Medically reviewed by Janet Brito, Ph.D., LCSW, CST — Written by Simone Scully on September 25, 2020
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You aren’t the only one to have a condom break on you.
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In an older study, 7.3 percent of the men surveyed said they had experienced a condom breaking over the course of a year.
In other research, 29 percent of male appliers of condoms and 19 percent of female appliers reported experiencing at least one broken condom in the previous 3 months.
Usually when condoms break, they really break.
You’ll probably feel it break or see the damage when you or your partner pull away.
That said, it is possible for a condom to break without you realizing it — but try not to worry too much. This is rare, especially if you’re using and storing the condom correctly.
It’s a good idea to quickly inspect the condom when you put it on. Sometimes condoms break in the packaging or while they’re being put in place.
If you’re the one wearing the condom, you can typically feel it break. There will be an immediate change in sensation. If that happens, tell your partner, pull out, and inspect the condom.
If you’re using a dildo or aren’t the one wearing the condom, you may or may not feel the break happen.
In this case, it’s a good idea to periodically check the condom while you’re having sex — say, when you’re changing position. You should be able to see or feel a break.
However, many people don’t notice that a condom broke until after they’re done having sex. That’s why it’s important that you check the condom when you remove it for any obvious holes or leaks.
If you don’t see anything, there may still be a microtear
Microtears are tiny tears not usually visible by the naked eye that could still let viruses and sperm through.
In some cases, microtears can be a manufacturer defect, though that’s extremely rare. Manufacturers put condoms through a series of tests to monitor for breaks and defects before selling them.
More often, user error causes microtears. Common mistakes that could lead to microtears include:
using a condom that was stored in an unsafe place, like a walletusing a condom that was exposed to large temperature shifts, moisture, or direct sunlightusing a condom without lubrication
If time has passed and you’re worried about pregnancy
Even if the condom didn’t break, pregnancy is still possible. That’s because condoms don’t work all of the time.
If used perfectly, condoms worn on the penis are 98 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. If used incorrectly, their effectiveness drops to about 85 percent.
Internal condoms are 95 percent effective when used perfectly, though that can drop to 79 percent if used incorrectly.
Take emergency contraception (EC)
If you had sex within the last 5 days, you can take an EC pill, which delivers a high dose of hormones to delay ovulation and prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in your uterus.
They’re up to 95 percent effective at preventing pregnancy if used within 5 days, though it’s important to remember that the EC pill works best the sooner you take it.
Many EC pills, like Plan B, are available over the counter (OTC).
You may also consider getting a copper IUD, which is 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy if you have it inserted by a doctor within 5 days.
It works by releasing copper into the uterus and fallopian tube to cause an inflammatory reaction that’s toxic to sperm and eggs.
Figure out where you are in your cycle
You can only get pregnant during ovulation, which occurs within a narrow window of 5 to 6 days each month.
If you have a regular menstrual cycle, ovulation usually happens around day 14. You’re most likely to get pregnant in the 4 days leading up to ovulation, on the day of ovulation, and the day after ovulation.
Take an OTC pregnancy test
On the first day of your missed period — or when you’d expect a period to occur, if menstruation is absent or irregular — take an OTC pregnancy test. It won’t be accurate before that day.
You’ll get the most accurate result if you wait 1 week after your period before taking the test.
Condoms are the best way to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. But they’re not 100 percent effective.
Asses your HIV risk and take PEP
Start by talking to your partner about when they last got tested for HIV. If they were recently tested, the risk of contraction may be lower.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that it can sometimes take multiple tests to accurately diagnose HIV.
Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is a preventive medication that can help reduce your risk for contracting HIV.
If you think you might have been exposed, talk to your doctor about PEP as soon as possible. PEP must be started within 72 hours of potential exposure.
Schedule an STI test
You can get tested at your primary care physician’s office, a health clinic, or Planned Parenthood health centers.
Testing is often free or can be done for a low cost, depending on the testing site, your income level, and whether you have insurance coverage.
Most STIs have an incubation period of at least 2 to 4 weeks, so talk to your provider about when you should make an appointment.
There are a number of things you can do to increase the effectiveness of your condom and minimize the risk of it breaking.
Be sure to buy the correct condom size
Tearing and breaking is often a sign that the condom was too small.
If the condom slipped off during sex, it’s probably too big.
If you’re wearing a condom on your penis or dildo, it should fit snugly and not move freely. It’s a good idea to try a few different types and sizes until you find one that fits you well.
Check the expiration date before using it
Old condoms are more likely to break.
Open the wrapper carefully
Never use your teeth or scissors to open the packaging. This can puncture or tear the condom.
Make sure you put the condom on correctly
External condoms can be used for vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
Check it for damage, then hold the rim of the condom in one hand, pinch the tip with your thumb and forefinger, and roll the condom down your penis or dildo.
Internal condoms can be used for vaginal or anal sex. Get in a comfortable position, like lying on the bed, before putting the condom in.
If you’re putting it in your anus, remove the inner ring and push the condom in with your finger.
If you’re putting it in your vagina, leave the ring on and squeeze together the sides of the inner ring at the closed end. Then slide it inside.
You should push the inner ring into your vagina as far as it can go until it reaches your cervix. Rest the outer ring of the condom on your vulva and hold it in place during intercourse.
If the outer ring goes into the vagina during intercourse, be sure to pull it back out to prevent leakage.
Never use 2 condoms together at once
Never use two condoms on your penis or dildo, and never use an internal condom and external condom together.
Both are designed to be used on their own. Doubling up won’t give you extra protection. In fact, it could increase your chances of damaging one or both.
Using a little lube before inserting an internal condom can make it easier to put in.
It’s also OK to use a little lube on your penis before putting an external condom on, but don’t use much. It can cause the condom to slip off.
Also use lube on the outside of the condom. Just make sure it’s the right kind of lube. Only use water- or silicone-based ones, never oil-based. Oil-based lubes can weaken the condom material.
Always store condoms properly
Keep condoms away from heat, cold, and direct sunlight, which can weaken the material that condoms are made of and increase the risk of breakage.
Moisture and humidity — like in a bathroom — can also damage condoms, so be sure to store them in a cool, dry place.