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Safer Sex Guidelines

What is "safe" sex?

Sex in a monogamous relationship where neither party is infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) is believed to be "safe." However, many health care professionals believe there really is no such thing as "safe" sex. They believe the only way to be truly safe is to abstain because all forms of sexual contact carry some risk.

Picture of male, latex condom

For example, kissing is thought to be a safe activity, but herpes, and other diseases can be contracted this way.

Picture of a female condom made of polyurethane

Condoms are commonly thought to protect against STDs. However, while it is true that condoms are useful in preventing certain diseases, such as herpes and gonorrhea, they may not fully protect against other diseases, such as genital warts, syphilis, or HIV.

Guidelines for safer sex

Limit your sexual activity to only one partner who is having sex only with you to reduce exposure to disease-causing organisms. Follow these guidelines, which may provide for safer sex:

  • Think twice before beginning sexual relations with a new partner. First, discuss past partners, history of STDs, and drug use.

  • Use condoms every time you have sex. Choose a male condom made of latex or polyurethane--not natural materials. Choose a female condom made of polyurethane.

  • Although studies indicate that nonoxynol-9 spermicide kills HIV in laboratory testing, it has not been determined whether spermicides, used alone or with condoms, provide protection against HIV. However, the CDC recommends that latex condoms, with or without spermicides, should be used to help prevent sexual transmission of HIV.

  • For oral sex, help protect your mouth by having your partner use a condom (male or female).

  • Avoid drinking alcohol or using drugs as this increases the chance that you will participate in high-risk sex.  

  • Women should not douche after intercourse--it does not protect against STDs, could spread an infection farther into the reproductive tract, and can wash away spermicidal protection.

  • Have regular Pap tests, pelvic examinations, and periodic tests for STDs.

  • Be aware of your partner's body. Look for signs of a sore, blister, rash, or discharge.

  • Check your body frequently for signs of a sore, blister, rash, or discharge.

  • Consider sexual activities other than vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse--techniques that do not involve the exchange of body fluids or contact between mucous membranes.

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