1. What is it?
Abstinence means not having sex (that means NO vaginal, oral, or anal sex). Being abstinent can also mean being abstinent for one night – like if you don’t have a condom and you’re not prepared
2. How does it work to prevent pregnancy?
The penis does not touch the vaginal area, so sperm cannot enter the vagina to fertilize an egg. However, if a male ejaculates (cums) close to the vaginal opening, there is a possibility that semen could enter the vagina, and a pregnancy could occur.
3. How effective is it in preventing pregnancy?
Abstinence is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy.
4. How effective is it in preventing STDs?
If used consistently and correctly, abstinence (not having vaginal, oral or anal sex) is effective in preventing STDs. However, some sexual activities abstinent people participate in, such as genital touching (like fingering or handjobs), can transmit STDs. To prevent spreading STDs during genital touching, make sure that you wash your hands with soap and water after touching your genitals and before touching your partner’s genitals (and vice versa). Just this simple step can significantly reduce the likelihood of spreading an STD. It is also possible for partners to use latex or nitrile-based gloves when touching their partner’s genitals. This is a precaution for those who want to be extra safe. Be sure to also learn how people protect themselves using dental dams.
5. Other Things to Know about ABSTINENCE:
- Little worry about pregnancy, birth control, or diseases
- Getting to know your partner without a sexual relationship
Disadvantages might include:
- Not getting to experience the pleasure of sex
- People not understanding your decision and feeling hurt or offended
Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was adapted from BigDecisions.org, a website that provides education about reproductive and sexual health.
Melissa A. Habel, MPH
CHES Health Scientist
Division of STD Prevention Centers for Disease Control & Prevention