The Ultimate Guide to Safe Sex Under Water

couple in the ocean

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Traveling to romantic places may bring out your more adventurous side. Exotic landscapes, hidden waterfall lagoons, lavish hotel suites with hot tubs built for two, and private pool loggias may tempt you to expand your lovemaking horizon. So, this begs the question—can you have safe underwater sex? One risk is that having sex public places, such as the beach, a public swimming pool, a swimming hole or lake, is illegal. If you can safely navigate that, then consider how having sex underwater may affect your risk of pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (STD), and other infections.

Having Safe Underwater Sex

If your chief concern is preventing pregnancy, you can safely have sex in the water with many, but not all, birth control methods. But these birth control methods will only protect you from getting pregnant. They won't protect you from STDs and HIV, which can still be spread while having underwater sex (this is even true with sex in hot tubs).

In order to have safe underwater sex, you should be using a birth control method that also provides STD protection. Female condoms are the preferred choice when having sex underwater. Male latex condoms may be a little risky to use during underwater sex. As well, you need to consider a silicone-based lubricant.

Safer in Water

  • Female condoms

  • Hormonal birth control methods (only pregnancy protection, not STD)

  • Vasectomy, tubal ligation, Essure (only pregnancy protection, not STD)

  • IUD (only pregnancy protection, not STD)

  • Silicone-based lubricants

Unsafe in Water

  • Latex condoms

  • Spermicide

  • The Today Sponge

  • Diaphragm or cervical cap

  • Any non-barrier birth control methods will not protect against STDs

  • Water-based or oil-based lubricants

Condom Use and Underwater Sex

Condoms must go through a series of durability tests before they can be sold. However, condom companies do not test condoms for the wet conditions, heat, or chemicals found in pools and hot tubs. Condom companies point out that there has not been any research done on how effective condoms are when used in water.

Condoms being tested
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Condom manufacturers have placed warnings on their boxes to tell you that if you don't use condoms in the proper way (meaning, for any purpose other than for vaginal sex in a non-water location), then the condom could be less effective.

Trojan brand condoms even specifically say that Trojan Condoms are not recommended for use in a pool or underwater because these conditions may compromise this product and/or cause slippage of the condom.

Durex brand condoms say “as far as we are aware, no research has been carried out into the performance of condoms when they are used underwater. It is possible that the risk of slippage, for example, might increase when used in such circumstances. Whilst salt in seawater would not have adverse effects on condom materials there is a strong possibility that the chemicals used in swimming pools (chlorine and ozone, for example) would.”

Pool Chemicals

There is also not enough research investigating if the chemicals often found in pools or hot tubs can lower the reliability of a condom during underwater sex. In the studies that have been done, there is general agreement that chemicals, like chlorine, could cause condoms to weaken. This can make them more likely to break. Also, there is often oily chemicals (like sunscreen or tanning lotion) in pool water. These too can weaken latex condoms during underwater sex and could possibly lead to them breaking.

Heat

Typically, condoms will not be affected by the temperature of the water—unless it is very hot. Since baths, hot tubs, and Jacuzzi’s can become super hot, there is the chance that this heat may damage a condom. Higher temperatures can also increase your chances of condom breakage during underwater sex.

Jacuzzis or hot tubs may cause more condom problems due to the combination of the chemicals in the water and the higher water temperatures. Even though there may not be any specific research confirming this, a good rule of thumb is not to use a condom in pools, Jacuzzis, or hot tubs because there is always the chance that the temperature and/or chemicals found in these places may lead to the risk of condom failure.

Slippage

A final reason for why a condom may fail during underwater sex is that it may be more likely to slip off. And to make things even worse—because you are in the water, it is often hard to tell if this happens. A condom could slide off for several reasons:

  • The condom is not put on correctly. It is super important that you put the condom on while the penis is outside of the water. Do NOT put on a condom underwater. Putting a condom on the outside of the water is one way to lower the chances of water seeping into the condom which can cause the condom to slide off.
  • Water, though, at any point during underwater sex, could possibly seep in between the condom and the penis (causing the condom to slip off). There is no way to prevent this from happening.
  • If a man can maintain his erection the entire time he is wearing a condom during underwater sex, it is unlikely that water could get inside. But, if his erection becomes even a little flaccid (if only for an instant—which is very common), then there is a chance for water to seep inside the condom.
  • During the actual motions of underwater sex, water can be pushed into the condom. This can cause the condom to more easily slip off as well.

Using a condom is better than not using any birth control at all. To increase condom success during underwater sex:

  1. Make sure the condom is put on out of the water.
  2. Use a silicone-based lubricant.
  3. Do your best to make sure the condom has not come off and is floating somewhere downstream.

The bottom line on latex condoms is that although they protect against both pregnancy and STDs, they are not the best contraception to use for underwater sex. There is a higher chance that latex condoms can break from decreased lubrication and/or weaken from heat, chlorine, or oil-based substances in the water. Plus, there is the added threat that the condom could slip off if water gets inside of it and you may not even be aware that this has happened.

Female Condoms Are Safer for Underwater Sex

Woman holding female condom
Keith Brofsky / Getty Images

So, you really want to have underwater sex. But, you also want protection from pregnancy and STDs. The solution? Use a female condom. They are a good contraceptive for water sex because:

  • Of the female condom design and placement. Since it is made to be inserted into the female body, less water will affect it, so it's less likely to slide out.
  • They are made of polyurethane (and not latex). This makes them a safer and stronger option because oil-based lubricants or substances in the water will not cause them to break. This does not mean male condoms made of polyurethane are good to use for underwater sex. Research shows that polyurethane male condoms have a higher breakage rate than latex condoms
  • Fc female condoms are also lubricated inside and out so friction is reduced.

To increase female condom effectiveness, you should insert the female condom before going into the water. This way, the lubrication that is already inside the condom is less likely to wash off.

Lubrication During Water Sex

Another complication related to underwater sex has to do with lubrication. Water (from a bath, pool, lake, etc.) can wash away the natural lubrication that occurs within your vagina when you have sex. It can also dilute the water-based lubrication that comes on a condom. This can cause the condom to dry out during underwater sex.

This decrease in lubrication that can happen when having sex in the water can result in uncomfortable sex. More importantly, though, less lubrication equals increased friction. This combination results in a greater chance that your condom may break. To avoid this problem, you can use an additional non-water-based lubricant to your condom:

  • Do Not Use Water-Based Lubricants: Lubricated condoms often use a water-based lubricant, which will be diluted in the water and won't perform its intended function.
  • Do Not Use Oil-Based Lubricants: Oil lubes will destroy latex and cause your condom to break. Beware of lubricants that "claim" that they can be used for underwater sex. Many times, these tend to be oil-based, so make sure to read the label carefully. Latex condoms already have a higher chance of breaking during underwater sex because of all the other oil-based products (sunscreen, bath oils, bubble bath, soap, and shampoo) commonly found in pools and bathtubs. More oil means more risk.
  • Use Silicone-Based Lubricants: Silicone lubes are condom safe and water-resistant. Silicone is a synthetic substance that retains its slippery properties longer than water-based lubricants. Just keep in mind that they tend to be more expensive than water-based lubricants.

Birth Control Methods Affected by Water

The following birth control methods are not good to use at all for underwater sex. This is because the increased amount of water that enters the vagina during underwater sex will affect the effectiveness of these methods:

  • Spermicide: such as suppositories, jellies, foams, and film. Spermicide is inserted into the vagina and can be washed away. Even if some of it remains, the effectiveness will be greatly lowered.
  • The Today Sponge: this sponge is a bit confusing since you can actually insert the sponge while in a bath, Jacuzzi, or pool. The increased amount of water could dilute the spermicide in the sponge (making it less effective).
  • Diaphragm or Cervical Caps: The increased amount of water can move these devices out of their critical position. Plus spermicide must be used with these methods, and the spermicide can be washed away.

Birth Control Methods Ineffective for STD Protection

Although there are some great birth control options that are very effective at protecting you from getting pregnant. Most birth control methods are not great for underwater sex. This is mainly because they offer no STD protection. They also can't protect you from the bacteria that can be in the water. These birth control methods include:

Underwater Sex and Health Risks

couple kissing in a lake
Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Water, by itself, does not pose any health problems during underwater sex. The bigger issue becomes what exactly is in the water. Water that contains salt, chlorine, or bacteria can be forced into the vagina by the thrusting motion of sex. This could lead to irritation or infection.

Women are more susceptible to infections during underwater sex due to their anatomical differences. This risk includes getting STDs, urinary tract infections, and yeast infections. The added issue of sexual friction (due to less lubrication) can result in irritation and micro-tears to the vaginal walls. These tears provide a direct route for infections. They can also increase the chances of catching a sexually transmitted disease.

Having underwater sex in a pool or Jacuzzi can put you at an even higher risk for infection. Research shows that water full of bacteria can get forced into the vagina while having water sex. Often times, home and public hot tubs, pools, and Jacuzzis do not contain enough chlorine. This allows for a greater amount of bacteria to be present in the water, which equals a higher likelihood of an infection. Even if the water has enough chlorine, there's still a risk of infection. This is because the chlorine can disturb your healthy bacteria and change the natural pH in the vagina and you can end up with a yeast infection.

Having underwater sex in the ocean or a lake also has its problems. True, these places do not pose chemical or chlorine issues. But you should know that natural bodies of water have the potential to contain some unusual bacteria and/or amoebas. These can put you at risk of getting a urinary tract infection.

A Word From Verywell

Make it your goal to always practice safe sex. Even for underwater sex, you will need to use some form of birth control to prevent pregnancy. It is always wiser to use some type of contraception than none. But, don’t ignore the increased risks of infection. That being said, underwater sex can be safely enjoyed—just make sure to plan ahead for this exotic way to add some spice to your love life.

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Article Sources

  • Durex. Can I use condoms in water or a shower?
  • Hermann, L. (2006). Just keep swimming…The Cavalier Daily.
  • University of California, Santa Barbara. (2007). The Hidden Dangers of Hot Tubbing.