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A list of important things to do after unprotected sex

If you’ve had unprotected sex and are in a panic, the best thing for you to do is to breathe and to be proactive. This is because timing is of the essence when it comes to certain steps you can take. 

But don’t let this scare you. You are definitely not the first person to have unprotected sex, and thus your resources to address the risks are in abundance. 

And so, we’ve created a timeline of what you can do after you’ve had unprotected sex.

Firstly, what is unprotected sex? Unprotected sex refers to having sex without the use of birth control, such as a condom or the contraceptive pill.

And if you’re opting for condoms during sex, be aware that one of the most common mistakes is having the condom break. If this ever happens, it’s important to stop any sexual activity and move away from your partner immediately.  

What to do immediately after unprotected sex 

After unprotected sex, these are the things you should be doing immediately… 

Go to the bathroom 

Peeing after sex is good, but also doing what you can to remove any fluid from the penis that’s been in contact with the vagina. Doing this can minimize or remove the chances of getting a UTI (urinary tract infection), but it won’t remove any risk of you getting pregnant. This is because the sperm will have already started traveling towards the egg.

While you’re in the bathroom, it’s recommended to take a shower and wash your intimate parts thoroughly, then drying them. 

Do not douche! Douching can bring on inflammation and discomfort and it could increase your chances of getting an infection.

Once you’ve taken these steps, it’s time to consider your options and plan your next step.

What to do within 3 days after unprotected sex 

This next step can be done within 3 days after unprotected sex, but the sooner the better.

Take an emergency contraception 

Emergency contraceptive refers to methods of contraception that can be used to prevent pregnancy. There are different options available (sometimes with or without a prescription).

One form of emergency contraception is the morning after pill. There will be different window periods depending on which type you are given, so it’s important to listen to your healthcare provider or pharmacist. The golden rule however is to take it as soon as possible for it to be the most effective. 

Another form of emergency contraception is an emergency IUD or coil (intrauterine device). An IUD is a device that’s fitted inside of the uterus to prevent pregnancy, and it can be inserted up to five days after unprotected sex.

Take note that these emergency contraceptives do not prevent contracting STIs or HIV. They are taken to prevent pregnancy.

There is however a medical treatment for HIV that prevents the infection from occurring. This is called PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis). In order for PEP to be most effective, it must be taken within 72 hours of (possible) exposure. 

Watch out for any STI symptoms

Some STI can be asymptomatic, but there are a few that can appear in the form of sores, itchiness, discharge, and pain when urinating.

So while we recommend keeping an eye on your genitals and your mouth within three days of unprotected sex, it’s a good idea to continue to be observant until such time that an STI screening is reliable.

What to do 3 weeks after unprotected sex

As we just mentioned, STI symptoms could appear later on. Continuing to look out for any unusual symptoms is recommended, including if you’re bleeding after sex or in between periods, and pain in your throat. 

After three weeks of having unprotected sex, it’s highly recommended to have a full STI test as well as an HIV test. At this three-week mark, you’ll be sure to get a more reliable result, as some STIs and HIV have an incubation period. An incubation period is the time between exposure and when an infection develops. 

While some STIs and HIV are incurable, there are ways to manage them in such a way that it doesn’t compromise your life. Knowing your status earlier rather than later can make a huge difference, and it can also help prevent the spread of STIs and HIV.

In addition to a full STI check up and HIV test after three weeks, going for an additional check up six weeks later is highly recommended.

And then, if you’re worried that you may be pregnant (or even if you’re not entirely worried) it’s a good idea to take a pregnancy test. It’s important to wait until three weeks after unprotected sex however, as a pregnancy test works by looking for a specific hormone.

When someone is pregnant, they’ll have the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in their body. It can take up to three weeks for this hormone to be detected however, so waiting for that three-week mark is recommended.

If you have a positive test, there are options. The most important thing is to make an appointment with your healthcare professional to discuss it with them.

Future precautions 

With all of these things you can do after unprotected sex, it’s not a bad idea to take precautions against possible risks in the future. 

You can prepare yourself by:

  • Using a barrier method during sex such as a condom, and using barrier methods during foreplay and oral sex such as gloves or a dental dam
  • Having a secondary birth control plan such as the contraceptive pill or an IUD
  • Making sure your condom hasn’t expired
  • Going for regular STI screenings and HIV tests
  • Discussing the unwillingness to use a condom with your partner 
  • Finding condoms that are strong yet thin that don’t compromise sensitivity 
  • Cleaning sex toys before and after use

At the end of the day, mistakes happen. And beating yourself up about it or being angry at yourself will not be helpful. 

If you’ve had unprotected sex, the best thing to do is to be proactive. Take the correct measures while being more mindful in the future. 

After all, sex is a natural and beautiful thing to be absolutely enjoyed between two consenting adults. 

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