When you were a kid or at least at a stage of your reproductive life where you might accidentally become pregnant, the threat of a breaking condom spelled real disaster. The very idea of that fragile security vessel failing and spilling sperm into a receptive womb/vagina was enough to incite many couples into choosing the birth-control protection method commonly known as "double bagging."
Sperm, of course, can do more than just get a woman pregnant. Sperm is also how STD's, sexually transmitted diseases, get passed around, which is why it and other bodily fluids (including saliva, vaginal juices and secretions) must be controlled and contained. There is a kind of condom called a dental dam designed to protect a woman and her partner during oral sex, but the most common condoms are pretty much the same ones you may remember from your youth, worn by the man over his penis. Condoms are inexpensive, easy to purchase, require no doctor's prescription, and work over 90% of the time. But they do sometimes break or tear or even fall off, particularly if during sex the man does not maintain a strong erection.
Should you be concerned if this happens? Yes and no. The blessing of later-middle-age sex is that fear of pregnancy can be largely eliminated unless you're still regularly menstruating. If you think you can become pregnant, the over the counter product called The Morning After Pill does provide emergency contraception. This pill requires no prescription and can be purchased at the pharmacy. It can be taken for up to five days (or 120 hours) after unprotected sex, and is known to be safe and effective.
Accidental exposure to STDs is another issue and a dangerous one at that. To be safe, if there is a condom failure, you and your partner should both be tested for STDs, including HIV, as soon as possible. (Rapid HIV tests can give you the results the same day.) If you know you have been exposed to the HIV virus, your doctor will prescribe a PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis—a "morning after" treatment for HIV that may prevent infection. The PEP treatment is a month-long course of medication that is most effective when started immediately but may still work up to 72 hours after the exposure.
Read the rest on ThirdAge: What If The Condom Breaks?
Eve Marx writes frequently about sex, health and relationships for ThirdAge.com.
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