The only way to completely avoid STDs and unintended pregnancy is not to have any type of sex of any kind (oral, anal or vaginal) or skin-to-skin contact. People who are deciding if they want to be sexually active and those who are already having sex should know how to protect themselves. Before you begin a sexual relationship, it’s important to think about how sex could affect you. To fully know what you might experience, you need to talk to your partner about the risks and consequences of sex, and how you will prevent STDs and pregnancy.
If you and your partner haven’t had "the talk" yet, do it soon, even if you’ve already begun having sex.
Getting STDs or having an unintended pregnancy is much more difficult than having an uncomfortable talk about these topics. The risks are real every time you have unprotected sex. ONLY YOU have the power to make your sexual relationships emotionally healthier and far less risky.
Most, if not all the time, we want to protect ourselves and those we care about. That protection is really important if you’re thinking about having sex or are already having sex with someone. Insisting on safer sex is the best way for a person to:
- Stand up for his or her right for respect
- Demonstrate as a couple their commitment to a responsible and caring relationship
- Enjoy being affectionate with a partner without the heavy burden of the life-long risks of unprotected sex
A partner who doesn’t recognize how important it is to have safer sex is not protecting themselves. More importantly, this person is denying you the chance to protect yourself. Before you get any more emotionally involved with this person, you may want to re-think if this is someone you want to be in a sexual relationship with.
There are several ways to have safer sex including: Partner Selection, Activity Selection, Use of Barrier Methods, and Testing.
- Look at your potential partner's genital area for signs that he or she may have an STD (rashes, sores, unusual odor, and/or unusual discharge). If something doesn't look normal, don't have sex with that person until they have been tested;
- Delay sexual activity that involves exchange of sexual fluids or intimate skin-to-skin rubbing until you are both ready to have sex and have been tested for STDs;
- Be picky about your sex partners. The fewer partners you have, the lower your risk of getting STDs;
- Limit your sexual relationships to one where you only have sex with each other.
- Some sexual activities are more risky than others. Lower your chances of STDs or an unintended pregnancy by having less risky kinds of sexual contact.
- Use a barrier method every time you have sex;
- When used correctly, every time you have sex, condoms really lower your chance of STDs and pregnancy.
- Barriers can greatly reduce the spread of STDs during certain kinds of sex and should be used every time you and your partner have oral-genital or oral-anal contact.
- Remember that birth control (with the exception of male or female condoms) does NOT protect you from STDs, it only protects against pregnancy.
GET TESTED! Most STD tests are pretty simple and easy and don’t require a lot of time to take or get results back. Unless you go to an STD specific clinic, you MUST ask for these tests because not all healthcare providers will automatically test you for STDs. Learn more about what to expect during testing.
Don't know how often to get tested? At a minimum, you should be tested once per year. If you:
- Notice symptoms
- Change sex partners
- Have been sexually assaulted or you think your partner may have been sexually active with someone else.
- Be honest with your healthcare provider about your sexual activity. they can provide better care for you;
- Know you want to get tested, but don't know where to go? Visit the clinic finder to find a Spokane clinic near you.