Safety and Wellness

How Can We Avoid Pregnancy if a Condom Breaks?

If a condom broke and I had ejaculated, could a pill help my girlfriend not get pregnant?
- Jack*

Yes. Condoms rarely break, but it does happen occasionally. In that case, emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) may help your girlfriend avoid pregnancy.

There are different types of ECPs, often called the morning-after pill. One type, levonorgestrel (brand names: Plan B and Next Choice), is available over the counter to people age 15 and over. It works up to 5 days after having unprotected sex.

The other type, ulipristal acetate (brand name: Ella), is available by prescription only. Ella may be more effective at preventing pregnancy than the levonorgestrel pills and also can be taken up 5 days after unprotected sex.

If you're interested in ECPs, your best bet is to call a doctor, nurse practitioner, or health clinic right away. Or, if you or your girlfriend is 15 or older, you can buy levonorgestrel ECPs over the counter at a pharmacy.

To find out who can provide or prescribe ECPs in your area, visit the website for The Association of Reproductive Health Professionals.

Emergency contraception is most effective when taken as soon as possible after intercourse, although some studies have shown that ECPs can still work up to 120 hours after intercourse.

Taking ECPs is not a guarantee against pregnancy. And ECPs don't prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). So if a condom breaks (or a couple has unprotected sex), it's a good idea to see a health provider to talk about birth control and get tested for STDs.

Reviewed by: Julia Brown Lancaster, MSN, WHNP-BC
Date reviewed: January 2015

*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.

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