Sex is a natural and beautiful part of life however, there are ways to be smart about having sex. While we do not want to encourage you to have sex at a young age, we realize that not every teenager is the same, and some may be ready to have sex sooner than others. We want to give the opportunity to practice safe sex if you are going to engage in any type of sex. In this section, we will cover the benefits of abstinence, contraception, and birth control.
Abstinence is best
Abstinence is defined as not having any form of sexual intercourse. Someone who is abstinent has decided not to have sex. Not having sex may seem like an easy thing to do, but sometimes peer pressure from friends, TV shows or movies, using alcohol or drugs, can make it difficult to practice abstinence. Do not let the pressure get to you! If you make the decision to be abstinent, it’s important that those around you–including your significant other–respect your decision.
If you are abstaining from sex there is no possibility for pregnancy or STDs. Anyone can practice abstinence, whether they have been sexually active in the past or not. Remember abstinence is the only 100% effective way you can protect yourself from STDs and unplanned pregnancy. If you feel that you are not ready or have any doubts about engaging in any kind of sexual activity, then you should probably stop doing anything sexual, until you feel absolutely sure you are emotionally ready to have sex.
If you have a loving and supportive partner, they will understand your decision to wait. If you partner is pressuring you into something you do not feel you should be doing, perhaps it is time to reevaluate the relationship. Remember, you are in charge of your body and no one else is, only you will know where you are ready.
Condoms (and lube!) can help
- Condoms are another way you can protect yourself against STDs and unwanted pregnancy.
- Condoms can be made out of thin latex, polyurethane, nitrile, lambskin, and other synthetic materials.
- Condoms are usually molded into the shape of the penis.
- All but lambskin condoms reduce the risk of STDs and help prevent pregnancy.
- It is preferable that you do not use lambskin condoms. They are very ineffective. They protect against pregnancy but they do not protect against HIV and the other STDs.
- Condoms are available for both men and women.
- The female condom is a thin, soft, loose-fitting sheath with a flexible ring at each end. They typically come in various sizes and can be made out of polyurethane or nitrile. The inner ring at the closed end of the sheath is used to insert the condom inside the vagina and to hold it in place during intercourse. The rolled outer ring at the open end of the sheath remains outside the vagina and covers part of the external genitalia. Female condoms, just like male condoms, are barrier contraceptives. They protect against STDs, HIV and unwanted pregnancy, but unfortunately are not as effective as the male condom.
- According to the CDC, if you consistently and correctly use a condom every time you engage in sexual activity, you greatly reduce (but not completely eliminate) the exposure to STDs.
- For the maximum protective effect condoms must be used both consistently (meaning every single time you have sex) and correctly.
- A condom’s effectiveness is affected by how the individual uses it. In order for a condom to be effective, you must use the condom as the instructions state. This will help reduce the chances of the condom slipping off during sex and reduce the chances of a condom breaking as well.
- Some condoms come pre-lubricated, others do not. Lubrication decreases friction during sex and that lowers the chances or the condom breaking and also decrease any physical discomfort like chafing, for both partners.
- If you need more lubrication, there are a variety of lubes available that you can use with condoms.
- If you are going to be using lubricant never use a petroleum based lubricant with a latex condom. Only use water-based lubricants. There are also silicone based lubricants that you can use that are latex-friendly.
- There are also flavored lubricants and condoms made for use during oral sex. These can make oral sex more pleasurable and the condoms can protect against STDs. But these should only be used during oral sex. They’re not effective for other types of sex.
Condom do’s and don’ts
- Do not keep condoms in your wallet. You will put that wallet in your back pocket and sit on it. This can damage the condom.
- If you keep condoms in your purse, be sure to keep them in a case of some kind. Do not just throw them in there along with everything else; doing so can damage the condom.
- Be sure that you are checking the expiration date on your condoms. Yes, they do expire.
- Do not keep condoms in your car. Here in Texas, we experience 4 seasons in 2 days. The change in climate can destroy the latex of the condom.
- Make sure that you are getting condoms that are the proper size. Using a condom that is not the correct size, either too big or too small, can lead to broken condoms or the condom falling off.
- When you open a condom, do not use your teeth to do so. Use your fingers to push the condom to one side then open it. This way you do not tear any of the latex.
- When putting on a condom, you want to make sure that you do not put it on inside out. It should look like a sombrero. Pinch the tip (1/2 inch to 1 inch) of the condom and then roll all the way down the penis. There should be no air bubbles If you do not pinch the tip and you put it directly on the penis, when the male cums, it has nowhere to go so the condom breaks.
- Never ever use more than one condom at a time.
- Use the proper types of lubrication. Water or silicone based only. Do not use baby oil, lotion, conditioner, vaseline.
- If you look at the condom and you think there may be something wrong with it do not use it. When in doubt, throw it out.
- Before you open a condom, when you squish it between 2 fingers you should feel an air bubble. If that air bubble is not present, the condom has been compromised.
All about birth control
Birth control is the practice of preventing unwanted pregnancies, typically by use of contraception. Birth control is not meant to be used so that someone can go out and have as much unprotected sex as they want. While birth control does protect against pregnancy, you have to understand that it does not protect against HIV/AIDS or other STDs.
The Birth Control Implant
- This form of birth control is inserted under the skin of the upper arm. It is the size of a matchstick, thin, and flexible. This type of birth control releases progestin. Progestin is a hormone that regulates puberty, pregnancy, and menstruation. This implant will prevent pregnancy for three years.
- Implanon and Nexplanon are the two available birth control implants.
- The birth control implant does not protect against HIV and STDs.
Birth Control Pills
- Birth control pills an oral medication that are taken by a woman daily to prevent pregnancy. These pills contain estrogen and progestin that are hormones produced in a woman’s body. These hormones regulate puberty, pregnancy, and menstruation.
- These pill stop the ovaries from releasing any eggs and also make the cervical mucus thicker, so that it is more difficult for sperm to enter the cervix.
- Birth control pills do not protect against HIV and STDs
- The Nuvaring is a combined hormonal contraceptive vaginal ring that releases a low dose of progestin and estrogen over three weeks every month.
- It work primarily by preventing ovulation and it also makes the cervical mucus thicker to stop the sperm from penetrating into the cervix and possibly fertilizing an egg.
- The ring is taken out for one week and during this “off week” period, a woman will get her normal period. After the week is over the woman will put in a new ring.
- If used correctly the Nuvaring should prevent against pregnancy.
- The Nuvaring does not protect against HIV and STDs
Intrauterine Device (IUD)
- An IUD is a T-shaped, small, and flexible contraceptive. It is inserted through the cervix into the uterus. This method of contraception prevent fertilization and kills sperm.
- There are currently two types of IUDs available, one is the copper ParaGuard and the other is the progesterone containing IUD, Mirena.
- ParaGuard can prevent pregnancy for 12 years and it is reversible and can be removed by a medical provider, when a person is ready to conceive.
- The Mirena IUD, releases small amounts of progestin and can prevent pregnancy for up to 5 years. Mirena is reversible and can be removed by a medical provider, when a person is ready to conceive.
- IUDs seem to be more effective for women who have previously given birth. There is a lower change that the IUD will be expelled by the uterus if a women has previously given birth. However, this does not mean that you cannot get an IUD if you have given birth before. Consult a physician if you have any questions.
- IUDs do not protect against HIV and STDs.
Testing is necessary
If you’re sexually active, getting tested for STDs is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself. An overwhelming majority of people who contract an STD do not show any signs or symptoms, and HIV can take up to 8 to 12 years for any symptoms to develop. That’s an awfully long time to be in the dark about your status, and in the process you could infect others.
If you are currently sexually active you should get tested at least once a year. There are many organizations that provide free testing to minors and some provide free testing to everyone. For more information about testing sites please visit our testing page.