How To Have Safe Sex On Holiday
The season of sun, sea and budget flights is upon us: that’s right folks, summer is officially here! If you’re planning on escaping the UK for warmer pastures, you might end up with a summer romance (or two) on your hands.
Lots of things are different abroad, but you can catch STIs or risk an unplanned pregnancy anywhere in the world. We spoke to Isabel Inman from Brook, the young people’s sexual health and wellbeing charity, to find out about the best safe sex options for overseas travel.
When in doubt, use condoms
When you have sex with a new partner and you’re unsure about their sexual health status, condoms are the only way to protect yourself against unplanned pregnancy and STDs.
It’s worth asking someone about their status, but it’s still best to use condoms in case they are just saying what you want to hear or if you want to keep your mind at rest.
“Condoms and internal condoms are the only method of contraception to protect against unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs),” Isabel says, “to avoid counterfeit or poor quality condoms, it’s best to bring your own from home. You can get them for free from your GP or sexual health clinic. If you’re under 25 you can join the C-Card scheme to get free condoms regularly from a local pick up point.”
You can buy condoms abroad, but it’s best to make sure you’re buying a product you can trust: “If you forget to bring condoms and you are buying them in Europe, make sure they have the European CE Mark to ensure they are reliably tested,” says Isabel.
Condoms do break sometimes, but there are things you can do to reduce the risk of that happening: “Make sure you store your condoms out of the heat and sun, as high temperatures can damage them. Oily substances, such as sun cream and moisturisers, can damage latex condoms so make sure the two don’t come into contact.”
The birth control pill: tips for taking the pill abroad
We always recommend using condoms if you are having sex with a new partner, but if you’re travelling with your partner and you are already on the birth control pill then there are some things you should remember to keep yourself protected overseas.
“If you’re with a partner and you’re using the pill as your method of contraception, make sure you pack enough for your whole trip,” Isabel says, “the pill can become less effective if you are sick or have diarrhoea so it’s always a good idea to take condoms as a backup.”
Sexually Transmitted Diseases Have No Borders
If you had unprotected sex on your holiday and you’re worried that you’ve come back with an unwanted souvenir, it’s important to get tested. Many STIs are symptomless, at least initially, so the only way to know for sure is to take a trip to your doctor or sexual health clinic.
“STIs are viral or bacterial infections that are passed on through unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex,” says Isabel, “make sure you tell the healthcare professional which countries you have visited as some STIs are more prevalent in some parts of the world.”
You Can Bring Emergency Contraception In Your Carry-On
When we conducted a survey at festivals last summer, 90% of our participants said they didn’t know how to get the morning after pill abroad. If you’re worried about contraceptive failure, and you don’t want to wave Google translate in a bemused pharmacist’s face, you might want to consider ordering the morning after pill in advance so you have it just in case.
“If a condom breaks or you have unprotected sex and there is a risk of pregnancy, don’t panic,” Isabel says, “there are two types of emergency contraception: the emergency contraceptive pill (known as the morning after pill) and the intrauterine device (IUD).”
“The name ‘morning after pill’ is misleading as it can actually be taken 3-5 days after unprotected sex (depending on the type),” she continues, “the emergency contraceptive pill can be hard to get hold of in some parts of the world, so you might want to consider taking one with you from home for peace of mind.”
Remember, you can order ellaOne direct from ellaonedirect.co.uk for 24-hour delivery – or 12 hours if you leave packing to the last minute!
Whether you’re spending your summer sunbathing on the beach or living vicariously through Love Island, we hope 2019 will be your best summer yet. If you have any sex or relationship-related questions, get in touch using the hashtag #AskElla.
Have you ever bought the morning after pill overseas? If you have taken emergency contraception at some point in your life, share your story with us and help show others that they are not alone and they have nothing to be ashamed of.
ellaOne film-coated tablet is for emergency contraception. Contains ulipristal acetate. Always read the label.
Words: Sophia Moss