How can I have safe sex?

Information on safe sex, preventing sexually transmitted infections and avoiding pregnancy.

Having sex without protection increases the chances of pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

Infections such as chlamydia, herpes, syphilis and genital warts are on the rise amongst young people in Scotland, whilst Scotland’s rate of teenage pregnancies is among the highest in Western Europe.

How can I have safer sex? 

There are several ways you can prevent pregnancy, but using condoms is the most effective way of preventing STIs as well. 

Condoms are sheaths made of natural rubber or special flexible plastic. When worn, they create a physical barrier to stop semen from a man’s penis entering the vagina. 

You can get condoms for men and women which are both effective methods of lowering the chances of pregnancy (a male condom is 98% effective) and preventing infection. 

Condoms can be bought from your local chemist and shops such as petrol stations and supermarkets. You also might be able to get free condoms from your GP and local sexual health clinic. There is also no age limit to buying condoms. 

What other forms of contraception are there? 

Whilst the condom is an effective way of preventing pregnancy, there are also a number of other forms of contraception. The most popular of these are taken by females and include:

  • Contraceptive pill. The pill prevents the ovary from releasing an egg and thickens the mucus around the cervix making it hard for sperm to pass through.
  • Contraceptive implants. Tiny plastic tube inserted in the arm under local anaesthetic. It slowly releases hormones and can be kept in for up to five years.
  • Contraceptive injections. An injection of hormones given to females every twelve weeks. It can change a women's periods but it is very effective.

For more information on the different forms of contraception visit our article on Contraception.

Are some types of sex riskier than others? 

Having unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex carry the highest risks to catching unwanted STIs.

Mutual masturbation (touching each other’s genitals) is a low risk act of sex, however there is still a chance you can catch an infection by touching your partner. 

Before you start wash your hands carefully, and avoid touching your eyes, mouth, nose or broken skins after touching your partner, unless you have washed your hands.

Worried you have an STI? 

The only way to avoid catching an STI is to not engage in any form of sexual activity, however you drastically reduce your chances of catching one if you wear a condom during sex.

The most common forms of STI are Chlamydia, Genital Warts, Genital Herpes, Gonorrhoea, Syphilis and HIV. For information on the symptoms of each of STI visit the NHS Choices page on Sexually Transmitted Infections.  

If you are worried that you have caught an STI visit your GP, get tested at your local sexual health clinic or if want someone to talk to you can phone Childline on 0800 1111. You can find your local sexual health clinic on the NHS Choices Website. 

Should I have sex? 

Never feel pressured into having sex, and only do it when you feel ready. If you are having sex, never feel pressured into having unprotected sex if you don’t want to. 

Remember that sex is not a competition or something you should do to keep other people happy. Just because your mates are talking about it doesn’t mean you are the only one who hasn’t done it. 

Visit our article on ‘Don’t give in to peer pressure’ for information on how not to be pressured into doing things you don’t want to do.