Effectiveness in Preventing Pregnancy
- Out of 100 women who exclusively practice abstinence, none will become pregnant.
What is abstinence?
Sexual abstinence is defined as refraining from all forms of sexual activity and genital contact such as vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
How do I use it?
Abstinence is the only 100 percent effective way to protect against pregnancy, ensuring that there is no exchange of bodily fluids (such as vaginal secretions and semen). Abstinence prevents pregnancy by keeping semen away from the vagina so the sperm cells in semen cannot meet with an egg and fertilize it. If you are abstinent 100 percent of the time, pregnancy cannot happen. People sometimes also use abstinence to prevent pregnancy on days they are fertile (most likely to get pregnant), but they may have vaginal sex at other times.
It will be important to discuss with your partner what abstinence means to you, especially if you are developing a new relationship. Someone that cares about you will honor your choices and not push for sexual behavior that makes you uncomfortable.
How effective is it?
When practiced consistently, abstinence provides the most effective protection against unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including HIV infection. It is only effective when both partners are completely committed and practice abstinence (no genital contact or sharing semen or vaginal fluid) 100 percent of the time. Abstinence is most effective when both partners talk and agree about their reasons to remain abstinent.
How do I get it?
Abstinence is a personal decision that should be discussed with your partner.
Advantages of abstinence
- Abstinence has no health risks.
- It is a personal decision, available to anyone at any time.
- It is free.
- You can be abstinent at different times in your life for different reasons that may change over time.
- You can choose to be abstinent whenever you want, no matter your age, gender, sexual orientation, or previous sexual experience.
Drawbacks of abstinence
- It is sometimes hard to abstain from sex, particularly in the moment. You should always communicate with your partner ahead of time about your decision to be abstinent.
- There may be pressure from your partner or friends to have sex.
- ACOG Committee Opinion No. 417: Addressing health risks of noncoital sexual activity. Obstet Gyneocol. 2008; 112:735-737.
- CDC Fact Sheet: Information for Teens and Young Adults: Staying Healthy and Preventing STDs
- HIV Prevention
- Kirby D. Emerging answers 2007: research findings on programs to reduce teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. Washington, DC: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 2007.
- Teen Pregnancy: For Teens
- United States Medical Eligibility Criteria (US MEC) for Contraceptive Use 2016
- United States Selected Practice Recommendations (US SPR) for Contraceptive Use 2016
Content last reviewed on May 21, 2019