Surprise! Now the fun really begins.

Anthea Levi
November 15, 2017

When a friend recently told me she peed out a condom, I had many questions. How long had it been stuck inside her? (A few days.) How did she not realize it never come out? (A few too many drinks.) Why didn't her partner notice? (Alcohol again.) So I had to know, is it common for condoms to go MIA during sex?

“It’s not unheard of,” says Alyssa Dweck, MD, New York–based ob-gyn and co-author of The Complete A to Z for Your V ($20, amazon.com). “There are times when I go to do an exam and lo and behold, I find a condom inside the vagina.”

According to Dr. Dweck, if a guy loses his erection while his penis is inside his partner's vagina, the condom can slip off, fold up, and become stuck high inside her body. And it can actually stay there without her noticing—sometimes for days.

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“Unlike a forgotten tampon, a retained condom doesn’t usually cause a foul odor or any infections," Dr. Dweck tells Health. "If you don’t know it’s there, it's possible you’ll eventually have a discharge or might feel itchy or irritated.” The amount of time it takes to detect these potential symptoms varies, says Dr. Dweck. Some women might notice that things feel "off" below the belt within a day, while others might take longer.

Even though the lost condom probably won't pose an immediate health risk, there are other things to think about—like pregnancy and STDs. “If you realize a condom has fallen off inside of you and you’re counting on it for birth control, that’s not good, since leakage could potentially cause pregnancy,” warns Dr. Dweck. If getting pregnant is something you’re concerned about, you might want to take emergency contraption—though you need to act fast, as its effectiveness decreases in a matter of days.

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When it comes to STDs, you'll need to take action as well, especially if you don't know for sure—and we mean really for sure—that your partner is STD-free. “If a condom falls off and you’re unsure of your partner’s status, it’s a good idea to get checked because it’s possible you’ve now been exposed to something,” says Dr. Dweck.

So how do you actually get the condom out of your vagina? Don't wait for your urine stream to shake it out, as my friend did. Either call your gynecologist and make a same-day appointment for her to remove it, or go on a search party with your own clean finger. “If you’re taking it out yourself, the biggest thing is relaxation,” says Dr. Dweck. “There’s nothing harder than trying to get something out of the vagina when the muscles are tense and clenched down."

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Try removing the condom while sitting in a warm bath or seated over the toilet, and lubricate your finger before putting it inside, suggests Dr. Dweck. “Then use a hook-like motion to try to fish out the condom.” Standing and bearing down might help push it out, but it may also be more comfortable to lie on your back and feel around. Don't worry, it has to come out eventually—it can't get lost forever.

As for what your man can do to avoid leaving you with any latex surprises post-sex? “He should hold on to the base of the condom if his erection is starting to go down as he pulls out,” says Dr. Dweck. And ideally, he'll let you know when the condom he rolled on before sex appears to be missing afterward. Hey, it’s all about teamwork.