Abstinence

Quick Facts

Defined as not having vaginal, anal, or oral sex

Practiced differently by some people

Almost 100% effective if used all the time

Hormone-free

Reduces your chances of getting STIs

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More About Abstinence

Abstinence means not having sex—this can mean different things to people. For some, it means not having any type (oral, vaginal, anal) of sex at all. For others, it means no vaginal sex. You need to know what abstinence means for you and discuss it with your partner.

To use abstinence as birth control, you must not have vaginal sex. This will keep semen away from the vagina so sperm cannot get to an egg.

You can practice abstinence at any time that is right for you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex before or not.

How to Practice Abstinence

  • 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, e.g., kisses, massage, and masturbation.
  • Talk with your partner about what you want and your limits. If you change your mind and decide to have sex, that’s ok! Just use a birth control method to reduce your chances of pregnancy and/or getting an STI.

 

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Effectiveness

Abstinence is almost 100% effective at preventing pregnancy if used perfectly. This means not having sex without birth control. Remember: even if you are abstinent, there’s a small chance you can get pregnant if you put a penis near a vagina. Examples include rubbing genitals without insertion and anal 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
  • Can decide not to have sex if you have no other birth control handy
  • Best practiced when you can be honest 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
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Limitations

  • It 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 and end up having sex, you can still get pregnant or an STI. Therefore, even if you plan to practice abstinence, consider keeping other birth control (e.g. condoms) around just in case. Emergency contraception can also prevent pregnancy if used within 5 days of sex without birth control.

Family PACT Coverage

Abstinence is free. However, if you are eligible, discuss with your provider how to discuss abstinence with your partner. Your provider can help you select a backup method of birth control. Search for a nearby Family PACT provider: click “Find Providers” in the top right-hand corner of this page.

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