What to do if a condom breaks
Reviewed by our clinical team
A condom breaking during sex might be alarming, but there’s no need to panic. Instead, you and your partner should deal with the situation quickly, and calmly to reduce your risk.
- First, dispose of the broken condom in a bin (don’t flush it down the toilet). If it’s trapped inside the vagina or anus, try to carefully remove it.
- If you’ve been having vaginal sex, the female partner can go and have a wee and let any fluid including semen run out. She shouldn’t douche or try to wash inside the vagina.
- If you’ve been having anal sex, the person receiving the anal sex should go to the toilet and bear down (as if you were trying to pass a stool) to try and expel sperm. They shouldn’t douche or try to wash inside the rectum.
- If you’ve been having oral sex, the person giving the oral sex should spit out any sperm and then rinse their mouth. They shouldn’t brush their teeth or floss for at least one hour.
What should we do in the next 72 hours?
In the first three days after unprotected sex, you may need to think about:
You should seek out emergency contraception if all of the following is true:
- You’re a heterosexual couple
- The condom has broken during vaginal sex
- The female partner isn’t using any other contraception
- You don’t want to get pregnant
Emergency contraception is available in two forms: the morning after pill and the emergency coil.
One common type of the morning after pill (Levonorgestrel) must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex to be effective. ellaOne and the emergency coil can be taken/used up to 120 hours (five days) after unprotected sex, but it’s still a good idea to get it as soon as possible.
You can get emergency contraception from contraception clinics and sexual health clinics, as well as GP surgeries, pharmacies, young people’s services and our online morning after pill clinic. The emergency coil will need to be fitted by a healthcare professional.
Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for HIV
You should seek out post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) if your sexual partner is HIV-positive (or vice versa). This treatment can prevent HIV infection as soon as possible after sex. The latest you can start PEP is 72 hours after sex.
PEP is available from sexual health clinics, HIV clinics, and A&E departments – it’s not routinely prescribed by GPs. You can work out if you need PEP by filling out this short questionnaire from the Terrence Higgins Trust.
What should we do in the next two to 12 weeks?
After about two weeks, sexually transmitted infections can be detected in a test, which means at this point you and your partner can get STI checks.
Different infections have different “window periods” for testing:
- Chlamydia and gonorrhoea can show up after two weeks
- HIV can show up after four weeks
- Syphilis can show up after 12 weeks
If you develop any symptoms before the window period for testing has begun, or if there’s a very high chance that you’ve been infected, you don’t need to delay. Instead, visit your GP or a sexual health clinic. They may offer early testing and start you on treatment before you get your results – this is a fairly common practice with chlamydia.
If a condom breaks, what are the chances of getting an STI?
It really depends on the situation!
One important thing to remember is that STIs aren’t just passed on through penetrative sex. Some STIs can be transmitted through intimate touch and oral sex. Some simply require skin-to-skin contact, e.g. genital warts or herpes.
If the sex is a bit rough, particularly if it causes any bleeding, or if you or your partner have any cuts or grazes on the genitals or in the mouth the risk of getting certain STIs is much higher. HIV or hepatitis can be passed more easily that way.
Another thing to remember is that some STIs don't cause any symptoms, which means it’s not as simple as checking for discharge or a rash before or after you have sex. If you haven’t been checked recently, it’s possible that you or your partner has an infection and don’t realise it.
The general rule is that if you’ve had unprotected sex and you aren’t sure of your partner’s STI status, you should get tested.
If a condom breaks, what are the chances of pregnancy?
Again, it depends on the situation! However, there’s a risk of pregnancy even if the male partner didn’t ejaculate inside the vagina.
If the female partner is using birth control like the pill, the implant, or the coil there shouldn’t be a risk of pregnancy. If she isn’t using birth control and she hasn't been through the menopause yet, there’s a risk of pregnancy no matter where she’s at in her menstrual cycle.
Even if she’s having her period or has just finished her period, there’s still a risk of pregnancy.
Can condoms break without you knowing?
Yes, it’s possible for a condom to break without you realising. That’s why it’s really important to check the condom once you’ve finished having sex.
A good tip is to switch to a fresh condom if you’ve been having sex for more than 30 minutes. Friction can weaken the condom material and make it more likely to break as time goes on.
How can I check for an STI when a condom breaks?
The best way to check for an STI is to get tested – see the above section, “What should I do in the next two to 12 weeks?”.
You can get tested for free by visiting a sexual health clinic. You can also visit your GP, but they will probably refer you to a clinic.
If you’d rather test yourself in the comfort of your own home, you can order a home test kit from Online Doctor. We stock a range of kits, including:
- Female test for trichomonas, chlamydia, and gonorrhoea
- Male test for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, and HIV
- Man to man (MSM) test for chlamydia and gonorrhoea
- HIV test
You should also keep an eye out for any new symptoms that might point to an infection. Common STI symptoms include:
- Unusual discharge from the vagina or penis
- Pain when urinating
- Pelvic pain
- Pain in the testicles
- Bleeding from the vagina between periods or after sex
- Tingling or itching around the genitals or anus
- Fleshy growths, painful sores, or blisters around the genitals or anus
- A rash around the genitals
- Discharge from the rectum
- Pain or discomfort in the rectum
Find out more by visiting our sexual health advice hub.