How To Practice Safe Sex: Protection Against STDs & Pregnancy

There are a variety of potential consequences with having unprotected sex, including STIs and pregnancy. Here's what to know about how to have safe sex.

The Promescent Team
Hands on, practical experience – this is our expertise
by The Promescent Team Last updated 12/11/2023
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how to practice safe sex

Knowing how to have safe sex is important for anyone engaging in sexual intercourse to know.

It removes the anxiety that comes with risking pregnancy or contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Quick FAQs

Safe sex is the practice of protecting one's self from unwanted pregnancies and STIs.

Some different ways to have safe sex include using condoms or taking birth control medication.

Take an at-home pregnancy test if pregnancy is suspected, and get tested for an STI two weeks after the sex occurred.

Regardless of perception, practicing safe sex doesn't have to be boring or take away a moment of pleasure.

While there is no such thing as 100% safe sex, there are choices partners can make to protect themselves as much as possible.

What is safe sex?

Safe, or at least safer sex, is the practice of protecting one’s self from STIs and unwanted pregnancy during sexual activities that include semen, vaginal fluids, or blood.

How to have safe sex

Safe sexual practices are a part of physical, mental, and sexual health. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to have the safest sex possible.


Condoms are a barrier device used to reduce the chances of pregnancy and STIs. They can be bought over the counter or at a corner drug store. 

In some cases, they can even be found at vending machines on college campuses and nightclubs.

Male condoms

Male condoms are typically made of latex, polyurethane, or polyisoprene and worn over the penis as a barrier.

If put on correctly and worn consistently during intercourse, a male condom has a success rate of 98%.

Some condoms are made to make sex even better, such as ones with ribbing and special cooling and warming lubricants.

They come in a variety of sizes, from snug to large. Men concerned with sensitivity can find premium ultra-thin condoms to increase penis sensation.

Female condoms

Female condoms are made from polyurethane and fit inside the vagina or anus to prevent pregnancy and STIs. It comes pre-lubricated and only has one size.

A diagram is another type of female condom. It fits inside the vagina as a barrier that blocks the womb's entrance. It is only meant to protect against pregnancy.

Birth control medication

Birth control pills or an IUD are the most common and effective ways to avoid getting pregnant. But they are not the only birth control medications on the market.

Birth control medication does nothing to prevent the transmission of STDs, HIV, and other sexually transmitted infections.

Dental dams

Dental dams are made of latex or polyurethane sheet and used during oral sex to reduce the spread of STIs such as:

  • herpes

  • gonorrhea

  • syphilis

  • Hepatitis

The dental dam is laid over the vagina or anus and blocks mouth-to-genital contact.

Get tested for STDs

Most people that are sexually active should get an STD test at least once a year to prevent the spread of dangerous diseases and infections.

Keep an open line of communication with your healthcare provider to discuss risk factors and STD testing.

Engage in lower-risk sexual activities

One of the safer and lowest-risk sexual activities one can engage in is outercourse. Outercourse is any sexual activity that excludes penis-in-vagina (PIV) penetration, such as:

  • massage
  • kissing
  • mutual and manual masturbation
  • oral sex
  • sex toys

While low-risk sexual activities such as outercourse can be safer, there is still a chance of transmitting STDs.

The use of a dental dam during oral sex significantly reduces the chances of catching herpes or gonorrhea.

Risks of unprotected sex


Unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex can lead to contracting an STI. The most common sexually transmitted diseases are gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital herpes, and genital warts.

It's important to talk to your partner about STI testing and status.

Unintended pregnancy

Nearly half of all pregnancies are mistimed or unwanted. And many of those are due to unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. 

You must consistently and correctly use condoms and contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

What to do if you've had unprotected sex?

Whether it's a broken condom or a missed birth control pill, accidents happen. But you can take steps to take care of yourself and your partner in the case of a mishap.

  • It's recommended that a woman urinates within the first 30 minutes after sex and drink plenty of water.
    • ECP (emergency contraceptive pill) works for up to 3 days after unprotected sex. ECP is available over the counter and is 98% effective.
    • Get tested for STIs, HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases two weeks after unprotected sex.
    • If pregnancy is suspected, take an at-home pregnancy test

    Safer sex tips

    • Don't wear more than one condom, as it increases the chance of it breaking.
    • Use a new condom every time you engage in sexual activity.
    • Check the expiration dates on any condom packaging. An out-of-date condom is far more likely to break.
    • Don't open condom packaging with your teeth, fingernails, or sharp objects. It can cause a hole that's too tiny to see but big enough for semen to sneak through.
    • Do your best to use only water-based lubricants. There are some lubes that can damage condoms and cause them to break.
      • Pre-ejaculate can transmit STIs and HIV and can lead to pregnancy. You want to start condom usage at the beginning of the sexual activity.


      Safe sex does not guarantee the prevention of STIs, HIV, and pregnancy. Even kissing can transmit diseases such as herpes.

      But there are ways to make sex safer, such as condoms, birth control medication, and low-risk sexual activity like outercourse.

      Keep an open line of communication with your partner to discuss STI testing and what birth control works for both partners.

      If an accident does happen, you can take action to avoid the potential consequences of unprotected sex.

      The Promescent Team

      The Promescent Team

      Our team has over a decade of experience in the sexual wellness field and are experts in sexual dysfunctions, like premature ejaculation. We help couples and individuals better understand treatment options available for different types of sexual needs and educate the public on all things related to intimacy. All of our authored content is medically reviewed for accuracy and reliability.


      Absorption Pharmaceuticals LLC (Promescent) has strict informational citing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic or research institutions, medical associations, and medical experts. We attempt to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references and only citing trustworthy sources. Each article is reviewed, written, and updated by Medical Professionals or authoritative Experts in a specific, related field of practice. You can find out more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

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      The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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