Steps to Take If You Have Had Unprotected Sex
So you had a one-night stand. Don’t sweat it too hard—anywhere from to a whopping of people admit to no-strings-attached sex. With bars, websites, and hookup apps in the palm of your hand, getting down with someone you hardly know isn’t such a rarity anymore.
But having a morning-after game plan is essential—especially if you didn’t use protection. Here’s what you need to know to ensure you’re healthy after a one-off hookup sans condom.
Within 30 Minutes
Take a trip to the restroom.
Put aside STI (the updated term for STD) and pregnancy worries. There’s nothing you can do about either of those at the moment. Instead, focus on what you can control: lowering your risk for UTIs. Around of women who get UTIs have had sex in the past 24 hours. “Some women are simply more prone to the infection, but one of the most effective ways for anyone to avoid a UTI is to pee shortly after sex,” says , licensed marriage and family therapist and clinical sexologist. It clears out the urethra, sweeping bacteria along with it.
Know your risk of getting an STI isn't 100 percent.
We get that you may be freaked out, but there is some good news: While STI ratesaregoing up, according to the CDC, your risk of being infected after a one-night stand isn’t so black and white, Van Kirk says. Factors that come into play include your partner’s age and geographic location; whether your immune system is busy fighting off a cold; or whether you have microabrasions on your vagina, penis, anus, mouth, or other areas that have skin-to-skin contact or exposure to fluids.
Within 72 Hours
Take Plan B.
Not on birth control, ladies? “Take an emergency contraceptive within 72 hours of unprotected sex, but sooner is even better,” says Fahimeh Sasan, D.O., assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at Mount Sinai in New York. Plan B or a generic version of the OTC med is in preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours, but that number jumps to if you take it within 24 hours of having sex.
Definitely take it if you’re ovulating—the time of the month when your body’s most fertile. But unless you're super familiar with your cycle and you know ovulation is more than five days away, it's probably a good idea to grab it, Van Kirk says. If you’re on the pill or use another form of contraception, save your money, both experts agree.
Note: Whether you're female or male, gay or straight, if you think there’sanychance you’ve been exposed to HIV, alert your medical care provider or emergency room physician. You may be prescribed post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), a 28-day treatment that may prevent an HIV infection from taking hold.
Check for anything out of the ordinary down under.
For women, this includes unusual discharge—changes in volume, consistency (e.g., chunkier), or color (less clear, more white, or pinkish/bloody)—as well as unusual odor (fishy, yeasty) and itchiness or pain, Van Kirk says. Most STIs are asymptomatic, but infections like UTIs, yeast infections, or bacterial vaginosis cause symptoms like this anywhere from 24 hours to a week post hookup. Other symptoms of STIs for women can be found . Guys, check any unusual symptoms against .
Take stock of your mental state.
It's not unusual to feel a little down after a one-nighter. If you're feeling blue, talk it out with a trusted friend or a therapist. But don’t be too hard on yourself, and remember you’re not alone: One study found only 54 percent of women felt good after a one-night stand (compared to 80 percent of men). Accept that you made a decision in the moment and move on to ensuring you’re healthy. Don't let unwarranted feelings of shame override important next steps, like getting tested for STDs or pregnancy.
2 Weeks Post Hookup
Take a pregnancy test.
While an at-home pregnancy test is most accurate one week after your missed period, many brands offer tests that are more than 99 percent accurate even sooner (like ). But if you want to know for sure—and ASAP—schedule an appointment with your doc, who can test for the markers in your blood.
See your OB/GYN or PCP.
It’s a good idea to get tested two weeks post hookup, Sasan says. That’s when you can get a preliminary all-clear on STIs. Most STI tests look for antibodies, and your immune system may not have necessarily developed these at 14 days, but a clean result provides a little security to get you through to your follow-up a few weeks later.
Watch out for symptoms.
One sign to look out for: a herpes sore outbreak. This could occur anywhere from 10 days to 10 years after being infected, but it’s crucial to get to the doc as soon as you spot one, Van Kirk says. “You have to actually swab an open lesion to confirm that it’s herpes, so once the sore heals—which can be within just a few days—there’s nothing to test for,” she explains. If a questionable bump pops up down there or around your mouth, call your doc that day. Most clinics will squeeze you in if you tell them you’re worried you have a herpes sore, she adds.
6 Weeks to 6 Months Post Hookup
See your doc (again).
If your tests are clean at your two-week visit, going back a month later will confirm these results, Sasan says. And while you’re probably fine, Van Kirk recommends another visit three to six months later. HIV and HPV in particular take longer for your body to create antibodies against, so six months increases the likelihood that, if this virus is in your system, your immune system will have reacted enough for a test to pick up on.
After 6 Months
When do you have confirmation you’re free and clear? With pregnancy, you can breathe that sigh of relief after your blood test comes back negative, or once you get your period, Sasan says.
Unfortunately, you don’t have the same comfort with STIs. “People can have contact, get exposed to an STI, but not have it manifest,” Sasan says. Since some stay dormant in your system for years, it’s crucial to get an STI check at every annual checkup and to use condoms with all future partners.
With the potential for STIs and unplanned pregnancy, reckless hookups are rife with reasons to beat yourself up. But use it as a motivating factor, Van Kirk suggests. “All you can do is plan to be more responsible in the future,” she adds.
Before Next Time
So what should you do differently next time? For starters, BYO condoms. And even more importantly: Don’t be shy about asking—aloud—whether your partner puts one on. There’s no shame in insisting you’re both staying safe. Also remember: If the condom breaks, all the above rules still apply.
If you’re experiencing any kind of regret, analyze what factors led you to make this decision, Van Kirk adds. Research has proven what most of us have learned for ourselves: When we drink heavily, we're more likely to make poor and impulsive decisions. So if you can’t trust yourself after tequila, then know to stay away from that on your next night out. You live and you learn.
Video: What to do after unprotected intercourse? - Dr. Apoorva P Reddy
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