Broken condom? How and why condoms break

Ask Ella
Ask Ella

Johnnies… love gloves… rubbers. Whatever your chosen name for those little packages of protection may be, they aren’t always reliable when you need them. One thing we’ve learned from our My Morning After story submissions is that sometimes condoms break.


‘I had honestly always thought that condoms breaking was an urban myth and that it was an excuse for people who just didn’t use any contraception. But there I was, just after having intercourse and the guy said “Oh sh*t, the condom broke”. I looked, and it was indeed ripped. ....That was the only time in my life I took the morning after pill and it was such a good option to have. Along with an STI test I got a couple of weeks after, this was what made me feel like I took ownership and responsibility of my life. ’
Anonymous, 31, Belfast

So what do you do if you finish having sex and realise that the condom broke? #AskElla is here to give you all the tips and tricks on what to do if the condom breaks and how to avoid it happening in the future. Come with us on a journey through the history of condoms and get some handy tips on what to do if your condom breaks.

The History Of Condoms

Today, condoms are made of latex, or for those with a latex allergy: polyisoprene and polyurethane. But that was not always the case. Back in the day, condoms were either made from linen soaked in various medicines or even animal intestines! From sheep intestines to latex, we’ve definitely come a long, and probably more pleasurable, way. 

On behalf of everyone, we would like to say a HUGE thank you to Charles Goodyear, the inventor of the first rubber condom back in 1855. There is no denying that there are a few questionable types of condoms out there today, including glow-in-the-dark and bacon flavoured, but at least they’re not made from the intestines of an animal. 

How can condoms fail?

Things can happen in the heat of passion when you and bae are getting down and dirty. Accidents can happen even when you’ve been responsible and used a condom with the very best of intentions. 


‘“It was the first time we’d had a mishap, the condom split and I was distraught! I sat crying in bed!” ’
Anonymous, 29, UK

In fact, did you know that 1 out of every 250 condoms breaks?

We spoke to Dr Sarah Welsh, co-owner of the condom brand HANX, who told us that the main reason for condoms breaking comes down to incorrect use. When putting on a condom, Sarah says to always make sure to leave a space at the top by pinching the “tip” of the condom. If you don’t leave a space at the tip to collect those little swimmers, it can create a balloon-like effect, causing the condom to burst from the friction and pressure build-up.

Another common mistake that some of us make is not knowing that condoms should be kept in a cool and dry place because heat can damage the latex and cause the condom to split. So if you’re storing condoms in a car or wallet, you should probably reconsider and move them somewhere cooler. 

Who would have known that condoms need so much TLC?!

Like many things in life, condoms have expiration dates. “Certain materials in condoms can weaken over time”, Dr Welsh explains, “so it is important they are not past their recommended expiration date”. So what can we take from this? ALWAYS check the expiration date on your condom. And if the condom is expired, don’t risk it. 

A tip from Dr Welsh is to use lubrication if need be – too much friction can sometimes cause a condom to break. But be sure to never use an oil-based lubricant with a latex condom as the oil wears down the latex and will eventually split! 

‘I wasn’t on the pill then, but he had condoms. I thought, “great! we’re safe then.” After we finished, he asked me how long condoms can be kept for, because he hadn’t used them in a long time. I checked his box of condoms and they expired one year ago. Not wanting to risk it I left in the morning and went to the pharmacy on my way home and got the morning after pill. The peace of mind was worth it. Lesson learnt – check the expiry date BEFORE using condoms!’
Anonymous, 25 Australia

A tip from Dr Welsh is to use lubrication if need be – too much friction can sometimes cause a condom to break. But be sure to never use an oil-based lubricant with a latex condom as the oil wears down the latex and will eventually cause a split condom

How can you use condoms safely?

It’s best to always take extra precautions to try and prevent your condoms breaking. Here’s a short recap on how to avoid your condoms splitting in the future:

  • Know how to correctly put the condom on – always leave a space at the tip.

  • Store your condoms in cool, dry, places.

  • Always check the expiration date and DON’T use them if they are expired.

  • Always say yes to lube – but stay away from oil-based lubricants!

  • Make sure the condom is the correct size.

  • Open them carefully – Dr Welsh advises to avoid using sharp objects or your teeth to open the packet.

What Do You Do If Your Condom Breaks?

If you and your partner realise that your condom has broken during your wild sexcapade, try not to panic. Dr Welsh advises that you “see a health professional or pharmacist for emergency contraception and a specialist clinic for an STI check.”^

If the condom does break, ellaOne is the most effective morning after pill* and can be used up to five days after unprotected sex, although emergency contraception is most effective when used ASAP.

Have you ever had a condom break? Did you take the morning after pill? Share your experience below and help us end the taboo that surrounds emergency contraception.

^The medical professionals in this article do not endorse any products or brands.

*For verification please visit:

ellaOne® 30mg film-coated tablet contains ulipristal acetate and is indicated for emergency contraception within 120 hours (5 days) of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. Always read the label.