Can Condoms Really Break or Slip Off: Exploring the Risks and Realities

Condom is a unique and fantastic medical device that took humans more than two millennia to perfect. Ancient Egyptians used Glan caps or early condoms. Ancient Romans used animal bladders as condoms.

However, since then, much progress has been made. Modern condoms are for single use, highly reliable, and yet affordable by the masses. [1]

As you understand that it is now classified as a medical device. It means that modern condoms are tested extensively for quality.

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As a result, they are highly safe and reliable, and they rarely fail. But, of course, there is nothing perfect in the world. Even the best device or system may fail infrequently.

So, yes, condoms may break or slip off. However, the chances of condom breaking or slipping off are slim if you use the condom properly.

Most of these issues occur not due to quality issues with condoms but rather due to the wrong usage. Or condoms may slip off even due to poor erection quality and some other similar issues.

Hence, though these issues are uncommon and not a reason to stop using condoms, it is worth knowing that such problems may occur.

Condoms are remarkable in many ways

Before we explore these issues with condoms further and their probability of occurring, it is vital to understand that condoms are unique in many ways and thus irreplaceable.

To begin with, one should stop looking at condoms as merely a way of preventing unwanted pregnancies. Even ancient Romans knew that condoms made of animal bladders helped reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Thus, the two most important reasons to use condoms are contraception and STD prevention.

Of course, that is not all. Condoms offer many other unique benefits. For example, using it does not require any planning, unlike hormonal drugs or other contraception methods. It is also highly safe to use condoms and has no systemic side effects.

Additionally, condoms offer many other less-discussed benefits, like they may help protect the partner from sperm allergy and other minor issues.

Furthermore, unlike the olden days, modern condoms may even enhance sexual pleasure. This is because modern condoms are pretty thin, and men mostly do not feel as if they are wearing anything.

Therefore, there is almost no compromise on sensation. They prolong sexual acts and may help provide greater pleasure to the partner (think about dotted condoms).

Can condoms really break or slip off?

Now, since we understand that condoms are unique in many aspects, incomparable to other contraception methods, and offer numerous benefits making them irreplaceable, let’s return to our primary topic. Can condoms really break or slip off, and what are the chances of this occurring in practice?

There are some studies into the subject, but there is some data. Studies suggest that the condom failure rate is at about 13%. [2]

Of course, failure rates do not indicate breakage or slipping only. Thus, for example, when it comes to modern condoms, the breakage rate is extremely low and generally less than 1%.

Again, however, these estimates come from observations. Condoms slipping off is more likely due to a choice or wrong condom size, poor erection, or even due to improper use.

Thus, it might look like condoms slipping off is a more common issue than breakage. Fortunately, condom slipping off is less risky compared to breakage, as breakage is more likely to cause unplanned pregnancy.

This is because if the condom slips, one can mostly realize and stop the sexual act or replace the condom. However, breakage is more like an accident, and the user may not realize the issue on time.

As we continue our discussion on condom failure, we need to be realistic. It is vital to understand that despite the failure rate of above 10%, most condom failures are minor issues.

Hence, studies suggest condoms remain among the most effective ways to prevent unplanned pregnancies. Condoms are 98% effective! [3]

It means that there is about a 2% chance of unwanted pregnancy when using condoms regularly.

But, again, that is not all. One may considerably reduce the risk of condom failure by using high-quality condoms, learning condom-using techniques, and with experience. It means that for experienced men, this risk is well below 1%.

So, should one be concerned about condoms breaking or slipping off? No, there is no reason to be concerned. But it is something one should be aware of.

Furthermore, knowing that such a possibility exists would help an individual to focus on learning to use condoms better.

Ways to prevent condoms from slipping off

Yes, you can always minimize your risk of condoms slipping off. However, knowing some simple ways to prevent the issue may help. Below are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Choose the right size: It is important to select the correct size of a condom to prevent slippage. Using a condom that is too loose or too tight can increase the risk of it slipping off during sex. Make sure to measure the penis girth and choose the appropriate condom size.
  • Check the expiration date: Using an expired condom can increase the chances of it breaking or slipping off. Always check the expiration date before using a condom and discard any expired condoms.
  • Use lubrication: Lack of lubrication can cause the condom to slip off during sex. Using a water-based lubricant can reduce friction and prevent the condom from slipping off. Never use oil-based lubricants with condoms, as they may damage condoms and increase breakage risk!
  • Hold the base: When putting on a condom, make sure to pinch the tip and leave some space at the end to collect semen. Then, hold the base of the condom during intercourse to prevent it from slipping off.
  • Avoid reusing condoms: Reusing a condom can cause it to weaken and increase the chances of it slipping off during sex. Always use a new condom for every sexual encounter.

Ways to minimize the risk of condom breakage

Below are a few things to keep in mind to minimize condoms breakage risk:

  • Check the expiration date: Using an expired condom can increase the chances of it breaking. Always check the expiration date before using a condom and discard any expired condoms.
  • Use the right lubricant: Oil-based lubricants like lotion, petroleum jelly, or cooking oil can weaken the condom and increase the risk of breakage. Instead, always use a water-based or silicone-based lubricant that is safe for use with condoms.
  • Handle with care: Be careful while opening the condom package and avoid using scissors, teeth, or any sharp object that can puncture or tear the condom. Also, make sure to unroll the condom before putting it on to avoid tearing it with your nails.
  • Choose the right size: Using a condom that is too tight or too loose can increase the chances of breakage. Make sure to measure the penis girth and choose the appropriate condom size.

What to do if a condom breaks or slips off?

If a condom breaks or slips off during sex, it is important to take immediate action to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy or STIs. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Stop intercourse: As soon as you realize that the condom has broken or slipped off, stop intercourse to avoid further contact with semen or bodily fluids.
  • Remove the broken condom: If the condom has broken, gently remove it from the vagina or anus using your fingers. Be careful not to leave any pieces of the condom inside the body.
  • Emergency contraception: If you are concerned about the risk of pregnancy, consider taking emergency contraception within 72 hours of the incident. Emergency contraception pills are available over-the-counter or through a healthcare provider and can help prevent pregnancy.
  • Get tested for STIs: If you are concerned about the risk of STIs, visit a healthcare provider for testing and treatment. Some STIs may not show symptoms immediately, so it is important to get tested even if you feel fine.
  • Consider future protection: After a condom break or slip-off, it is important to consider future protection options. Of course, this does not mean that you must stop using condoms. It merely means changing the condom type or condom size you use. For example, you may stop using regular size condoms and instead start using small or large condoms. Follow the guidelines from this article to find out which condom size you need.

Just remember that accidents do happen, and they are not a reason to stop using condoms. However, you must be aware of the issues so that you can take timely measures. So that you are well prepared for such events, and they do not surprise you.

Understanding these issues may help you take timely measures and prevent unintended consequences. With proper education, learning, technique, and experience, you can readily reduce condom failure risk.

Remember, many men have not experienced any condom failure event in their life. If you are still worried about something or unsure, do not hesitate to seek medical advice.


  1. Khan F, Mukhtar S, Dickinson IK, Sriprasad S. The story of the condom. Indian J Urol. 2013;29(1):12-15. doi:10.4103/0970-1591.109976
  2. Contraception | CDC. Published November 1, 2022. Accessed March 23, 2023.
  3. Condoms. Published December 21, 2017. Accessed March 23, 2023.

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