can be a panic-inducing, emotional experience, it’s important to acknowledge the emotional side of it as well. If this was during sex with a partner, you may feel a little wary or nervous about having sex again the next time and it might affect the mood. That’s OK. Plus, often there’s an unfair expectation on women to deal with the side effects of things like a condom breaking singlehandedly, so if that’s not OK with you then ask the other party to step up — it takes two to tango, after all. Just make sure that you’re both touching base about how you feel and talking through any nerves or changes that have come out of the experience. If you need a little time, that’s totally fine.
Having a condom break can feel like a quick punch in the gut and it can definitely send you into panic mode. But the truth is, it happens — and there are steps you can take to mitigate any risks. The three areas you need to focus on are STI risks, pregnancy risks, and then how you’ve been affected emotionally. Give those three things the time and energy they need and you’ll make sure that all of your bases are covered.