Birth Control FAQs: Abstinence

Consumers have endless options when it comes to birth control these days, making it harder than ever to know which of those options is best for you. That’s why Nurx is developing a series called “Birth Control FAQs,” which helps empower consumers by answering their most frequently asked questions for every type of birth control. If you’re looking for more information on abstinence or have always been curious about diaphragms, Nurx has you covered. Here at Nurx, we know abstinence isn’t the best choice for everyone, and we offer the pill as a form of birth control. If you’re wondering if the pill is something to consider, we’d love to talk to you about which kind is best for you. With your first pack at only $5, it’s easy to start the process.

Abstinence, in the context of birth control, simply means to not have sex in order to avoid pregnancy. In other words, women can avoid getting pregnant by not engaging in any kind of sexual activity with a male partner. This is the theoretical meaning of abstinence.  However, that is not the only way it is practiced. Some people define abstinence as engaging in sexual activity that does not involve “intercourse.”  However, they do engage in other activities that offer them sexual pleasure.

In whatever form you practice abstinence, one primary reason why some women have no choice but to abstain is because they do not have access to affordable reproductive healthcare. Our mission at Nurx is to give women control of their health by providing safe and timely access to birth control.

How Abstinence Works

People practice abstinence in varying degrees for different reasons. For example:

    • Some people abstain from any kind of sexual activity for personal beliefs or religious reasons.
    • Some women abstain from sexual activity at specific periods of time in their monthly cycle when they are more likely to be fertile, in order to avoid getting pregnant. This is also referred to as fertility awareness.
    • Some people use the term abstinence to mean not having intercourse or vaginal sex, but they do engage in other activities that can bring them similar sexual pleasure. This includes oral sex, anal sex, massage, and masturbation.

It is important to note that people often confuse abstinence with outercourse. However, there is a key difference between the two strategies. Outercourse refers to the practice of ejaculating outside the body in order to keep the semen (sperm) away from the vagina. Outercourse is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy as long as the semen from the ejaculation does not come in contact with the vagina directly or indirectly.

Indirect contact means touching the vagina or vulva with hands, mouth, sex toys, or even underwear that are tainted with wet semen. Indirect contact of semen with a vagina can allow the sperm to travel up the vagina and fertilize an ovum and result in pregnancy. Indirect contact can also happen during anal intercourse in case the semen drips into the vulva and the vagina.

Abstinence, on the other hand, refers to the practice of not engaging in sex altogether. It can be practiced by anyone of any age, gender, or sexual orientation regardless of their sexual health history for any period of time from days to weeks to years. It’s completely voluntary and a personal choice.

Why Abstinence?

While abstinence may not be the ideal choice throughout one’s life, there are some situations where it might not be a bad idea.  According to CDC reports, 50 percent of all new cases of sexually transmitted infections are in people under the age of 25 years. 1 in 4 cases of new HIV cases occurs in people under the age of 22 years. The American College of Pediatricians has thus urged schools to implement abstinence education in public schools as a means for “primary prevention.” 

It is a good idea for teenagers to abstain from sex as long as possible. Abstinence is also a good idea for those who are infected with a sexually transmitted infection or undergoing treatment for STIs.  Finally, women who do not wish to get pregnant and are not keen on using a birth control pill or a vaginal ring and other similar methods can also choose abstinence. 

Abstinence is really a straight-forward and simple style of living. It eliminates the risk of unwanted, untimely pregnancies or risk of sexually transmitted infections. Abstinence from sex allows you to focus on other important things in life such as studies, a hobby, career or relationships with friends and family. In addition, there are many women out there who do not want to use birth control drugs but are willing to try an alternate method such as abstinence to avoid pregnancy. 

Effectiveness of Abstinence 

Abstinence comes with a 100 percent guarantee of not becoming pregnant or contracting sexually transmitted infections. Outercourse on the other hand, when practiced safely, can prevent pregnancy but it does not reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections through oral and anal sex, intimate genital touches and sexual fluids exchange such as semen and/or vaginal moisture between partners.

Precautions 

Abstinence is a worry-free style of living. However, to err is human. It is a good idea to have some protection at hand in case you end up engaging in sex. Protective measures include condoms or access to emergency contraception. This provides greater protection against pregnancy and STIs than not having any kind of protection at all.

Side Effects 

Abstinence does not have any side effects on a person’s mind or body, except for the fact that they may have to live a sexually inactive life.  It does not involve taking any drugs. The only danger of abstinence is losing self-control, getting caught in the heat of the moment and ending up having unprotected sex.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can I abstain from sex?

Abstinence is completely voluntary and can be discontinued at a moment’s notice.

Can I be in a relationship while practicing abstinence?

It is possible to be in a relationship and still abstain from sex. Sex, though important, should not be the only defining trait of any relationship. The key to having a strong relationship while abstaining from sex is honest communication with your partner. It is a good idea to let your partner know your reasons for practicing abstinence and getting them on board. 

However, keep in mind that simply abstaining from sex because you don’t have access to birth control or you cannot afford it is not a long-term solution. At Nurx, we believe in helping eliminate such barriers for women so that they can be in control of their sexual and reproductive health. 

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