How to Practice Safe Sex (And Why It’s So Important)

Whether it was in Sex Ed class in school, from a healthcare provider, or from somewhere else, you’ve probably heard about practicing safe sex—now often referred to as “safer sex.” However, even though safe sex may have been mentioned to you before, you may not have received a complete safe sex education. It’s also always a good idea to get a refresher and remind yourself about essential safe sex practices. In this article, we’ll explain what safe sex is, how to practice safe sex, and why it’s so important.

What Is Safe Sex?
First and foremost, what is safe sex? “Safe sex” and “safer sex” are terms used to describe sexual practices that are meant to keep you and your sexual partner(s) safe and healthy. Primarily, that means preventing you from catching sexually transmitted infections (STIs)—also known as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Practicing safe sex means that you engage in protected sex during every sexual encounter you have. Next, we’ll explain just how to do that.

How to Practice Safe Sex
Just like caring for your overall health and well-being, it’s important to do everything you can to protect your sexual and reproductive health. Engaging in safe, protected sex is one of the best things you can do to safeguard your body and ensure you remain healthy—especially when it comes to your sexual and reproductive system. Here’s how to practice safe sex:

1. Use Condoms
Using condoms is the number one way to practice safe sex. This is because condoms act as a barrier between you and your partner, so if either of you has certain STIs, you won’t pass them to the other person. There are both male and female condoms, which should be used every time you engage in sexual activity. This includes:

– Using a condom, dental dam, or plastic wrap during oral sex
– Using a male or female condom during vaginal sex
– Using a male or female condom during anal sex

Condoms are meant to prevent your bodily liquids—like semen or vaginal fluids—from contacting your partner’s vagina, anus, penis, or mouth. Knowing how to properly use a condom is crucial to practicing safe sex. However, condoms are not 100% safe, as they can break or tear. They also don’t protect against syphilis, herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV), which can all spread through skin-to-skin contact.

2. Reduce Your Number of Sexual Partners
Another important part of practicing safe sex is to limit the number of your sexual partners. The more partners you have sexual relations with, the higher the risk is of you contracting an STI, even if you normally practice safe sex. This is because there are many factors that are out of your control, such as if a condom breaks, someone you have sex with lies about having an STI, and more.

Limiting your number of partners will decrease your risk of getting an STI and ensure you are having sex with people you trust. It’s important to always talk to your partner(s) about their sexual history and make sure you are on the same page. It’s even better if you and your partner agree to mutual monogamy, where you commit to only having sex with each other. This will ensure that you are having safe sex and will not have the risk of contracting an STI from another partner.

3. Get Vaccinated
As mentioned earlier, HPV is an STI that can still be transmitted even when you use condoms during sex. It’s also one of the most dangerous STIs because it is incredibly widespread and HPV infection can lead to cervical cancer. HPV is so common that nearly everyone who is sexually active will be infected at some point in their life. Luckily, you can get vaccinated against HPV to ensure that you stay safe and protected.

4. Get Tested
Getting tested for STIs is another necessary aspect of practicing safe sex. Getting tested regularly will let you know whether or not you’ve contracted an STI. There are also various screenings and examinations your healthcare provider can do to check for certain STIs—like a Pap Smear to test for cervical cancer from an HPV infection.

Now that we’ve covered how to practice safe sex, let’s look at further reasons as to why it’s so important.

Why Is Safe Sex Important?
STIs are very easy to contract and are incredibly widespread, with nearly 1 out of every 5 individuals in the United States having an STI. That’s nearly 68 million people. Nearly 50% of those cases occurred in people between the ages of 15 and 24.  According to some studies, the average person in the U.S. has over 7 sexual partners during their lifetime, so the chances of contracting an STI during one of those encounters is fairly high.

It’s important to practice safe sex because it reduces the chance of contracting an STI and helps to keep you and your partner(s) healthy and safe. Protecting yourself from STIs will make sure you don’t spread them to others or have any negative health effects. This is especially important since certain STIs—like HPV and HIV—can lead to more dangerous health issues.

With Valentine’s Day coming up, February is a great time to educate yourself further on the risks of STIs and ensure that you are practicing safe sex. In addition to being Valentine’s Day, February 14th is also National Condom Day and serves as a reminder to always protect yourself by wearing a condom during sex. Many healthcare providers even give out free condoms to make it even easier!

This month is also a perfect time to schedule an STI test, an examination to get checked, or a vaccination appointment to get protected. At MyAlly Health, we offer a wide variety of STI testing, annual examinations like Pap Smears to test for HPV, and Gardasil vaccinations to protect you from HPV infections. 

These may be low-cost or even free for you, so talk to us today about getting protected against STIs. You can even get a $25 gift card for completing a cervical cancer screening, a pelvic examination, or for receiving the Gardasil vaccine!

MyAlly Health offers confidential reproductive health services to women and men in the Grand Forks, North Dakota area, regardless of income or age. This includes preventive care, like getting tested for STIs, breast examinations, and pelvic examinations; determining the best birth control for you; and even getting vaccinated against the flu. The clinical services we provide are all performed by Nurse Practitioners and Resident Physicians. 

In order to empower and engage individuals in their well-being and reproductive health, MyAlly Health offers education, counseling, advocacy, and healthcare services. Find out more about what we do, help make a difference by donating to our cause, or schedule an appointment with us today!

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