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Sexual Abstinence

Sexual Abstinence

What is the sexual abstinence or “not right now” method

Sexual Abstinence, also known as the “not right now” method, is the delaying or avoidance of all or some sexual activities. If you do not have vaginal sex, you will not get pregnant. In a broader sense, the word abstinence may mean different things to different individuals.

If you are looking at abstinence from a contraception basis, it is defined as the avoidance of sexual behaviors that introduce semen into a vagina. This definition does, however, recognize that some sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact.

Primary abstinence is practiced when someone who has never been sexually active delays some or all sexual behaviors.

Secondary abstinence is practiced when someone who has previously been sexually active intentionally decides to delay or avoid all or some sexual behaviors.

Periodic abstinence is defined as a sexually active person abstaining from vaginal-penile sex during the fertile days of a menstrual cycle (1).

A person can choose to abstain from vaginal sex only but still have other forms of sex. Practicing these other forms of sexual activity is defined by Planned Parenthood as outercourse.

How does abstinence work?

If you do not have vaginal sex, you will not get pregnant. This method is a conscious, deliberate decision to not have vaginal sex. It is a decision you will need to remember every day.

To stick with this method, you must keep reminding yourself why you chose to not have vaginal sex. It also helps to think about the potential consequences of changing your mind. If you decide to have sex, make sure you are protected with another effective contraceptive method.

How is abstinence practiced?

While there is no single way of practicing abstinence, here are some useful tips that will help you practice abstinence more effectively:

– Avoid putting yourself in situations where it will be hard to stick to your decision.
– Whenever possible, consider avoiding alcohol and drugs as they can mess with your judgment.
– Find people you can talk to about your decision and lean on them for support.
– Talk about your decision with your partner well before you are in the heat of the moment.
– Be straightforward and clear with your partner about your limits.
– Explore other intimacy options that you might enjoy just as much.
– Remember to protect yourself from STIs that do not require vaginal sex to be transmitted.

How effective is Sexual Abstinence?

When vaginal sex is avoided, abstinence can be 100% effective at preventing pregnancy. If you use it all the time, you are guaranteed to not get pregnant. However, it requires self-control and, therefore, some people may find it extremely difficult to use. If you are using this method and engaging in other sexual activities, abstinence may not prevent some STIs (2).

While abstinence is theoretically very effective at preventing pregnancy, most people are not able to practice it correctly. Notably, there is no evidence to show that abstinence education programs among young people reduce the risk of unplanned pregnancies and STIs. Abstinence is known to be more effective when practiced by older, mature couples and to be less effective when drug and alcohol usage is involved and when there are strong sexual feelings between a couple (3).

When should you consider the sexual abstinence method?

– If your religion is against any other method of contraception.
– If you have agreed with your partner to abstain for moral, religious, or cultural reasons.
– If you have no access to another method of contraceptive.

Contraception Quiz

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External Condom

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