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Ask the Sexpert

Dear Sexpert,

Last night, after my girlfriend and I had sex, I went to dispose of the condom, and I noticed a tear in it. Now, we’re both really worried. Could she be pregnant? Where is the best place to get emergency contraceptive pills? What should I do?

—Feeling Torn

Dear Torn,

If the condom broke during sexual intercourse, there is a chance that your girlfriend might become pregnant. To prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex, your girlfriend should take emergency contraception as soon as possible. There are several options available to you. Plan B, the most widely known emergency contraceptive pill, is sold both at McCosh Health Center and over-the-counter in CVS. McCosh also carries ella, an emergency contraceptive pill that requires a prescription. It is important that your girlfriend take one of these as soon as possible, as Plan B is most effective up to three days after unprotected sex, and ella can be taken for up to five days afterward.

Your girlfriend might also want to consider ParaGard, a copper intrauterine device that acts as both an effective birth control method and an emergency contraceptive, and can be inserted up to five days after unprotected sex. If your girlfriend is already considering alternative birth control methods, this may be a good option for her. Discuss these options, and take action together toward obtaining the best one for her. Keep in mind that emergency contraceptives, IUDs and other forms of hormonal birth control do not protect against sexually transmitted infections like condoms and dental dams do.

After taking emergency contraception, unfortunately, there is not much you can do but wait. Emergency contraceptive pills contain hormones that can affect the regularity of a woman’s menstrual cycle, so your girlfriend’s period might not arrive exactly when expected. McCosh and local pharmacies also carry pregnancy tests. The accuracy of these tests increases with the passing of time, so taking a test at least two weeks after unprotected sex might yield the most reliable result. Be aware, however, that pregnancy tests are not 100 percent accurate. You can take multiple tests to increase the reliability of the results.

In the future, to reduce the risk of both STIs and pregnancy, you and your girlfriend should continue using condoms (or another form of birth control) during sexual intercourse. While condoms are not perfect and tears can happen, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk of this occurring again. Before having sex, check the expiration date of the condom on the back of the package. Open the package carefully with your hands — not your teeth! Find out which way the condom rolls down and carefully roll it down your penis. Make sure to squeeze the tip after putting it on to let out any air bubbles. Immediately after sexual intercourse, grab the penis while withdrawing to prevent the condom from slipping off. Don’t wait to withdraw, or your penis might become flaccid enough for the condom to slip off.

By following these steps, you can greatly increase the effectiveness of condoms against both pregnancy and STIs. Good luck and stay safe!

—The Sexpert

Correction: An earlier version of this article did not accurately describe how to best remove the penis during sexual intercourse while at the same time ensuring that the condom does not come off. The ‘Prince’ regrets the error. 

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