Abstinence: Not Having Sexual Intercourse (for Teens)
What is abstinence?
Abstinence means different things to different people. For some, abstinence means avoiding vaginal, anal, and oral genital intercourse altogether. For others, it means avoiding any type of sexual or intimate contact, including hugging and kissing. On this page, it refers to not having sexual intercourse.
What are the advantages of choosing abstinence?
- Abstinence is free and available to all.
- Abstinence is extremely effective at preventing both infection and pregnancy. It is the only 100% effective method of preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unwanted pregnancy.
- Abstinence can be started at any time in one's life.
- Abstinence may encourage people to build relationships in other ways.
- Abstinence may be the course of action which you feel is right for you and makes you feel good about yourself.
What are the disadvantages?
- If you're counting on abstinence, and change your mind in the heat of the moment, you might not have birth control handy. Some people would like to be prepared and have a condom and spermicide available in case they change their mind. Others feel that having a contraceptive ready and available might tempt them.
- Some people find not having sex too frustrating.
Where can I learn more?
What you do sexually is an important decision. So start by thinking it through carefully yourself. You may want to discuss your decision with another person whom you respect. You may want to meditate or talk it over with your partner. Check with your local family planning association, temple or church, or local health department for an organized support group or program for young people wanting to wait until they are ready before having intercourse.
What if I have sex and don't use birth control?
Did you know that up to 120 hours (five days) after unprotected sex, you can take emergency contraceptive pills to reduce your risk of becoming pregnant? And, sooner is better, so don't wait! This method will not protect you against sexually transmitted infections. Not all doctors know about emergency contraception. To learn more, read about emergency contraception and/or check with your local clinic.
Adapted from Hatcher RA et al. Contraceptive Technology. 18th rev. edition. New York, NY: Ardent Media, 2004.
Reprinted with the permission of Advocates for Youth.
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