Sex is something that should be shared, enjoyed and celebrated. Let's get it on.
Whether or not you have sex, how much sex you have, and who you have sex with, is completely up to you. You might have many sexual partners throughout your life, just one, or you may never have a sexual partner, if you are asexual or choose to abstain for other reasons. Whatever your circumstances and preferences, remembering that you can choose who to have sex with and that you can say no to sex at any time, will help you to protect yourself and improve your sexual experiences (if you have them).
Unfortunately, almost half of women in 57 low- to middle-income countries have no decision-making power regarding their health, contraceptive use and sex lives. We believe that girls and women worldwide should be empowered with the knowledge, confidence and healthcare access to make their own choices. Find out more about some of the grassroots groups that we support to help make this happen through our initiative Empower to Plan.
Although it's not a sexy topic, when it comes to getting down to it, contraception shouldn’t be forgotten. Half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Unplanned pregnancies can sometimes lead to health complications, poor longer-term outcomes for mother and child, and, in some countries, unsafe abortions.
“The burden of pregnancy prevention seems to be shouldered mostly by women, especially in established relationships.” - Tim, UK
The responsibility of contraception falls equally on both partners. We encourage you to have a chat with your partner to come to an agreement about your preferred form of contraception at the beginning of your relationship.
“I think there needs to be more awareness among men relating to the issues that women face regarding contraception. Including, the side effects, the countless appointments, the different contraceptive types. I am open with my partner and happy to discuss it, but if I didn't then he would know very little about the situation.” - Megan, UK
Married couples are less likely to regularly use contraception, and the absolute number of married men and women who do not use any form of contraception has gone up.
There are many different forms of contraception available. Barrier methods include the male condom, which is 98% effective at preventing unwanted pregnancies. Condoms are also the most effective protection against the contraction of sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Condoms can usually be purchased in shops and online, as well as picked up from family planning and doctor's clinics. Other forms of barrier methods include diaphragms and cervical caps, both for women.
Hormonal forms of contraception protect against unwanted pregnancies only. They include the pill, the mini pill, and the patch. Some women prefer a long-acting reversible contraception, or LARC, and these include the non-hormonal copper coil (IUD) and the contraceptive injection.
Emergency contraceptives are also available if needed after sex without contraception or if another form of contraception, such as a condom, has failed. An emergency IUD can be fitted and used up to five days after unprotected sex. Emergency contraceptive pills can also be used.
Vist our family planning resources directory to find out where to get more information about contraception and how to access different contraceptive methods.
Some people make a personal choice to undergo sterilisation. We do not support forced or coerced sterilisation or mandated sterilisation programmes. However, sterilisation is a valid, reliable and empowering method of permanent contraception that can be the right choice for many.
"I had a vasectomy and found it painless, apart from a little prick (the anaesthetic)...Overall, it was an easy experience and I feel much more comfortable with my sex life since then.” - Paul, New Zealand
Individuals should have the right to choose and access these medical procedures without restriction, coercion or judgment where possible.
“We had a daughter and a son. We knew that having two children was enough, so I then had a tubal ligation. We have never regretted that decision. We are able to spend our spare time in the community doing voluntary work and contributing to issues we feel are important.” - Sue and Arthur, Australia
Comprehensive relationships and sex education and equal access to family planning services can help us look after our sexual and reproductive health, and enable us to choose our family size. To find out more about relationships and sex education and where to access contraception and some of the family planning services in your country, check out our family planning directory.
How much do you really know about contraception? Take the quiz to find out!
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