When two people are both ready and agree to have sex, it is important that they communicate about how to prevent an unplanned pregnancy and/or how to reduce their risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also called sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If people have sex without condoms, they put themselves at risk for an unplanned pregnancy and/or STDs, including HIV. It’s important to note that condoms are the only form of birth control that reduce the risk of both an unplanned pregnancy and STDs. Other forms of birth control, like the Pill, the Patch or the Shot only reduce the risk of an unplanned pregnancy—not STDs.
Sometimes people may make a mistake when using birth control, and it doesn’t work correctly. Or perhaps a person was sexually assaulted, and no birth control method was used. There are some things that a person can do after they have had sex and either didn’t use condoms or other birth control or the birth control method they used didn’t work. Emergency contraception (EC), which is also known as the “morning-after pill,” is a medication that can help prevent pregnancy when taken up to five days after unprotected sex. The sooner it’s taken, the better it works to prevent pregnancy. Another option to prevent pregnancy is to have a health care provider insert a form of birth control called an intrauterine device (IUD) after unprotected sex. If a person may have been exposed to HIV, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is a medication that can be taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex to reduce the transmission of the STD HIV.
If a young person has had unprotected sex, it is important for them to talk with a trusted adult. A trusted adult can provide support in taking a pregnancy test and/or getting tested for STDs. A person can also go to a family planning clinic to get help. It is important to make sure the clinic has actual nurses and doctors working there because some places that offer free pregnancy testing do not provide accurate information.
Abstinence, or choosing to not have or delay having sex, is the most effective form of birth control. If people choose to have sex, using contraception and condoms every time they have sex is the best way to prevent an unplanned pregnancy and reduce the risk of STDs, including HIV.