What Should I Do if the Condom Breaks?

Try these "morning after" solutions for STD exposure and pregnancy risk.
Accidents happen: In moments of passion, a condom worn incorrectly (or past its expiration date) can break or slip off, putting you at risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as HIV and—if you're a woman—pregnancy.

Morning-after HIV prevention
After such an accident, you and your partner should get tested for STDs, including HIV, as soon as possible. If you have been exposed to the HIV virus, ask for postexposure prophylaxis (PEP), a "morning after" treatment for HIV that may prevent infection. The treatment is a monthlong course of HIV (antiretroviral) medications that are most effective if you start them right away—but may still work up to 72 hours after exposure. Side effects can include extreme nausea and fatigue.

To find PEP, call a doctor, a health clinic, an AIDS service organization, or a health department, or visit your local emergency room.

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Morning-after pregnancy prevention
If you are a woman worried about unwanted pregnancy, consider following your condom accident with Plan B. The high-dose birth control pill is available over-the-counter (it's also known as emergency contraception, or EC) and can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours. Plan B is most effective when taken right away, and taking it within 24 hours is encouraged. Many women's health organizations recommend purchasing it before you need it, so that it's readily available if you ever do. Call a doctor, a health clinic, a pharmacy, or a Planned Parenthood office, or place an overnight order from Drugstore.com.

Plan B's side effects may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fatigue, headache, and menstrual changes. If you experience severe abdominal pain, see a doctor. If your period is more than a week late after taking Plan B, you might be pregnant and should get tested.

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Lead writer: Nick Burns
Last Updated: April 14, 2008

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