Health

How To Practice Safe Sex

Forgot a condom? Missed your pill? Unprotected sex may be unplanned, but not uncommon. Apart from pre-sex contraceptives and precautions, here are your morning-after options to avoid unwanted pregnancies, STIs and UTIs.

By Debashruti Banerjee
15 February 2022
A man opening a condom packet

Whether your condom or usual method of birth control failed, you missed your pill or simply forgot a precaution, unprotected sex can happens often and to many, even when not actively trying for a baby. The first step is to not panic, and to weigh your options as to what you can do next and how to keep yourself protected during future sexual encounters. What is safe and protected sex? It refers to any sexual intimacy between partners that includes contraceptives and/or barrier protection (like condoms and IUDs), to minimise the risk of unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and urinary tract infections. “Safe sex also refers to consensual and pleasurable sex,” says Dr. Niveditha Manokaran, dermatologist, venereologist and clinician in sexual and reproductive health & HIV medicine. Here’s everything you need to know if you’ve had unprotected sex.

 

What are the two kinds of protection can you take before having sex?

 

1. Against unwanted pregnancies:

“It is important to use an effective method of contraception in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies,” recommends Dr. Manokaran. Common forms of contraception include hormonal birth control pills and long-term intrauterine devices (IUDs). IUDs like copper Ts are implanted in-clinic and are a reversible procedure. Moreover, people who menstruate can also use the ‘Calendar method’, where one calculates when they are not ovulating in their monthly cycle and have sex during that period. However, this method is only 76 percent effective in preventing pregnancies. Take a more in-depth look at birth control here.

2.Against STIs and UTIs:

Since the pull-out method (withdrawal of penis from vagina right before ejaculation) is highly unreliable, condoms remain the most easily accessible form of protection. Not only do they act as a contraceptive, they are also indispensable in lowering the risks of STIs and UTIs. “Condoms and dental dams can also be used for oral sex, as you can get infections or STIs through oral sex,” says Dr. Manokaran.

 

Related Story: Choosing The Right Contraceptive Method—Everything You Need To Know

 

Here’s what you can do if you had unprotected sex:

 

1. Using the toilet:

According to Dr. Manokaran, emptying your bladder after sex is a great way to prevent UTIs. With the removal of lingering fluids, you will not only feel more comfortable but also remove lingering bacteria from your vagina, penis or anus. In the case of vaginal penetration, peeing does not reduce the risk of pregnancy. Moreover, the vagina is self-cleansing, so avoid harsh products and stick to a warm shower for a thorough clean-up.

2. Emergency contraceptives:

If you weren’t on birth control or missed out on it, you can access the morning-after pill within 72 hours after having had unprotected sex. You can get it at your local pharmacy, just like condoms, over the counter. However, you must remember that this is only Plan B, and preliminary and reliable precaution is always preferred and necessary. According to the World Health Organisation, “side effects from the use of emergency contraceptive pills are similar to those of oral contraceptive pills, such as nausea and vomiting, slight irregular vaginal bleeding, and fatigue. Side effects are not common, they are mild, and will normally resolve without further medications”. Moreover, they do not have an impact on fertility.

3. Regular STI screening:

Unprotected sex, especially with an unfamiliar partner, can increase the chances of acquiring STDs like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, hepatitis B etc. Dr. Manokaran says, “if you were to acquire an STI, you could have symptoms like abnormal discharge, burning urination, vaginal and vulval itch, ulcers, rashes, to mention a few”. However, more often than not STIs can be asymptomatic. Thus, tests and check-ups are your best bet to safety.

  • In case of HIV risk, check in with a doctor within 72 hours of sex for a HIV post-exposure-prophylaxis (PEP).
  • For infections like gonorrhoea or chlamydia, you need to wait at least 7 to 14 days for a urine test.
  • Apart from HIV, you need to wait at least 6 to 12 weeks to test for syphilis or hepatitis B as well.

4. Pregnancy test:

In the event of unwanted or unplanned pregnancy, you can expect to miss your period. Pregnancy tests are readily available over the counter, and you can contact a gynaecologist in case of a positive test for further bloodwork and next course of action.

 

Related Story: 11 Incredible Early Signs Of Pregnancy You Should Know About

 

What else can make sex unsafe?

“Sex is pleasurable. It needs to be consensual and enjoyable. If it isn't, it needs attention,” reminds Dr. Manokaran. Regardless of whether the person is your long-term partner or a hook-up, coercing you into having unprotected sex or stealthing (the act of secretly removing the condom during sex without the other knowing) are violations of your consent and bodily autonomy. Remember to check in with yourself, address any feelings of distress and reach out for support. If you are a survivor of sexual abuse, here are a few helplines you can avail in India:

1.All India Women’s Helpline: 1091

2. ActionAid India: +91 80 25586293 (9 AM – 6 PM)

3. Snehalaya: +91 0241 2778353

4. Aasra: +91-9820466726

 

Related Story: Why Coercive Control Is A Sign Of Domestic Abuse

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