People are abstinent for many reasons, including to prevent pregnancy. Here are some of the most common questions we hear people ask about abstinence. We hope the answers help you decide if it is right for you.
You may have heard people talk about abstinence in different ways. Some people think of abstinence as not having vaginal intercourse. They may enjoy other kinds of sex play that don't lead to pregnancy. This is better described as outercourse.
Some people define abstinence as not having vaginal intercourse when a woman might get pregnant. This is better described as periodic abstinence, which is one of the fertility awareness-based methods of birth control.
And some people define abstinence as not having any kind of sex play with a partner. This is the definition we use on these pages.
Being continuously abstinent is the only way to be absolutely sure that you won't have an unintended pregnancy or get a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
Abstinence prevents pregnancy by keeping sperm out of the vagina.
Used continuously, abstinence is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. It also prevents STDs.
Abstinence is one of the safest ways to prevent pregnancy — there are no side effects.
Women and men abstain from sex play for many reasons — even after they've been sexually active. A couple may even choose to be abstinent after having had sex play with each other. The reasons people choose to be abstinent may change throughout life.
People choose abstinence to
Any woman or man can abstain from sex play. Many do so at various times in their lives. Some choose to abstain from sex play for long periods in their lives.
Sexual relationships present risks. Abstinence is a very good way to postpone taking those risks until you are better able to handle them.
Women who abstain until their 20s — and who have fewer partners in their lifetimes — may have certain health advantages over women who do not. They are less likely to get STDs. Because they are less likely to get an STD, they are also less likely to become infertile or develop cervical cancer.
There are few disadvantages to abstinence.
People may find it difficult to abstain for long periods of time and may end their period of abstinence without being prepared to protect themselves against pregnancy or infection.
Talking with your partner about your decision to abstain from sex play is important — whether or not you've had sex play before. Partners need to be honest with each other and make sexual decisions together. These are some of the best ways to keep a relationship happy. Even so, it may not be easy to do. You may feel awkward or embarrassed.
It's best to talk about your feelings before things get sexual. For many people it's hard to be clear about what they want if they get aroused. It is helpful to think — ahead of time — about how you can say "no" to sex play. What behavior will be clear? What words will be best? You can practice saying the words out loud. Then think about how someone might respond to you.
Take the time to consider fully what being abstinent will mean for you. It is important to know what you are thinking and feeling and what you need. Then you can tell your partner about it.
Be straightforward about the limits you want to set.
Keep in mind that having sex is not the only way two people can get to know each other. Sex play is also not the only way couples can be close. People get closer as they build trust by
Abstinence can only work when both partners agree to it. So it is also helpful to keep talking with each other about why you've agreed to abstain from sex play. Your relationship may change. And your decision to be abstinent may change, too.
Staying abstinent is a choice you make every day. There are ways to help yourself with that choice.
Abstinence can be difficult for some people. Women and men need to be clear about their reasons to stay abstinent. If you are tempted to have sex play, it helps to remember why you made the decision to be abstinent in the first place. How can you stay abstinent? Think about your answers to these questions:
Most people stop being abstinent at some point in their lives. When you decide not to be abstinent, ask yourself