photo of blood test
1 / 10

Not Getting Tested for STIs

You’d know if you had one, right? Not so fast. Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have mild symptoms or none at all. If you’re sexually active, talk to your doctor about testing or visit a health clinic. They’ll take some of your blood to test or have you pee in a cup.

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photo of colorful condoms
2 / 10

Using a Condom the Wrong Way

Condoms help protect you from STIs and pregnancy, but only if you use them the right way. Only put a condom on an erect, or hard, penis. Pinch any air out of the end and roll it all the way down. When you’re finished having sex, hold the base of the condom and pull out.

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photo of expiration date on condom wrapper
3 / 10

Using Expired Condoms

Don’t forget to check the expiration date. If a condom is dry, sticky, or stiff when you take it out, toss it and use a fresh one.

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photo of flavored dental dams
4 / 10

Thinking Birth Control Stops STIs

The only surefire way to avoid them is to not have sex -- oral, anal, or vaginal -- or swap bodily fluids. Most forms of birth control, like pills or intrauterine devices (IUDs), won’t protect you from STIs. Barrier forms of protection, such as condoms and dental dams, lower your chances of infection and pregnancy.

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photo of sexual lubricant
5 / 10

Having Anal Sex to Avoid Pregnancy

Your chances of getting pregnant from anal sex are low, but it’s not impossible. That’s because semen can move from your anal area to the vagina. STIs are your main concern, though. Rectal tissue is thin and can tear easily, letting infection in. Use a condom every time you have anal sex. And use plenty of lube. Condoms are more likely to break during anal sex because there’s less natural lubrication.

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photo of woman shopping for sanitary pads
6 / 10

Unprotected Sex During Your Period

Pregnancy is more common around the time your ovary releases an egg (ovulation). That’s around the middle of your cycle. You’re most fertile during these 5-7 days, including the day of ovulation and 3-5 days before. If you have a shorter menstrual cycle and have sex toward the end of your period, you could get pregnant 4-5 days later.

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photo of young couple in love
7 / 10

Unprotected Sex Your First Time

Some people think you can’t get pregnant the first time you have sex. But this just isn’t true. Whenever sperm is in or near the vagina or vulva (the vaginal opening), there’s a chance of pregnancy. The only way to avoid getting pregnant is to not have sex. But if you do, be sure to use condoms or some other form of birth control.

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photo of exit sign
8 / 10

Pulling Out as Birth Control

Also called the withdrawal method, the goal is to take your penis out of the vagina before you climax, or ejaculate. But it’s risky for a few reasons. It takes self-control to pull out in time. And sperm can still get into the vagina through fluid that comes from the penis before you ejaculate. There’s also no protection against STIs.

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photo of romantic couple on bed
9 / 10

Not Using Condoms Because You’re Symptom-Free

You or your partner can have no symptoms and still have an STI. This means you can infect each other. Always use a condom during sex and get tested regularly for STIs.

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photo of vaginal bulb syringe
10 / 10

Douching to Stop Pregnancy

Douching, or cleaning your vagina with water or a special solution, doesn’t protect you from pregnancy or an STI. In fact, it can spread an infection to other parts of the reproductive system like your uterus and fallopian tubes. Your vagina cleans itself.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 02/10/2021 Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on February 10, 2021


1) gilaxia / Getty Images

2) joecicak / Getty Images

3) WebMD

4) inga / Wikipedia

5) Kat-Ka / Getty Images

6) ShotShare / Getty Images

7) Martin Dimitrov / Getty Images

8) s-cphoto / Getty Images

9) blackCAT / Getty Images

10) Shattonbury~commonswiki / Wikipedia



American Sexual Health Association: “STI Testing.”

CDC: “Condom Effectiveness: Fact Sheet for Public Health Personnel,” “The Right Way to Use a Male Condom,” “The Lowdown on How to Prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases,” “Birth Control: Information for Parents of Adolescents.”

TeensHealth from Nemours: “Can I Get Pregnant If I Have Anal Sex?” “Condoms.”

Connecticut Children’s: “Can a Girl Get Pregnant the First Time She Has Sex?”

Mayo Clinic: “Withdrawal method (coitus interruptus),” “Sexually transmitted disease (STD) symptoms.”

Go Ask Alice: “Douching.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Pregnancy: Ovulation, Conception & Getting Pregnant.”

North Care Women’s Clinic: “Can I Get Pregnant During My Period?”

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on February 10, 2021

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.