Safer Sex Guidelines

Abstinence (refraining from sexual activity) may be the only true form of "safe" sex, since all forms of sexual contact carry some risk.

However, certain precautions and safe behaviors can decrease a person's risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) as well as minimizing the risk of unintentional pregnancy.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents start talking to children about sex when they first ask, usually between the ages of 3 and 4, where babies come from. Although many adolescents may say they know everything about sex, studies have found that many adolescents are incompletely informed about sex and sexually transmitted infections.

As a parent, you are the best source of accurate information for your adolescent. However, many parents are unsure how to begin talking about safe sex with their adolescents. The following are some tips on how to approach the topic of safe sex with your adolescent:  

  • Talk calmly and honestly about safe sex.
  • Practice talking about safe sex with another adult before approaching your adolescent.
  • Listen to your adolescent and answer his/her questions honestly.

Topics that are appropriate for a safe sex discussion may include STIs and prevention, peer pressure to have sex, birth control, different forms of sexuality, and date rape.

Your adolescent's healthcare provider may offer in-depth and accurate informal education classes regarding safe sex practices. School sex education classes, counselors, and books may also help address some issues.

Condoms are useful for decreasing the risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies. Their effectiveness is based upon proper use and varies with different STIs.

Some STIs can be transmitted even with proper condom usage. Some infections need only to have close contact to an open area to invade and grow (such as crabs, genital warts).

Limiting sex to fewer partners can help reduce risks for STIs. Other guidelines for safe sex include:  

  • Carefully think before entering into a sexual relationship with a new partner. First discuss past partners, history of STIs and STI testing, current symptoms, and drug use.
  • Use condoms correctly.  
  • Use a male condom made of latex or polyurethane.
  • Use a female condom made of polyurethane, particularly if your partner will not use a male condom.
  • Never use oils or oil-based lubricants when using a condom; they may cause breakage.
  • In addition to a condom, use of a spermicide can provide additional protection; best results are shown if used with a male condom.
  • For oral sex, help protect your mouth by having your partner use a condom (male or female).
  • Girls should not douche after intercourse; it does not protect against STIs, could spread an infection farther into the reproductive tract, and can wash away spermicidal protection.
  • Have regular testing for STIs.
  • Be aware of your partner's body; look for signs of sores, blisters, rashes, or discharge.
  • Check your body frequently for signs of sores, blisters, rashes, or discharge.

Consider sexual activities other than vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse techniques that do not involve the exchange of body fluids or contact between mucous membranes.

Also remember that good, long-lasting relationships can be built on other things besides sexual intercourse.

Last Updated 11/2013