It’s easy to be confused about sex. There are so many mixed messages and myths surrounding it – it’s not easy to tell what’s right and what’s not.

If you are thinking about having sex for the first time then you may also want to look at the fact sheet on Thinking About Sex.

Here are some important facts about contraception, getting pregnant, sexually transmitted infections, having sex.

Facts About Contraception

Will a condom protect me from a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?
A condom will protect you from some STIs, but not all. There are some STIs that are transmitted by skin to skin contact, such as genital warts (HPV) and genital herpes, and a condom does not provide 100% protection against these.

I’ve heard that condoms don’t work, or fail too often to be worth using – is this true?
While not having sex at all is the only foolproof way not to fall pregnant, condoms are a very safe bet and it’s much, much better than using nothing at all.

Can a condom get lost inside you?
If the condom comes off during sex, it won’t get lost inside you, but sometimes it can be difficult to get out! Also, it’s important to make sure that after a guy has ejaculated, one of you holds the base of the condom as he withdraws, otherwise there is a chance the condom might fall off and spill semen into the vagina.

If a condom breaks during sex, can you avoid being pregnant by washing your vagina?
No. Sperm would already have entered the uterus before you’ve had a chance to wash (they’re very fast swimmers). You may want to find out about emergency contraception. Emergency contraception is not hard to get, but you will need to contact a doctor, youth health centre, sexual health centre or a family planning clinic for a prescription. You should also take a test for any STIs you may have caught.

If I’m on the pill and I take a pregnancy test, will the results work properly?
A pregnancy test measures a hormone that is produced when conception occurs. These are different hormones to the ones in the pill, so the pregnancy test will not be affected by it.

If I’m on the pill and the guy ejaculates inside me, does that mean I won’t get pregnant?
The pill, if taken correctly will prevent pregnancy, but it will not protect you from sexually transmitted infections. Also, be aware that if you’ve been vomiting, taking certain medications, or have skipped taking the pill for a day there is a chance the pill won’t protect you from getting pregnant.

There’s no such thing as a woman’s condom right?
Yes. It’s called a femidom but they are not as readily available as men’s condoms. You might be lucky to find some at your local chemist, youth health centre or FPA Health centre. Otherwise, they can be mail ordered right to your front door!

Facts about Getting Pregnant

If you have sex during your period does that mean that you can’t get pregnant?
Not true. If you have a short period cycle, you will start ovulating by the end of your period. Combine that with the fact that sperm can survive for up to 5 to 6 days (wow!) after sex, and you’ve got a recipe for pregnancy.

If I had unprotected sex but got my period since, does that mean I can’t be pregnant? There have been cases where women continue to have their periods during their whole pregnancy. The only way to find out for sure is to have a urine or blood pregnancy test. You can buy a pregnancy test kit in the chemist and it is just as effective as any other test.

Is it true that you can get pregnant from swallowing sperm?
Not true. Sperm are mighty little swimmers but if you swallow a guy’s semen, it can only go as far as the stomach where the acid in your stomach will kill it off. Even if they did survive, there’s no way sperm can travel to the fallopian tubes or uterus from the stomach.

Is it true that you can only get pregnant if you have sexual intercourse?
Not true. It is possible to get pregnant if a man ejaculates on or near the opening to the vagina because the sperm can swim in the semen, enter the vagina and swim up the fallopian tubes where they can fertilise an egg.

Do I have to wait till my period skips to tell if I’m pregnant?
You can tell if you are pregnant as soon as 10 days after you have had sex by taking either a urine or blood pregnancy test.

If he withdraws before ejaculating, does that mean I won’t get pregnant?
Even if a guy doesn’t ejaculate, there is a possibility that semen might dribble from the end of the penis into the vagina during sex and cause pregnancy. There is also research showing that semen on the outside of the vagina can work its way inside a woman as long as the sperm is fluid.

Can you get an abortion without telling your parents?
If you are under 14 years, you will need parental consent for an abortion as it is a medical procedure. If you are between 14 and 16 you are able to consent to an abortion without telling your folks, but it is important that you have someone you can talk to for support. 

Facts About Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

How can you tell if a person has an STI?
A lot of STIs are asymptomatic (which means there are no symptoms). So you can’t tell if a person has an STI just by looking at them. Sometimes people might not even know they are carrying an STI themselves. The only way to be 100% sure is to have an STI screening and to keep the lines of communication open. Never assume anything.

Can love protect me from getting an STI?
No matter how much people love each other, it’s no guarantee against catching an STI (or falling pregnant). Don’t fall into the “it’ll never happen to me” type of thinking either. Using condoms, and being knowledgeable about STIs are your best protection.

If I’m on the pill, does that mean I won’t get an STI?
The pill will only protect you from pregnancy, not STIs.

If you get an STI, does that mean you’re dirty?
No, getting an STI is just like getting a cold. You’ll go to the doctor, find out what treatments are available and maybe most important of all-give yourself piece of mind. The idea of getting an STI can come from the idea that sex is dirty, but sex is a normal part of human expression. If you were playing a game of football and you hurt yourself, you wouldn’t call yourself dirty. Sex is the same – it’s normal and healthy. 

Facts About Having Sex

Is having too much sex bad for you?
Nope. But remember it’s not a competition to see how many times you can have sex. Sex is about being intimate with someone you care about. If it’s not about this then you may need to think about what sex means for you.

Is it possible that his penis won’t fit inside me?
It’s not about the penis being too big. It’s about the vagina being a muscle that can expand and contract. Under tension, it tightens and it needs to be relaxed. The vagina can fit comfortably around the penis whatever its size. Just take your time, try to relax and use extra lubricant if you think it might help.

When I go to the toilet after sex, it stings. Is there something wrong with me?
Probably not. Sometimes the thrusting motion during sex can sensitise the outside lips and vaginal area making it sensitive when you are urinating. In some cases, burning when you go to the toilet can indicate a bladder infection so it would be important to have a check-up with a health practitioner.

Does sex hurt?
Sometimes sex does feel uncomfortable. It could mean you don’t have enough lubrication or you need to try a different position. It could also mean your partner is going too fast or using too much pressure or that you are nervous. It could be a combination of all of these. If it is hurting, stop and talk to your partner. Try some more lubrication or a different position or ask your partner to go slower. If it is hurting too much, then stop because it shouldn’t be too painful. It’s important to talk to your partner about these issues and work out ways to make sex more comfortable.