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Why you need to know about safe sex

Sex can be enjoyable and fun, but it does carry some serious risks. It’s important to protect yourself by knowing about safe sex.

Male and female in bed, under the covers; male reaches for condom in bedside table drawer

What does 'safe sex' actually mean?

It means caring for your own health and your partner's health

It’s about protecting yourself and your sexual partner from STIs.

It means avoiding unplanned pregnancy.

It’s about making sex safer and respectful.

It means looking after your emotional and physical health.

It’s about making sure you’re both ready and prepared.

It’s knowing about laws, consent, and the risks of unsafe sex.

The risks of unsafe sex

Engaging in safe sex helps you to avoid risks like:

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
Unplanned pregnancy
Emotional pain

"I went to the doctor and I was like so anxious, like so nervous. I was like, 'Damn, my like first STI'. Like, they tell you not to get one... And then my GP told me that that I definitely had chlamydia."

–Alex Trkulja, Sex and Relationship Therapist

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

STIs are infections or diseases that can be passed on from one person to another during unprotected sex with an infected partner. This includes vaginal, anal or oral sex. Some STIs can be passed on by just skin-to-skin contact like touching or kissing. Types of STIs include:



Genital herpes (HSV)

Genital warts (HPV)


Hepatitis C



Hepatitis A & B


Pubic lice


How to protect yourself against STIs

A big part of protecting yourself is having safe sex

Safe sex is having sexual contact while protecting yourself and your sexual partner against STIs.

You can reduce your risk by using dental dams or condoms with a water-based lubricant, every time you have sex.

When used correctly condoms offer the best available protection against STIs.

Remember - even when used correctly they don’t guarantee 100% protection against STIs.

STIs often have no symptoms so you may not know if you or a partner has an STI. If you’re worried about STIs you can ask your doctor or local Family Planning clinic for a sexual health check-up.

How to protect yourself against unplanned pregnancy

You can reduce your risk by using contraception

Contraception is also known as birth control.

It’s essential any and every time you have sex if you want to avoid pregnancy.

There are lots of different types of contraception, including male and female condoms, pills, diaphragms, implants, IUDs and injections.

It’s important to note that only condoms offer protection from both unplanned pregnancy and some STIs.

Remember - even when contraception is used correctly they don’t guarantee 100% protection against unplanned pregnancy.

What is "unsafe sex"?

Every time you have unsafe sex you’re at risk of STIs and pregnancy. You could be at risk if you:

Haven’t used any form of contraception

Had sex and the condom broke or came off

Have had vaginal, anal or oral sex without using a condom

Had skin-to-skin contact with someone who has an STI

Missed or forgot your regular contraceptive pill before having sex

Had issues with your contraception (diaphragm problems)

What to do if you've had unsafe sex

There are steps you can take to minimise your risks if this happens

If you’re worried about STIs:

  • Get tested! Most STIs have no symptoms, so you may not know if you’ve been infected.
  • STI checks and tests can easily be done by nurses, doctors, sexual health clinics or a Family Planning clinic.
  • Early diagnosis and treatment of STIs can help avoid complication, pain, permanent damage and also prevent it from being passed on.


If you’re worried about unplanned pregnancy:

  • Emergency contraception (also known as the morning-after pill) is available.
  • The sooner you take it after unsafe sex, the more effective it will be.
  • You can get emergency contraception from a chemist, doctor, sexual health clinic or a Family Planning clinic.

Having safe sex involves a lot of thought and planning

It’s important that you and your sexual partner are prepared

Take time to discuss your feelings and expectations around safe sex.

Remember, it’s your health and wellbeing, so it’s ok to say no if your sexual partner isn’t willing to use protection.

It’s NEVER ok for someone to pressure or force you into doing something you don’t want to do.

If you need some extra support or more information around safe sex, we’re here to help. Give us a call, start a WebChat or send us an email.

This content was last reviewed 27/06/2019

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