In the heat of the moment, practicing safer sex habits might not be the first thing on your mind. Here are some things to do after having unprotected sex.
1. Urinate after sex
Sex can increase your risk of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI). This is because bacteria naturally found on skin can enter your urethra (where your pee comes out) during sex. Peeing shortly after sex can help flush these types of bacteria out of your system. Keep in mind that those with vaginas are more likely to develop a UTI.
Common symptoms of a UTI include:
If you experience any of these symptoms, make an appointment with Medical Services or another healthcare provider to get treated with antibiotics. Most UTIs begin to clear up within a few days of starting treatment.
2. Explore emergency contraceptives if needed
There are two different types of emergency contraception available. Check below for more information about each type.
Ella (ulipristal acetate)
Ella prevents pregnancy up to five days after sex and is recommended as the first choice for emergency contraception. It’s more effective than other morning-after pills (like Plan B), but you need a prescription to get it.
*Note: Ella may not be effective if you are above this weight. See the next section for information on IUD options.
Plan B (levonorgestrel)
Plan B and other levonorgestrel morning-after pills can lower your chances of getting pregnant by 75 to 89 percent. You can take this type of pill up to five days after unprotected sex, but it’s better to take it sooner because it can become less effective the longer you wait.
*Note: Levonorgestrel pills may not be effective if you are above this weight. See the next section for information on IUD options.
Medical Services offers consultation appointments to help you explore your options. If you aren’t able to see a healthcare provider in time, you can still buy emergency contraception at the Apothecary Pharmacy in Wardenburg or other local pharmacies without a prescription if you are over the age of 17. Just keep in mind that it can be more expensive over the counter. Your or your partner can also purchase any form of emergency contraception to keep on hand. Just be sure to monitor the expiration date to ensure that it is still effective.
Alternatively, intrauterine devices (IUDs) can be used to prevent pregnancy if applied within five days (120 hours) of unprotected sex. Copper IUDs don’t use hormones, are considered 99% effective at preventing pregnancy and can provide protection for up to 12 years. Copper IUDs are especially recommended for women who are above the weight limit for emergency contraceptive pills, because they have been shown to be less effective for women at or above the advertised weight limits.
The Sexual and Reproductive Health team at Medical Services can help you explore a variety of birth control options, including different types of IUDs. Call the clinic at 303-492-5432 to discuss or schedule an urgent visit.
3. Get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Sexually transmitted infections, also known as STIs, are infections that pass from one person to another through sexual activities, including oral sex, vaginal sex, anal sex, genital contact or sexual fluids like semen. These types of infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites.
It’s a good idea for you and your partner(s) to get tested two weeks after having unprotected sex, especially if you’re not in an exclusive relationship. If you’re concerned that you may have been exposed to an STI, it’s important to remember that it can take time before it becomes active in your body. Testing too soon can cause you to get inaccurate results. If you know your partner has tested positive for gonorrhea or chlamydia, you should be treated for exposure right away.
In general it’s best to follow these guidelines for testing:
If you’re experiencing any symptoms, such as itching, burning or pain, get tested right away. Medical Services provides STI screening appointments and drop-in testing options.
4. Take a pregnancy test if needed
If you’re concerned about an unplanned pregnancy after unprotected sex, it’s typically best to wait about three weeks before taking a pregnancy test. This will give your body enough time to develop the hormone that pregnancy tests rely on. You can schedule an appointment to do a pregnancy test at Medical Services, or you can purchase an at-home test at any pharmacy or supermarket.
Finding out you are pregnant when you didn’t expect it can be a stressful experience. Deciding what you want to do about an unplanned pregnancy is a deeply personal experience, and everyone’s situation is different. Talking with your partner, a trusted friend or family member, a healthcare provider or a counselor can help you better understand your options and figure out what to do. Medical Services is here to provide accurate, non-judgmental information about your options and answer your questions. They also have mental health specialists on hand to help support you throughout the decision and appointment process.
5. Prepare for next time
While many of us have intentions to practice safer sex, it can be hard to do in the moment, especially if we don’t feel prepared. Here are some things you can do to feel more prepared and protected in the future.
If you need additional support, there are resources on campus that can help.
6. Connect with campus resources
Medical Services providers are here to support all CU Boulder students learn about their bodies and take care of their sexual and reproductive health. Services include health exams, birth control, gynecological services, HPV vaccines, HIV prevention, pregnancy testing, hormone therapy, infection treatment and more.
Students can schedule an in-person or telehealth appointment to get testing recommendations, review results or order STI tests from the lab. Drop-in testing is also available at the lab in Wardenburg Health Center.
Students living on campus can order a free Buff Box that includes supplies and information about safer sex, such as condoms, lube, finger cots, dental dams and tips for communicating with partners.
Students living off campus can stop by Wardenburg Health Center to pick up free safer sex supplies on the third floor in the Wellness Suite and on the first floor outside of the Sexual and Reproductive Health office.
Medical Services has licensed behavioral health professionals on staff to help you with everything from managing stress, getting connected with resources or finding ongoing mental health care. They are available to anyone who has an appointment at Medical Services and can be seen by request during your appointment.
The Apothecary Pharmacy at Wardenburg Health Center provides prescription medications and over-the-counter products, including emergency contraception, condoms, pregnancy tests and more.
OVA provides free and confidential information, consultation, support, advocacy and short-term, trauma-focused counseling services for students, grad students, faculty and staff who have experienced a traumatic, disturbing or life-disruptive event, including, but not limited to, sexual assault, intimate partner abuse and harassment.
Let’s Talk is a free service where CU Boulder students can check in for an informal, brief and confidential consultation with a counselor or psychiatrist. Let’s Talk provides a special hour on Tuesdays for sex and gender topics. This service is a great way to get connected with a mental health provider to talk through resources, get support and talk through your concerns.