Abstinence

Quick Facts

Abstinence means not having sex

100% effective if used all the time

Hormone-free

For some people it can include other kinds of sex but not vaginal or anal sex

Having no sex of any kind protects from STDs

couple holding hands with fingers interlaced

More About Abstinence

Abstinence means not having sex, but this can mean different things to different people. It’s important to know what you and your partner mean by it. For some it means no type of sex at all – vaginal, oral, or anal.  For others it means no vaginal sex. Abstinence prevents pregnancy by keeping semen away from the vagina so sperm cannot get to an egg.

To use abstinence as birth control, you decide not to have vaginal sex. Then you stick with your decision. You also need to know what this means for you and discuss it with your partner.

You can choose to use abstinence at any time. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex before or not. You can chose to use it when the time is right for you.

How to Practice Abstinence

Abstinence works as birth control by keeping sperm away from the vagina. This prevents sperm from getting to an egg and causing pregnancy. To use abstinence as birth control:

  • Make a conscious decision not to have vaginal sex
  • Talk with your partner about your choice before things get hot
  • Be clear about your decision
  • Find people you can trust to talk with about your choice and get support
  • Avoid situations where it would be hard to stick to your decision
  • Find other things that feel good for you and your partner, such as kisses, massage, and masturbation
  • Keep talking with your partner about what you want and what your limits are. If you change your mind and decide to have sex, use a birth control method to stay protected.
A chalk drawing of two people facing each other sharing a speech bubble with a heart in the center

Effectiveness

Abstinence is 100% effective at preventing pregnancy as long as you don’t slip up and have unprotected sex. If you decide to have sex, you can decrease your chance of getting pregnant by:

  • Keeping a condom or internal condom handy
  • Talking to your provider about other effective birth control methods

Benefits

  • No side effects
  • Hormone-free, so it won’t affect your period
  • You can decide not to have sex if you have no other birth control handy
  • Abstinence is best practiced when can have an honest talk with your partner about sex, boundaries and what you want.
  • Can give you a chance to get creative with your sex life and try new things
""
Woman holding up her hand palm out in a stopping gesture

Limitations

  • May be hard to stick to, especially in situations that can lead to sex
  • Both partners need to communicate clearly and agree to practice it
  • If you change your mind in the moment and end up having sex, you are not protected from pregnancy or STDs. Therefore, even if you are planning on abstinence, think about keeping other birth control (like condoms) around just in case. Emergency Contraception can also prevent pregnancy if used within 5 days of unprotected sex.

Family PACT Coverage

Abstinence is free. However, if you are eligible, a provider can still talk with you about how to discuss abstinence with your partner, and help you set up a backup method of birth control if needed. You can search for a Family PACT provider near you by clicking on the “Provider Search” button in the right hand corner of this page.

California Department of Health Care Services Family PACT logo