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You’ve done everything possible to have safe sex. You bought condoms, you read the funny diagram instructions on the box and followed them to a tee. Maybe you practiced putting the condom on a banana. Or maybe you didn’t.
Either way, it failed, and you now could be facing pregnancy, herpes, or HIV (to name just a few possible outcomes).
Don’t panic. Here is your step-by-step plan for what to do next.
I’m writing these instructions for everyone: men and women, gay and straight. These are the exact steps I would take if I were in this situation. Feel free to follow my advice, or don’t. Totally up to you. This is just what I would do knowing what I know now and having gone through this experience myself (on three separate occasions…). I’m living proof that if you follow these steps everything will most likely turn out ok.
Step 1 – Stop sexing
The three times I’ve had sex and the condom failed (1 broke, 2 came off inside of me), I didn’t realize until it was too late. If you realize the condom is broken, missing or damaged in some way then stop what you’re doing immediately. I know it’s easy to say, “Meh, the damage is already done” and keep going. But you can still save yourself all the headache and drama that’s about to ensue by stopping the act the minute you realize something is wrong. Despite the skin-on-skin exposure, there’s still a chance you haven’t contracted anything, so quit before you do. The chances of you being safe and pregnancy-free diminish when you keep going.
Step 2 – Get the condom / ejaculate out
If the condom tears it’s likely folded up along the base of the penis. This is the most preferred situation because it means the condom is not stuck inside the rectum (i.e. ass) or vagina.
If the condom is nowhere to be seen, it’s likely stuck inside the rectum or vagina, and you’ll need to get it out.
Lie on your back, side or stomach and reach inside of you with one or two fingers and try to pull it out. If it helps, get your partner to help you. If you’re having trouble, try squatting with your feet flat on the floor and bear down with your vaginal or rectal muscles. If that doesn’t work trying propping your foot up on the toilet and reaching inside with your fingers.
It’s important that you relax and be patient. This has happened to me twice, and both times it took me 10+ minutes to get the condom out. Trust that you will get it out, you just need to be patient and keep trying. Otherwise, you’ll have to go to the Emergency Room and have a medical professional remove it. Condoms should not sit inside your body for more than a few hours as they can cause bacterial infections.
Do your best to get as much ejaculate (cum) out of your body as possible by squeezing it out with your muscles. Do not douche or shove anything up there as this can cause more problems (i.e. push the cum up further, increasing your chances of getting pregnant, or tearing parts of your rectum and making it more likely to get infected).
Step 3 – Morning after treatments
If you were successful at getting the condom out yourself and you or your partner run the risk of getting pregnant, high-tail it to an all-hours pharmacy and get the morning after pill at the prescription counter. The pharmacist will likely want to ask you loads of questions. Just be honest and tell them exactly what happened. If you’re in the UK where there are no 24 hr pharmacies, best go to A&E to get it.
Take the pill according to the instructions and wait it out. It’s important you do this as early as possible as the longer you put it off, the less likely it will work. (My husband and his ex took the morning after pill after about 24 hrs and it was not effective for them. I on the other hand have taken it three times, most within the span of a couple of hours, and never became pregnant. Every person is different, but you increase the likelihood of it working the faster you take it).
If the concern of HIV exposure is real, or you just want to be extra cautious (props to you) you can get a sort-of morning after pill for HIV prevention from a sexual health clinic or the Emergency Room. The PEP treatment is an emergency HIV prevention treatment that doesn’t cure HIV but stops exposure to HIV from becoming a life-long infection. You must take it within 72 hours for it to be effective, so go to the clinic straight away or the ER / A&E to get it.
Step 4 – Get tested
My friend Melissa only ever had sex with one guy: her on-again, off-again boyfriend Josh. She was on the pill so they never used condoms. She trusted him and bared her body to him. Then she got Chlamydia. He went away to college and came back at Christmas with more than just a beer gut. Merry Christmas Melissa, I got you Chlamydia!
I tell you this story so you stop being naive. More often than not, people don’t even realize they have an STI because they have no symptoms. HPV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Herpes can all be active in our bodies without us experiencing any kinds of symptoms. So when your boyfriend or girlfriend tells you they’re clean – don’t take their word for it, because they probably don’t even know they could be carrying something! The only way to ensure that you remain 100% healthy is to always block your body with condoms. That is the only way to have peace of mind when it comes to your health and sex.
The thing about getting tested is, not every infection is detectable right away. Some take days and others take weeks before even showing up in your body. I have a girlfriend who – remaining nameless – always has sex without a condom, and swears she gets tested after each and every incident. This is the most idiotic, high-risk, insane thing you can do. In all honesty – after learning about this behaviour, I made the conscious decision to cut her out of my life for good. I have no time for stupidity like that, and neither do you. But the point I want to raise is this: testing needs to be done strategically. You cannot go for one single test immediately after you have unprotected sex and presume that if the results are fine, you are.
Each type of infection has a different incubation period, meaning how long it takes before it shows up in your system. Therefore, you must wait a certain period after unprotected sex before getting tested, otherwise your efforts are wasted.
Here’s how long you’re supposed to wait to get tested for each of the most common STIs:
- Chlamydia – anytime from 1 week to 3 weeks
- Gonorrhoea – anytime from 2 days to 30 days
- Syphilis – anytime from 10 days to 3 months
- Herpes – anytime from 2 weeks to 3 months
- Hepatitis B – anytime from 3 weeks to 2 months
- Hepatitis C – anytime up to 6 months
- HIV – anytime from 4 weeks to 3 months
There’s not one single test to cover all of these possible infections either. You need to get separate tests for each one. And sometimes you need to ask to get tested for all of the above – don’t assume that testing at your local health clinic includes everything in this list. Be sure to ask for each and every one.
In an ideal world you’d go and get tested at the earliest window for each possible infection. But let’s be real, that’s not going to happen, who’s got the time?!
So, what I would personally do is this: I’d get organized with my diary and my local clinic, and schedule an appointment for two-weeks post-incident. That way I’ll be able to get tested for pregnancy, Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Syphilis, and Herpes all at once. Once I’m there, I’ll then inquire about the other tests (HIV) and make an appointment for those tests at the reception.
I’d Google “sexual health clinic” and see what’s the closest clinic to my area. I’d grab a pen and paper, find a private room, call them. I’d say the following:
Hi my name is Brooke. I’m calling because I’ve had unprotected sex and I need to come in and get tested for STIs and pregnancy. The incident happen [xx days ago] so I’d like to make an appointment for 2 weeks time. Is there anything I need to bring with me, like I.D.?
The earliest possible detection of pregnancy is via a blood test approximately 7-12 days after unprotected sex. I could pee on a stick, but home pregnancy tests are inaccurate until 21 days after unprotected sex. So I’ll make sure to get a blood test for pregnancy when I go to the clinic in two weeks.
Step 5 – Hurry up and wait
After I stopped having sex, got the condom out, took morning after contraception / HIV prevention, and made an appointment to get tested, all that’s left to do is wait. There’s nothing more I can do at this point to help myself. But what I can do is refrain from having unprotected sex again. If I did contract something I definitely don’t want to pass it on to others. Also, I can take this time to reflect on what happened with the condom – did my partner or I not put it on right? Do we need to watch youtube videos to make sure we do it right the next time?
I think everyone can agree that having a condom break on them is a massive pain in the ass. But if you’re diligent about doing the right things right away – like taking the morning after pill and getting tested at the earliest opportunity – then you will certainly minimize the long-term consequences of an otherwise unfortunate situation.
I hope you are as lucky as I have been. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve had the condom fail on me three times. The first time I had a backup method of birth control (the pill) and the other two times I took the morning after pill. I was lucky. My husband and his ex-girlfriend, not so lucky. They had to have an abortion during their final year of uni, and it was extremely stressful and time consuming (I’m going to get him to share his story in the coming weeks).
I know what I’ve said here can come across as very preachy, and most of the sex-ed / advice things you read will. But I want you to realize how important it is to practice safe sex and always use a condom, and when it fails on you – which it may because none of us are perfect and accidents happen – to act quickly and take the next steps very seriously. Early action can make a huge difference in the long-term of your health and life. Unwanted pregnancy, infections, and HIV are life-long consequences. Do your best to protect yourself as best as possible, that’s all I can ask.
If you found this post helpful let me know in the comments below.