Sexual Health Monday June 6, 2011

When is it safe to ditch the condoms?

There is countless advice online about how condoms make sex safer and the different types of contraceptives that limit the spread of STIs. However, there is very little sensible advice available about what to do if you want to stop using condoms.

Barrier contraceptives are the only way to protect against catching or spreading STIs, which is why sensible adults use them. If you're in a monogamous relationship, you might be considering stopping using condoms. It's possible to practise safe sex without a condom and still make sure you don't fall pregnant. After all, there are countless other ways to prevent pregnancy, such as the pill, the implant or the injection.

The decision about when to stop using condoms is a very personal one, and should come from an open conversation you have with your partner. The most important thing is to make sure you both have a good sexual health record. You should both take a STI test to make sure you don't have any infections that cause symptoms that are often misdiagnosed, such as Mycoplasma Genitalium.

The only way to know for sure if you have an infection is to be tested for it. The good news is that even if you receive a positive result, you'll be able to treat the infection with a simple course of antibiotics and you won't have the guilt of knowing you infected your partner.

This decision should only be made when you're both comfortable with it. Binning the barrier contraceptives makes you both vulnerable to catching STIs if either of you have unprotected sexual contact with another person. This is why it should only be considered if you're in a monogamous relationship; when you have sex with someone you're effectively having sex with everyone they've ever had sexual contact with.

You can find more advice about sexually transmitted infections on our website. The Family Planning Association is another source of great STI information.

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