Answers to Common Questions About Unprotected Sex

Unprotected sex (also referred to as condomless sex) is defined as sexual intercourse without contraception. It also means when the contraception fails (condom tears or forgetting to take your birth control pill). Condomless sex increases the risk of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 

This article will discuss what to do if your contraception fails, emergency contraception options, and STI screenings. 

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What Counts as Condomless Sex?

Condomless sex is not using any type of contraception, which includes:

On occasion, contraception may not be reliable. Tears and slippage in condoms can occur, which can increase the risk of pregnancy or an STI.

Know the Risks Before You Have Condomless Sex

Condomless sex may lead to an unwanted pregnancy or an STI, which can have long-term adverse effects on your health. 

Pregnancy

If you’re not using condoms, taking birth control pills, or using other types of contraception, you run the risk of an unwanted pregnancy. Never rely on the timing of your menstrual cycle, sexual position, or the withdrawal method. Without any type of contraception, you increase the odds of getting pregnant. 

In one year, 85 out of 100 people not using any type of contraception, including condoms, will become pregnant.

STIs

Sexually transmitted infections are passed from person to person through sexual contact. There are more than 30 bacteria, viruses, and parasites known to be sexually transmitted. Some STIs include:

If you or your partner have an STI, the best way to avoid transmitting it is by abstaining from any sexual activity. Choose condoms (external or internal) made from either latex or synthetic materials like polyisoprene or polyurethane. Avoid using condoms made from natural materials like lambskin or sheepskin due to their large pores that allow STIs to pass through. The pores in lambskin condoms are 10 times larger than the diameter of HIV and 25 times larger than the hepatitis B virus.

If You’ve Already Had Condomless Sex

Condomless sex due to birth control failure can cause a great deal of stress. Below are steps on how to proceed if you have condomless sex.

Breathe, Then Make a Plan

Before panic sets in, take a big breath and don’t assume the worst-case scenario. Call your healthcare provider and tell them that you had condomless sex and ask what steps you need to follow.

Emergency Contraception

If you had condomless sex, you have two options to prevent pregnancy. Certain IUDs inserted within a 120-hour time frame (five days) after condomless sex is considered the most effective. 

The emergency contraception pill or the morning-after pill is also an option. There are two types of morning-after pills:

  • Ella (ulipristal acetate) is the most effective, and a prescription is required. It can be taken up to five days after condomless sex, but taking it earlier is recommended.
  • Levonorgestrel brand names include Plan B One Step, Take Action, My Way, Option 2, AfterPill, My Choice, Preventeza, Aftera, EContra, and more. These pills can be purchased without a prescription at drugstores or pharmacies. For this type of emergency contraception to effectively work, it's advised to take them within 72 hours after condomless sex, but you can take the up to five days later. 

Where to Go

If you need any guidance, call your healthcare provider or gynecologist. They will either fit you for an IUD, prescribe Ella, or one of the over-the-counter emergency contraceptive pills. If you don’t have a healthcare provider, go to your local Planned Parenthood or urgent care center.

When to Take a Pregnancy Test

You can take a home pregnancy test that is available for purchase at your local drugstore after you’ve missed your period. Take note that some tests can tell you if you’re pregnant before you’ve missed a period. If you’ve had condomless sex and do not want to be pregnant, your best option is to either have an IUD inserted or take a morning-after pill as soon as possible. 

Pregnancy Facts

Conception can occur anytime during your cycle. However, misinformation exists. Some misconceptions include that you can't get pregnant if your cycle is irregular, if you have your period, or if your cycle just ended. Most of this depends on the timing of your ovulation.

On average, women have a cycle between 28 and 30 days, while some may have shorter cycles (21 to 24 days) and ovulate earlier in their cycle. To determine your ovulating time, there are ovulation tests that you can purchase at a local pharmacy. However, if you are not trying to get pregnant, use contraception.

There's a Fertile Window

On average menstrual cycles are between 28 to 30 days. The fertility window generally falls between days 11 and 21. For example, if your period lasts five to seven days and you have sex, you're approaching your fertility window. You can still get pregnant because sperm can live up to five days.

Irregular Cycles Make It Harder to Track

If your cycle is irregular from month to month, the chances of estimating your fertility window will be harder to track. The risk of an unwanted pregnancy is greater and it's advised to use contraception throughout your cycle, even when you have your period.

STI Symptom Progression

Depending on the type of STI you may be exposed to during sex, symptoms can appear within a few days or weeks. However, some may not appear for several months or even years, and some STIs may be asymptomatic. 

Should suspicious symptoms appear like discharge from the vagina and penis, painful urination, sores, or genital warts, see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis and treatment.

An Inclusive Guide to Safer Sex

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) individuals need to be included to learn about sexual health that is inclusive of their experiences. Educators and healthcare providers can offer information on safe ways to stay healthy. Education includes safer sex practices, contraception options, and medications available to treat STIs.

Contraception Options

There are a number of contraception options for genders who were biologically assigned female at birth and want to avoid pregnancy. These include:

Barrier methods like condoms and dental dams should always be used to minimize STIs and as a backup.

Unwillingness to Wear Condoms

Communication is key to great sex and relationships, which includes an open discussion about contraception. If your partner is hesitant to wear a condom, either external or internal, you can suggest ways to make the use of condoms fun and pleasurable. However, if your partner insists on not wearing one, even after you’ve explained how you feel about having condomless sex, clearly state your discomfort and why you want to keep both of you safe. If your partner still refuses, this is a red flag of a potentially unhealthy relationship.

Reasons to Clean Your Sex Toys

Sex toys can be a fun addition to your sexual activity and they are safe as long as you keep them clean. If you’re using vibrators, always cover them with a condom, and don’t forget to always clean them between uses on different parts of the body (mouth, vagina, and anus). Not cleaning your sex toys increases the risk of transmitting STIs, such as chlamydia, syphilis, and herpes.

Normalize Regular STI Screening

Anyone who is sexually active should be screened regularly for STIs. Getting screened for STIs can provide a diagnosis if you are infected and lead to proper treatment. Some STIs, when caught early, can be easily treated; others can worsen with time and are difficult to treat, leading to many health issues. STI screenings are an integral part of your overall health that will keep you and your current or future partners safe and healthy. 

Summary

Condomless sex is having intercourse without contraception, which can increase your chance of pregnancy and STIs. It's important to not rely on the timing of your menstrual cycle to avoid birth control because sperm can live up to five days. With STIs, don’t assume you haven't been infected because you don’t have symptoms. Some infections can be asymptomatic or take up to five days for symptoms to surface, while others can take several months or years to appear. Make it a habit to be screened regularly if you are sexually active.

A Word From Verywell

It's easy in the heat of the moment to have condomless sex, but remember, it can take just one time to get pregnant or acquire an STI. However, if you do have sex without protection, see your healthcare provider as soon as possible to learn what options are best for you and your partner.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What counts as condomless sex?

    Condomless sex is any sexual contact without contraception, contraception that fails, that you forgot to take, or a torn or slipped condom.

  • When should you get tested after condomless sex?

    If you've had condomless sex, you should get tested within three to five days for both possible pregnancy and STIs.

  • Can women have condomless sex at any point in their cycle?

    It is advised to always use some form of contraception at all times of a woman's cycle. The fertility window generally falls between the 11th and 21st days. If you are having sex during your period and it lasts five to seven days, you’re approaching your fertility window, which means you can still get pregnant since sperm can live up to five days.

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9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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