Birth control options have come a long way in the past few decades. There are many different types of contraceptive pills, as well as the more set-it-and-forget-it alternatives such as the patch, the shot, the ring, the IUD, the arm implant, and even a non-hormonal gel. But the only contraceptive that protects against pregnancy and sexually transmitted illnesses (STIs) is still the condom, and with condom use comes a fair share of user error and a small likelihood of slip-ups and slip-offs.
In fact, when used correctly, condoms are 98% effective at protecting against pregnancy, according to Planned Parenthood. But in reality, once you add in human error — putting on the condom wrong, tearing it accidentally, or getting it stuck inside you — condoms are only 85% effective. This means that around 15 out of every 100 people who use condoms as their only method of birth control will become pregnant each year.
Ultimately, things happen, and while it may not occur often, a condom slipping off during sex can put you in a stressful situation. Even if you and your partner always use condoms correctly, it’s still helpful to know whether you can get pregnant if the condom stays inside you and what to do immediately after this occurs. Should the condom slip up and get stuck, here’s some expert advice on what to do next.
Pregnancy Risk If Condom Slips Off After Withdrawal
First thing’s first: You can absolutely get pregnant if the condom slips off after withdrawal. “If a condom slips off while inside the vagina, it’s likely that the contents are going to spill as well,” Dr. Angela Jones, M.D., OB-GYN at Healthy Woman Obstetrics and Gynecology in Monmouth County, New Jersey, tells Romper.
Anytime semen gets into or near your vagina, it can result in pregnancy. “If the person wearing the condom has ejaculated, that means sperm are present and can leak out of the left-behind condom and find their way to the cervix and beyond,” Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, M.D., OB-GYN, OB hospitalist, and author of Let’s Talk About Down There, tells Romper. “Even if ejaculation didn't happen, there is some fluid that can escape in what we call ‘pre-ejaculate’ — and while this has less sperm, there can still be some (and it only takes one to fertilize an egg!).”
Just a single sperm can travel up through your cervix and uterus to your fallopian tubes. It can live in the genital tract for up to five days, as Lincoln explains, so if you are ovulating within those five days, you run the chance of becoming pregnant. However, just because the condom slipped off doesn’t necessarily mean you will get pregnant. The probability that a person within their fertile window will get pregnant from a single act of unprotected sex (which includes a condom failing) is 25% on average, according to a 2015 study in Contraception.
Apart from pregnancy, there’s also the obvious concern of contracting an STI with a condom mishap, says Jones. In addition to that, you run the risk of infection if you leave a stuck condom inside you for too long. “Anything left in the vagina for too long that shouldn't be there can lead to an infection,” says Lincoln. “It's not an emergency if you can't get it out ASAP, but don't linger or your chance for infection goes up.”
What To Do If The Condom Is Stuck Inside Your Vagina
So what do you do if you realize the condom is still inside you? “First thing’s first: Don't panic!” says Lincoln. The condom can’t get lost inside of you. Simply wash your hands, try to place two fingers inside your vagina, and see if you can grab it.
If the condom is stuck a little higher up than your fingers can reach, Lincoln recommends trying to reach it while squatting or lying down, or after a bowel movement, as the straining can help move it down. And don't worry if you still can’t get it: It can easily be removed in the doctor’s office. If your doctor’s office isn’t open, don’t hesitate to go to urgent care. “It’s nothing to be embarrassed about — we remove lots of things from vaginas,” says Jones.
Once you’ve successfully removed the condom, the next step is to think about the risk of pregnancy. If a condom was your only method of birth control, Lincoln recommends using emergency contraception if you don't want to become pregnant. This could take the form of a copper IUD, ella pill (prescription only), or levonorgestrel pill (aka Plan B), which is available over-the-counter. “The sooner you use these, the better they work, so don't wait!” Lincoln advises. Lastly, it may also be a good time to talk to your doctor about STI testing if you have concerns of exposure from the condom slipping.
How can you prevent a condom from slipping off in the first place? For one thing, size matters when it comes to condoms. Condoms should be long enough to cover the whole penis and still leave a little space to hold semen, and the width should be snug enough to comfortably stay on. It’s also about how you put the condom on. “It is important to use good condom techniques of withdrawing before the penis goes completely flaccid, and using a hand at the base of the penis to secure the condom upon withdrawal,” explains Jones.
Accidents happen. If you find yourself in a situation where the condom slipped off, there are plenty of options to give you peace of mind. Make sure you’re using condoms correctly going forward, and remember that even if life throws you curveballs, it’s all about how you handle it. (In this case, by going to get Plan B.)
Li, D., Wilcox, A. J., & Dunson, D. B. (2015). Benchmark pregnancy rates and the assessment of post-coital contraceptives: an update. Contraception, 91(4), 344–349. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.contraception.2015.01.002
Dr. Angela Jones, M.D., OB-GYN at Healthy Woman in Monmouth County, New Jersey
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