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Safer Sex Guidelines for Adolescents

What is "safe" sex?

Picture of male, latex condom

The only safe sex is no sex, according to most health care providers. Abstinence may be the only true form of "safe" sex. All forms of sexual contact carry some risk. A person can reduce his or her risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease with certain precautions and safe behaviors. As a parent, you can teach your child about safer sex before he or she becomes sexually active.

Talking to your adolescent about safe sex

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents start talking to children about their bodies and sex, at an age-appropriate level, when they first ask where babies come from. Although many adolescents may say they know everything about sex, studies have found that many adolescents are not completely informed about sex and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

As a parent, you are the best source of accurate information for your adolescent. However, many parents are unsure how to begin talking about safe sex with their adolescents. The following are some tips on how to approach the topic of safe sex with your adolescent:

Picture of a female condom made of polyurethane

  • Talk calmly and honestly about safe sex.

  • Practice talking about safe sex with another adult before approaching your adolescent.

  • Listen to your adolescent and answer his or her questions honestly.

  • Topics that are appropriate for a safe sex discussion may include: STDs and prevention, peer pressure to have sex, birth control, different forms of sexuality, and date rape.

Other people who can help talk to your adolescent about sex may include your adolescent's health care provider, a relative, or a religious counselor. Books on the topic may also be helpful in addressing uncomfortable questions.

Some misconceptions about "safe" sex

  • Kissing is thought to be a safe activity, but herpes and other diseases can be contracted this way.

  • Condoms are commonly thought to protect against STDs. It is true that if used properly and consistently condoms are helpful in preventing certain diseases, like chlamydia and gonorrhea. But they may not fully protect against other diseases, like genital warts, herpes and syphilis.

Guidelines for safer sex

Limit your sexual activity to only 1 partner who is having sex only with you to reduce exposure to disease-causing organisms. Follow these guidelines for safer sex:

  • Think twice before beginning sexual relations with a new partner. First, discuss past partners, history of STDs, and drug use. 

  • The CDC recommends that latex condoms, with or without spermicides, be used to help prevent transmission of STDs. This includes sexually transmitted HIV. A male condom should be made of latex or polyurethane — not natural materials. Polyurethane should only be used if you have a latex allergy. A female condom is made of polyurethane.

  • For oral sex, help protect your mouth by having your partner use a condom (male or female).

  • Women should not douche after intercourse. It does not protect against STDs, could spread an infection farther into the reproductive tract, and can wash away spermicidal protection.

  • See your health care provider for regular Pap tests, pelvic examinations, and periodic tests for STDs.

  • Be aware of your partner's body. Look for signs of a sore, blister, rash, or discharge.

  • Check your body frequently for signs of a sore, blister, rash, or discharge.

  • Consider sexual activities other than vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse. These are techniques that do not involve the exchange of body fluids or contact between mucous membranes.

Online Medical Reviewer: Dozier, Tennille, RN, BSN, RDMS
Online Medical Reviewer: Horowitz, Diane, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/8/2015
© 2000-2015 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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