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Safe Sex


Safe sex is a combination of practices you can do to prevent pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). These practices help to decrease or prevent the exchange of body fluids during sexual contact. Body fluids include saliva, urine, blood, vaginal fluids, and semen. All types of sex can cause STIs. This includes oral, vaginal, and anal sex.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • A condom breaks, leaks, or slips off while you are having sex.
  • You notice sores on your penis, vagina, anal area, or skin around them.
  • You have had unsafe sex and want to discuss emergency contraception or treatment for STI exposure.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You think you might be pregnant.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

How to practice safe sex:

Talk to your partner before you have sex. Ask about his or her sexual history and any current or past STI.

  • Use condoms and barrier methods for all types of sexual contact. Use a new condom or latex barrier each time you have sex. This includes oral, vaginal, and anal sex. Make sure that the condom fits and is put on correctly. Rubber latex sheets or dental dams can be used for oral sex. Ask your healthcare provider how to use these items and where to purchase them. If you are allergic to latex, use a nonlatex product such as polyurethane.
  • Limit your number of sexual partners. More than one sex partner can increase your risk for an STI. Do not have sex with anyone whose sexual history you do not know.
  • Do not do activities that can pass germs. Do not use saliva as a lubricant or share sex toys.
  • Tell your sex partner if you have an STI. Your partner may need to be tested and treated. Do not have sex while you are being treated for an STI, or with a partner who is being treated.
  • Get tested regularly for STIs. Get tested if you have had sexual contact with someone who has an STI. Get tested if you have unprotected sex with any new partner.
  • Get vaccinated. Vaccines may help to lower your risk for an STI such as HPV, hepatitis A, or hepatitis B. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on vaccines.

Other ways to practice safe sex:

  • Only use water-based lubricants during sex. Water-based lubricants may prevent sores or cuts in the vagina or penis. Prevent sores or cuts to decrease your risk for an STI. Do not use oil-based lubricants, such as baby oil or hand lotion, with latex condoms or barriers. These will weaken the latex and may cause it to break.
  • Do not use chemical irritants on condoms or genitals. Products that contain chemical irritants, such as spermicides, can irritate the lining of your vagina or rectum. Irritation may cause sores that may increase your risk for an STI.
  • Be careful when you have sex if you have open sores or cuts. Open sores or cuts may increase your risk for an STI. This includes new piercings and tattoos. Keep all open sores or cuts covered during sex. Do not have oral sex if you have cuts or sores in your mouth. Ask your healthcare provider when it is safe to have sex after you get a tattoo or piercing.
  • Do not use alcohol or drugs before sex. These substances can prevent you from thinking clearly and increase your risk for unsafe sex.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.