If you’ve ever seen someone fill a condom up at the tap to make a water balloon, you know that they can go through a lot without breaking. I mean, that's kind of their primary job. But for whatever reason — maybe the condom’s expired, maybe your manicure snagged on it — sometimes the contraceptive does tear.
Although when used correctly, condoms are about 98% effective, one study of 544 men ages 18 to 54 found that 7.3% had experienced a condom breaking over the course of the year. Another study, this one of male and female college students, found that 29% of male appliers and 19% of female appliers had experienced a broken condom over the past three months. So: Not super common, but definitely not a total anomaly either.
How To Know If The Condom Broke
Pay attention to how it feels
If someone is wearing a condom on their penis, they should be able to feel it break, according to Planned Parenthood. But the receiver might not notice, and if the condom is on a strap-on (yes, you should be using condoms on shared sex toys), the person wearing it might not notice, either. If the person isn’t sure if they can tell a difference in sensation, Planned Parenthood suggests, “They can learn what it feels like by breaking condoms on purpose while masturbating.”
Touch to see if it’s still there
Both the penetrator and receiver can do this one: During sex, occasionally physically touch the base of the penis or dildo to make sure the condom is still intact.
What To Do If The Condom Breaks
Put on another one
If the condom breaks before the wearer comes, simply put on another one. But check to make sure that the whole pack isn't expired, suggests birth control resource Bedsider. And keep in mind that condoms shouldn't be exposed to any weird conditions, like extreme heat or cold. If it’s been sitting in a wallet for months? Probably best to just buy a new pack.
Consider emergency contraception
If you were having penis-in-vagina sex, especially if the wearer came (but even if they didn’t), consider emergency contraception. There are several brands of “morning-after pill” that you can take to prevent ovulation and minimize your chances of getting pregnant from the unprotected sex. Most, such as Plan B, are available over-the-counter without a prescription. A copper IUD also works as emergency contraception, though it’s a long-term birth control method, not a one-and-done thing.
Evaluate your HIV risk
Schedule an STI test
If either you or your partner hasn’t been tested recently, schedule an STI test at least two weeks after the day the condom broke. By this time, some common STIs, including gonorrhea and chlamydia, should be detectable if you have them. However, others take longer to be picked up by tests, so you may need a follow-up visit.
Watch for STI symptoms
Particularly in the next few months, be mindful of any STI symptoms, such as a change in the color or odor of discharge, itchy genitals, pain while peeing or during sex, nausea, fever, or a rash or blisters on or near your genitals. If you notice symptoms, get tested so you can see if you need to begin STI treatment.
Plan for next time
Read up on all things condoms to make sure that the break wasn’t the result of user error, such as storing them somewhere too hot, like a car’s glove compartment. If this happens frequently to you, you may be opening the contraceptives incorrectly — or if you’re wearing them, you may have the wrong size. If you haven’t been using lube, adding a drop of water- or silicone-based lube to the inside of the condom and more to the outside can reduce the risk of breakage. Plus, it can make sex feel more pleasurable, too.