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What to Do After Having Unprotected Sex

Having unprotected sex can be a source of anxiety and stress, especially if you are not ready for the possibility of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). However, it is important to remember that there are steps you can take to mitigate the risks of unprotected sex. In this article, we will discuss what to do after having unprotected sex, including emergency contraception, STI testing, and self-care measures.

Understanding the Risks of Unprotected Sex

Unprotected sex, or sex without a barrier method such as condoms, can result in unintended pregnancy or STIs. Pregnancy can occur if sperm from the penis enters the vagina and fertilizes an egg. STIs can be transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. Common STIs include chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, and HIV.

Emergency Contraception Options

Emergency contraception (EC) is a method of birth control that can be used after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. There are two types of EC: hormonal and copper IUD. Hormonal EC contains a high dose of progestin or a combination of estrogen and progestin, which prevents ovulation or fertilization. Copper IUD EC works by preventing fertilization or implantation of a fertilized egg.

How to Get Emergency Contraception

Hormonal EC is available over-the-counter without a prescription for people of all ages. It can be purchased at a pharmacy or drugstore. Copper IUD EC requires insertion by a healthcare provider within 5-7 days after unprotected sex.

When to Take Emergency Contraception

Hormonal EC is most effective when taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex, ideally within 72 hours. Copper IUD EC can be inserted up to 5 days after unprotected sex.

Effectiveness of Emergency Contraception

Hormonal EC is 75-89% effective in preventing pregnancy, while copper IUD EC is over 99% effective.

Side Effects of Emergency Contraception

Common side effects of hormonal EC include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, and breast tenderness. These side effects usually resolve within a few days. Copper IUD EC can cause cramping, bleeding, and discomfort during insertion.

STI Testing and Treatment

If you have had unprotected sex with a partner whose STI status is unknown or if you are experiencing symptoms of an STI, it is important to get tested and treated as soon as possible. STI testing involves a physical exam, blood and urine tests, and swabs of the genitals, rectum, and throat. Treatment for STIs typically involves antibiotics, antivirals, or antifungals.

How to Get STI Testing

STI testing can be done at a healthcare provider’s office, community health clinic, or STI clinic. It is important to choose a facility that specializes in sexual health and has experience with STI testing and treatment.

When to Get STI Testing

It is recommended to get STI testing at least once a year if you are sexually active or have had unprotected sex

Effectiveness of STI Testing

STI testing is highly effective in identifying the presence of STIs. However, the effectiveness of treatment depends on the type and severity of the infection, as well as the timing of treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent long-term health complications and the spread of STIs to sexual partners.

Self-Care Measures After Unprotected Sex

After having unprotected sex, it is important to take care of your physical and emotional well-being. This may include taking a warm bath or shower, drinking water, getting rest, and engaging in self-care activities such as yoga or meditation. It is also important to communicate with your sexual partner(s) and discuss safe sex practices for the future.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you are experiencing symptoms of an STI or if you have concerns about unintended pregnancy, it is important to see a healthcare provider as soon as possible. They can provide guidance on emergency contraception, STI testing and treatment, and other forms of birth control.

Common Questions About Unprotected Sex

  1. Can you get pregnant from unprotected sex during your period?
  • Yes, it is possible to get pregnant during your period, especially if you have a short menstrual cycle.
  1. Can you get an STI from oral sex?
  • Yes, oral sex can transmit STIs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, and HIV.
  1. Can you get pregnant from unprotected sex if you pull out?
  • Yes, the withdrawal method is not a reliable form of birth control and can result in unintended pregnancy.
  1. Can you get pregnant from unprotected sex if you are on birth control?
  • Birth control is not 100% effective in preventing pregnancy. If you miss a pill or use birth control incorrectly, there is still a risk of unintended pregnancy.
  1. Can you get an STI from a public restroom or swimming pool?
  • No, STIs cannot be transmitted through contact with surfaces such as toilet seats, doorknobs, or swimming pools.


Having unprotected sex can be a stressful and anxiety-inducing experience. However, there are steps you can take to mitigate the risks of unintended pregnancy and STIs. Emergency contraception, STI testing and treatment, and self-care measures can help protect your physical and emotional well-being. It is important to communicate with your sexual partner(s) and practice safe sex to prevent future risks.


  1. How long does emergency contraception last?
  • Hormonal emergency contraception is effective for up to 72 hours after unprotected sex, while copper IUD emergency contraception can be effective for up to 5 days.
  1. Is emergency contraception the same as an abortion?
  • No, emergency contraception works by preventing ovulation or fertilization, whereas abortion terminates a pregnancy that has already occurred.
  1. Can you use emergency contraception if you are already pregnant?
  • No, emergency contraception is not effective if you are already pregnant.
  1. What are the symptoms of an STI?
  • Symptoms of STIs can include pain or burning during urination, unusual discharge, genital sores or blisters, and fever or fatigue. However, many people with STIs do not experience symptoms.
  1. How can I prevent unintended pregnancy and STIs?
  • Using barrier methods of birth control such as condoms, practicing mutual monogamy, getting vaccinated for certain STIs such as HPV, and getting regular STI testing can help prevent unintended pregnancy and STIs.
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