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Sex & Relationships

What does safe sex mean?

Learn what safe sex really means and how you can practice it properly.

The term ‘safe sex’ is thrown around a lot, and you’ve likely heard someone in your life talk about safe sex in one way or another.

So what does it really mean? To us, safe sex means protecting not only your physical wellbeing, but your mental and emotional health too.

What is safe sex?

On a basic level, safe sex is protecting you and your partner from contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or an unplanned pregnancy. There are a number of ways to protect yourself and your partner from sexually transmitted infections, some of which overlap with the ways that you can prevent an unplanned pregnancy.

5 ways to practice safe sex

1. Use condoms

Using condoms every time you have sex is one of the best ways to prevent STIs and STDs, especially if you're having sex with a new partner and you haven't taken any STI tests recently. Condoms are around 98% effective in preventing pregnancy, so if unplanned pregnancy is definitely not an option for you, you can use them in combination with another form of birth control for full protection.

2. Be open with your partner

Be open with your partner about what makes you feel comfortable and safe when it comes to sex. If they don’t respect how you feel, don't be afraid to ditch them and find somebody who will!

3. Don't live by ‘just once’ can't hurt

Unplanned pregnancy and sexual diseases can happen whether you have had sex once or a thousand times. It isn't possible to tell whether someone has an STI by looking at them, so always use a condom - especially with a new partner.

4. Consent is a must

If you’re feeling guilty or pressured into having sex with someone, exit the situation as soon as possible. Sex should be a pleasurable experience for all individuals involved. You can learn more about consent here.

5. Take charge of your sexual health

Learn more about your body, how to access birth control and where to get tested if you've had unprotected sex. If some parts sexual health are still a mystery to you, don't be afraid to reach out to your healthcare provider or local sexual health clinic to answer any questions.

Why you should practice safe sex

STIs are more common than you may think. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 million STIs are acquired everyday worldwide. Most STIs can be treated with antibiotics, but left untreated they could remain with you for life or even affect your fertility. In addition to the health-saving benefits, managing your reproductive health can empower you, giving you control over family planning and your sexual wellness.

What should I do if I’ve had unsafe sex?

If you've had unprotected sex, book a doctors appointment, chat to a pharmacist or visit your local sexual health clinic as soon as you can. You'll be able to get tested for STIs and pregnancy: no questions and no judgements. Your healthcare professional could also help you find a more reliable method of protection so that you feel more prepared next time.

Remember: help is available. The morning after pill exists and many STIs can be treated with a single dose of antibiotics - so the sooner you visit the doctor the better!