I had unprotected sex – what should I do?
Let’s face it, unprotected sex can happen, even with the best intentions. Unprotected sex is sex without a condom and other birth control method such as the pill.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do after unprotected sex, but it doesn’t have to be a disaster. There are many ways you can protect yourself against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
The important thing is not to stick your head in the sand and pretend nothing’s happened. The sooner you take action, the more easily you can avoid or treat any unwanted complications of unprotected sex.
Here is our helpful guide to what you should do in the minutes, days and weeks after a casual unprotected encounter:
Go to the toilet.
And pee. Urinary tract infections can occur in both sexes, but women tend to be much more susceptible than men, and around 8 in 10 female UTI cases develop within 24 hours of sex. Visiting the toilet a short time after sex to urinate helps to flush out bacteria in the urethra, and reduce this risk.
Note: Going to the toilet to urinate or wash yourself does not prevent an STI or pregnancy.
During the following 24-48 hours...
Think about whether or not you need to take emergency contraception.
You want to prevent unwanted pregnancy? Provided you’ve been taking your regular pill regularly without interruption during the weeks beforehand as well as on the day of unprotected intercourse itself and the days following, then the likelihood of pregnancy is still minimal, and emergency contraception is not likely to be necessary.
However, if you aren’t using any form of hormonal contraception, then the chances of pregnancy obviously increase. In such cases, and provided it is suitable for you, the morning after pill might be advisable.[link to page with info on the MAP]
See a medical professional immediately if you suspect you’ve been exposed to HIV.
If your partner discloses to you that they have HIV, or have had an encounter with someone else who has the condition, then visit your doctor or local health facility as soon as possible. Those thought to have potentially been exposed to the infection may be issued PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis). You must start it within 72 hours after you were exposed to HIV, or it won't work. Every hour counts.
Do an STI test if you notice unusual symptoms.
During the following week…
Get tested for STIs.
If you notice anything concerning your genitals, such as a change in discharge (or in men, any sort of discharge at all), irritation or pain during urination, then these may be signs of an infection, and you should see a doctor.
Note: Many STIs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, cause no noticeable symptoms. This is why getting tested is crucial. It is the only way to know for sure if you have an STI or not.
It’s vital to be screened at your local health facility within 7 days of unprotected sex, whether you notice symptoms or not. Most STI’s can be treated easily.
Find more about STI testing here.
It’s crucial too to avoid sexual intercourse until you’ve been given the all-clear, so that you don’t risk passing the infection on to someone else.
Following a missed period...
Get a pregnancy test.
There are new home-testing kits that can detect pregnancy even sooner, but many will advise that you wait until the first day following a missed period to administer it, to get an accurate result. Those who are unsure of when their period is due should wait until at least three weeks after unprotected sex to take the test. [ linkt to pregnancy test]
Many home testing kits have a very high degree of accuracy (99 percent in most cases).
Do you prefer prefer to be tested by a practitioner to get a definite result? Visit a local health facility and get tested.
3-6 months afterwards...
Get another STI test.
While chlamydia and gonorrhea may show up on a test within a few days, syphilis and hepatitis B can take up to 6 weeks to develop in the body. And HIV up to 3 months. So it’s important to get tested again following this period to make sure you’re clear.
A word on staying protected
Safe practices are vital for those who are sexually active.
Condoms can prevent the transmission of several different types of STIs, limit the risk of UTIs, and significantly reduce the likelihood of unplanned pregnancy: so, particularly if you’re sexually active and engaging in intercourse with more than one sexual partner, their use is a must.
Pill or other form of birth control: To prevent unplanned pregnancy, use the pill or other form of birth control. The safest to prevent pregnancy and STIs is Double Dutch: Condom and pill use or other form of birth control!
Heat of the moment: Perhaps the most important thing for couples to keep in mind is to not get swept away in the moment. Take a minute, slow down and think about your options.
If either of you has a condom, use it or make sure your partner does.
If you or your partner don’t have one, remember that other sexual practices which don’t involve penetration, such as kissing or fingering, present a much lower risk and can be just as fun or exciting!