Let's face it: sex is the best. Seriously, is there anything better than doing the dirty with your heartthrob? We'd wager there's almost nothing, except for safe sex. But what does it really mean to be "safe" during intercourse? Turns out there's a lot more to being safe than just birth control and condoms. We tapped Web MD's Associate Medical Director Brunilda Nazario, MD, loveologist, and author of the book Sex That Works Wendy Strgar to find just what every couple out there needs to know about truly safe sex.
1. Pick Your Preferred Contraception
We all know where babies come from, and if being abstinent isn't on your agenda, you're going to need some form of birth control to effectively stay baby-free. The pill isn't for everyone, so don't be discouraged if you struggle to take a dose every day; there are so many varieties of birth control on the market. From shots to implants to patches, there's a solution for practically every woman. Nazario also recommends birth control to her patients to help regulate periods, acne, PCOS and cramps. After all, feeling your best in the bedroom is so sexy, right?
2. Condoms, Condoms, Condoms
No matter how many partners you have, every time you have sex it's got to be with a condom if you really want to be safe. Proper condom usage is 98% effective at preventing pregnancies and the spread of STDs, according to Planned Parenthood. Nazario says to only use latex condoms, as other varieties have a tendency to break and are simply not as effective (unless you have a latex allergy, of course). Remember to use a new condom for every sexual act (including oral and anal), regardless if it's with the same partner. And whatever you do, never double up on condoms—it could actually cause them to rip or tear easier.
3. Be Aware Of Your Emotional Boundaries
Becoming sexually and emotionally involved with another person means you're pretty likely to catch feelings eventually. If you find yourself in a casual sexual situation, it's important to discuss your romantic desires with your partner in an open setting. Strgar recommends defining the relationship early on to avoid an awkward confrontation down the road. You shouldn't feel uncomfortable discussing the reality of your relationship, especially when it concerns the state of your sexual health.
4. Communicate Openly With Your Partner
How can you have the best sex ever if you don't tell your partner what you want? Strgar encourages her readers to test their sexual boundaries (safely, of course). According to Strgar you must create consensual agreements to ensure both you and your partner are on the same page. If you want to try roleplay or attempt some crazy Kama Sutra moves, go for it! Just be sure your partner is equally on board.
5. Get Tested Regularly
At the very least, you should be getting a full STD test screening once a year. Even if you've had the same partner for years, comprehensive testing at the gyno gives you peace of mind and should your romantic relationship change, you're already in the healthy habit. It's also important to get tested with every new sexual partner. Nazario encourages her patients to practice monogamy to lessen their risk of pregnancy or STDs, but as long as you practice proper condom usage and have some sort of contraception, you can still reduce your chances.
6. Don't Believe The Myths
You'd be surprised at how many common sex beliefs are really just plain fiction. While having oral sex doesn't lead to pregnancy, you can indeed contract an STD such as herpes, according to Nazario. Some people also believe condoms aren't necessary during anal sex, but Nazario also confirms HIV and STDs can still be spread without a condom barrier. Also, keep in mind you can definitely get pregnant your first time, douching doesn't prevent pregnancy and you don't always know whether you have an STD or not, just to clarify a few fallacies out there.
Coming to understand your sexual being is a crucial step towards your personal development. While it's okay to feel unsure about your sexual appetite and emotions, never be afraid to ask questions or experiment a little. Just be sure to be safe every step of the way.