Birth Control – Frequently Asked Questions

What is Abstinence?

There are many different definitions of Abstinence, however it is safe to say that an accurate description of abstinence is a pledge that you make with yourself to not engage in sexual activity (oral, anal, or vaginal) for a certain period of time. As a method of birth control, abstinence is 100% effective. If sex play is permitted where there is no vaginal intercourse, it is about 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. Many people decide to remain abstinent until they are married. Others make a commitment to remain abstinent until they have reached a large milestone such as graduating high school, college, or finding a faithful partner for a long term relationship.

People can choose to be abstinent for variety of reasons. The reason can be ethical, religious, legal, health-related, or used as a means of birth control. Preventing pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are usually the most important reasons. If abstinence is practiced correctly, there is no chance for pregnancy or infection.

Why Abstinence is Practiced

In scientific terms, if two people do not engage in sexual intercourse, then the sperm cannot fertilize an egg, therefore leaving no possibility for pregnancy. In addition, when genital fluids have no chance of exchanging, sexually transmitted diseases cannot be transferred from one person to another. There are types of birth control that exist in helping to prevent the sperm from fertilizing the egg, like condoms or contraceptive pills, but these methods are not always 100% successful. Other methods can interfere with a female’s menstrual cycle (like birth control). With abstinence, no condoms or birth control pills are necessary as the person is not having sexual intercourse.

How to be Abstinent

As stated above, Abstinence has many different definitions, but it also has a different meaning to each person. To some people, being abstinent means not having any sexually-charged physical contact with a partner; this includes holding hands, kissing, intimate hugging and/or oral sex. To others, kissing is acceptable as long as there is no touching below the waist in the genital area or otherwise. Only you can determine what Abstinence means to you. You can set the rules as to what you consider behavior that you will engage in and behavior that you will not allow.

The next step is to make your dating partners understand that you have these certain rules and that you are not interested in becoming physical in certain ways. If you find that a relationship is becoming romantic or physical, you have to set boundaries before you break your abstinence promise to yourself. You also have to prepare yourself for the likelihood that your partner may not agree with your pledge to remain abstinent and move on to another partner who is not. If this happens, it is no way reflective of your personality. This is why many teens and young people are drawn to relationships where both parties have a similar goal when it comes to being and remaining abstinent until a certain time.

Make sure you surround yourself with supportive friends, family and partners. Also, remember to keep your future goals and ambitions clearly in focus. Sometimes it is hard to stay committed to your abstinence pledge, but remember that you are working toward a goal, much like the other goals in your life you are looking to achieve.

There are some studies and surveys that show teens who do vow to remain abstinent do have sex, and when they do protection is not likely to be used. Although you make a promise to stay abstinent, keep informed of what type of protection is available to you if the decision is made to engage in sexual activity. It is important to know how to use a condom and where to find emergency contraception.

Do you have to be a virgin to practice abstinence? No. Many times people who have a sexual past decide to stop having sex. Even a person who has been sexually active can still decide to be abstinent.

Advantages of Being Abstinent

  • If you remain abstinent, you can 100% prevent pregnancy and STDs
  • Unlike other methods of contraception, there are no side effects
  • Abstinence allows people to enjoy their relationship on a more emotional level
  • Abstinence is free! You can be abstinent at no cost to you or your partner

Disadvantages of Being Abstinent

  • People who pledge to be abstinent and then change their mind in a hormonally-charged situation are usually without proper protection
  • Although very rare, if semen is spilled in the vicinity of the vagina, pregnancy can occur
  • Individuals engaging in penetration-only (vaginal or anal) abstinence can still transmit or become infected with STDs or infections via oral sex
  • It is difficult for many people to abstain for prolonged periods of time
  • Remember to have other methods of back up available to protect yourself against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases should you wish to stop practicing abstinence.

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