Accidents do happen—here's what to do to prevent STIs (including HIV) and pregnancy.

By Nick Burns
October 29, 2019

It happens: a condom worn incorrectly (or past its expiration date) during sex can break or slip off, putting you at risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Here's your plan of action should accidental breakage or slippage happen.

To prevent HIV and other STIs

If you know you have been exposed to HIV—or suspect it's even remotely possible you were exposed—see your doctor and ask for post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), a preventive treatment for HIV that may keep you from being infected. The treatment is a monthlong course of HIV antiretroviral medications, such as Truvada. The treatment is most effective if you start them right away—. Side effects can include extreme nausea and fatigue.

Don't have a doctor? To find PEP, call a health clinic, an AIDS service organization, or your local health department, or visit an emergency room.

As for STIs, see your doctor for a full panel of tests or arrange to be tested at a health clinic like Planned Parenthood. You may not be able to prevent infection, but the tests will likely reveal if you have been infected—and the sooner you start treatment to cure the disease or ease symptoms, the better.

RELATED: How to Buy the Morning-After Pill Without Setting Foot in a Pharmacy

To prevent pregnancy

Follow your condom accident by taking emergency contraception, aka the morning-after pill. The most common morning-after pills are tablets containing high doses of levonorgestrel, a synthetic progestin hormone that is also in birth control pills. Brand names include Next Choice One Dose, My Way, and Plan B One Step.

Emergency contraception is available over the counter and can reduce the risk of pregnancy by 75-89% if taken within 72 hours of sex. It's most effective when taken right away; taking it within 24 hours is encouraged. Many women's health organizations recommend purchasing it before you need it, so you have it on hand if you ever do. You can buy it at a pharmacy in person or online; you can also get it at a women's health center, such as Planned Parenthood.

RELATED: 10 Things You Never Knew About HIV and AIDS

Emergency contraception is safe to take, but 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.

To keep condom breakage from happening again

Once the immediate crisis is over, put some thought into why the condom broke. "These accidents don't happen easily," Perry N. Halkitis, PhD, a psychologist specializing in HIV at New York University, tells Health. "Are you using condoms correctly? Are you using the right kind of lube? Are the condoms old or expired? It's important to identify the problem so you can avoid an accident in the future."

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