When it comes to taking care of yourself, safe sex is about the most important thing you can have. So make sure that you are in control of your sex life and know that safe sex can also mean better sex…

Sex is a fantastic experience between loving partners, but there are two facts that the most committed couple can’t ignore: STIs and unplanned pregnancies. The good news is that it’s completely within your power to protect yourself and ensure that the sex you have is the fun, passionate and positive experience it should be.

In case you’re not yet fully convinced about reaching for the condoms, ponder this: According to NHS England statistics, year 2013 saw over 446,000 new cases of STIs diagnosed. The two most common sexually transmitted infections were chlamydia (208,000) and genital warts (73,000)[i]. A study by University College London also found that 16.2 per cent of UK pregnancies are unplanned[i]. It’s easy to prevent these problems by having safe sex.

What is safe sex?

Safe sex means having sexual contact with a consenting partner while taking precautions that will protect yourself and your partner against unwanted pregnancy and STIs, such as genital warts, HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea. For sex to be safe, partners must not exchange semen, vaginal fluids or blood. Thus, there must be a barrier that prevents this exchange.

It all starts with contraception

Condoms help prevent pregnancy, but unlike other contraception methods, they also protect against STIs by acting as a physical barrier on the genitals to prevent the exchange of bodily fluids. There are so many different types of condom that there is always one to suit every user, even if they have a latex allergy. So there is really no excuse to not wear a condom for sex anymore. Get busy and check out the Durex condom range to find the right one for you and your partner.

Putting on a condom can be an enjoyable part of sex that’s incorporated into foreplay, and it doesn't have to feel like an inconvenient interruption in the middle of sex. But you must wear them correctly, so let’s brush up on how to put the condom on:

  • Remove the condom from the packet, and don’t do this with your fingernails.
  • Place the condom over the tip of your erect penis.
  • If the condom has a teat, use your thumb and forefinger to squeeze excess air out.
  • Roll the condom down to the base of the penis. If it doesn’t roll down, it’s probably inside out, so try again with a fresh one.
  • After sex, withdraw the penis, holding the condom at the base to avoid any semen spillage. 
  • If you’re unsure about how to put a condom on, practice until you’re more confident.

Getting checked

If you have symptoms of an STI, it’s important to get yourself checked by a doctor. It is a good idea to get tested if you’ve had unprotected sex even if you don’t have symptoms, as not all infections give warning signs at first. Think of a trip to the genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic as giving yourself a sexual MOT, where you can get tested and treated for STIs. It’s easy and confidential, and if anything is picked up, most infections can be cured discreetly and quickly.

In most cases, you need to make an appointment, but some clinics offer a drop-in service, where you just turn up and wait. The tests themselves depend on the symptoms you have, and what tests you decide you want, but they may involve giving a blood or urine sample, or having swabs taken in and around your genitals. Some test results can come on the same day, while others may take up to a week. Most clinics ask how you wish to receive the results.

4. Get to know your own body

The key for having really great sex is knowing what you like, what being turned on feels like, how to get turned on and where and how you like to be touched. The best way of discovering this is through finding these experiences yourself. Although it isn't for everyone, most people masturbate and it can be lots of fun with someone, too.

Safety first

Protecting yourself and your partner by having safe sex is easy and it means that you have the power to protect your own health and have better sex. People don’t always know if they’re carrying an STI, so play it safe and use a condom.

[i] http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Sexualhealth/Pages/Sexonholiday.aspx

[ii] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673613620711