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revised Monday October 28 2013
healthy sexuality
Birth Control Methods


Abstinence is simply not having sexual intercourse. If you’re abstinent, it means you’ve decided not to have sex - this includes vaginal, oral and anal sex.

Abstinence prevents pregnancy by not giving the opportunity for semen to enter the vagina. A sperm can’t fertilize an egg if you don’t have intercourse.

Practising Abstinence

Abstinence is the safest way to avoid getting an STI or HIV.

To practise abstinence effectively and consistently you need to:

  • Set your own limits and feel good about your decision.
  • Believe that having sex is not something to do because everyone is doing it.
  • Want to uphold your personal, religious or moral beliefs.
  • Accept that you can enjoy intimacy in a variety of other ways.


Abstinence is the only form of birth control that is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy. Practising abstinence ensures that a woman won’t become pregnant because there’s no opportunity for a sperm to fertilize an egg.


Advantages & Disadvantages



  • It's free.
  • It's endorsed by many religious groups.
  • It's 100% effective in preventing pregnancy.
  • No medical or hormonal side effects.
  • It encourages you to build your relationship and express intimacy in other ways.
  • It does protect you from sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, if there is no oral, anal or vaginal contact of any kind.
  • Both you and your partner must be committed to not having intercourse.
  • You might change your mind in the "heat of the moment," and not have alternative birth control on hand.
  • Pregnancy is still possible - even without penetration - if semen is on or near the vagina.
  • Other sexual activity such as oral sex can expose you to STIs.

Cautions & Things to Consider

Handling Pressure

Simply not having sex might sound easy, but pressure from your partner, peers and the media can make this decision very difficult. Don’t let teasing or pressure from family, friends, or your partner make you do something you don’t want to do.

Doing what’s right for you is what’s important. There are other ways to be intimate and you should never feel bad about saying no to intercourse.

Talking to Your Partner About Your Decision

Abstinence may be difficult for some couples to maintain. It’s important that your partner realizes what abstinence means to you, especially if you’re entering a new relationship. He or she needs to know about your decision - and support it - before sexual situations arise.

Any couple can still have a positive and loving relationship without having sexual intercourse. Give your partner examples of ways of expressing sexual desire that you’re comfortable with such as kissing or fondling.

Remember: abstinence is a valid choice. So respect the decisions you and your partner have made. Learn ways to communicate with your partner about this and other issues in your relationship and discuss ways to enjoy your abstinence.

Have Back Up Protection On Hand

Plan ahead so that you and your partner know your sexual limits before you get into a sexual situation.

And remember: willpower can sometimes fail, and couples can get caught up in the “heat of the moment.” It’s a good idea to have a backup method of birth control available just in case.


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Revised: Monday October 28 2013

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