Practicing Safe Sex: A Guide

Sep 2013

It is an unfortunate fact that over recent years, the UK has seen an increase in the number of sexually transmitted infections. In 2011, around half a million cases were reported in sexual health clinics up and down the country. Some think that this is down to changes in the way sex is perceived in our culture. It could be said that attitudes to sex are more relaxed now than they ever have been, and people are more willing to have riskier sex (for instance with multiple partners).

According to statistics, young adults are at the highest risk of contracting STIs. But whether you’re young or old, if you’re sexually active, here are some precautions you should always be taking to ensure the sex you’re having is safe for you and your partner:

Barrier Contraception

Condoms are an essential part of safe sex. They prevent sperm from travelling up to an egg and initiating pregnancy, but they also help to prevent the spread of STIs by stopping inter-person contact through fluids such as semen and vaginal mucus. They also help to reduce the chances of skin-to-skin infections, such as herpes, being transmitted.

The Pill

Hormonal birth control does not provide protection against STIs, but it is effective in helping to prevent pregnancy. If you are a sexually active woman and not looking to get pregnant, you might choose to speak to your doctor about the pill. Pharmacies such as Express Doctor stock a range of contraceptive treatments and can help you find the one which suits you.

When It Isn’t Safe…

Don’t do it! You should never feel pressured into having sex. If sexual protection isn’t available to you and your partner, hold off until a time when it is.

When to Get Checked

If you are sexually active, but are not in a monogamous relationship, you should be getting yourself checked regularly. There are a number of sexual health centres in the UK which provide a testing service, the details of which can be found on the NHS website. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear, or get worse – many STIs may appear symptomless, but can cause lasting damage.