The Ultimate Guide to First-Time Sex Contraception

    Updated 07 February 2023 |
    Published 07 April 2020
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Olga Adereyko, MD, Primary Care Physician, General Practitioner, Medical Consultant
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    Preparing to have sex for the first time can be both exciting and scary. Here’s everything you need to know about contraception methods and safer sex.

    What is contraception?

    Contraception is a method to avoid pregnancy. Sometimes it’s called birth control or protection. Pregnancy occurs when a sperm fertilizes an egg. Contraception is meant to prevent this from happening in one of several ways. It may keep the egg and sperm apart by creating a barrier between the two. Hormonal contraception can stop egg production.

    Other methods keep a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus or attaching to the uterine lining. Fertilized eggs begin growing into embryos once they’ve become implanted. 

    While all contraception is intended to prevent pregnancy, not all methods of contraception protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms are the only form of contraception that can protect you and your partner from STIs, so it’s important to use them even if you’re using another form of birth control, unless you’re in a trusted, committed monogamous relationship and have both been screened for STIs.

    Can you get pregnant the first time you have sex?

    One of the most frequently asked questions about losing your virginity is “Can you get pregnant the first time you have sex?” The answer is yes, even your first time can lead to pregnancy. You can even get pregnant before you’ve gotten your period — the body releases an egg before the first period (menarche). If that egg isn’t fertilized, then you’ll have your first period.

    Even if someone ejaculates outside your vagina, you can become pregnant. For example, if semen gets on your labia, some sperm may make it into the vagina and then the uterus to fertilize an egg. Anytime you have vaginal sex, you risk becoming pregnant, as even the most reliable forms of birth control aren’t 100 percent effective.

    Types of contraception

    There are many different types of contraception, and which one you and your partner use for sex depends on your comfort level and preferences. Here are the different kinds of birth control:


    Condoms are one of the most popular forms of contraception as they can be easily obtained and protect against both pregnancy and STIs. They’re also almost 98 percent effective when used correctly. Do you need to know where to buy condoms? Most drugstores, grocers, and department stores like Walmart or Target will carry them. You can also sometimes get them for free from health clinics. 

    Condoms are one of the most popular forms of contraception as they can be easily obtained and protect against both pregnancy and STIs.

    Condoms are considered a barrier method of birth control and are worn on the penis. They’re made of latex (rubber), polyisoprene, or polyurethane and should be put on before vaginal sex and stay on until after ejaculation and withdrawal, at which point the condom should be thrown away, not flushed. It’s important to not reuse condoms. Condoms are considered to be the best type of first-sex contraception as it prevents pregnancy, protects against STIs, and are easily accessible. Note that lambskin condoms do not provide protection from STIs.

    Internal condoms

    These are also a barrier method intended to be worn in the vagina or the anus. Internal condoms are looser than the external version. These, too, should be inserted and unrolled prior to intercourse and should stay inside the body until ejaculation. 

    Cap or sponge

    A cap or vaginal sponge is another barrier method, although it doesn’t protect against STIs. This is a small squishy cap that’s inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix. Disposable sponges can be purchased in many stores that sell condoms, so if you know where to buy condoms, you can probably find these at the same place. Sponges also contain a spermicidal chemical that kills the sperm. The cap prevents sperm from entering the uterus through the cervix, thus preventing pregnancy.


    A diaphragm is a soft silicone cap. The cervical cap is like a diaphragm, but smaller. It’s custom-fitted to your body by your gynecologist and is inserted prior to sex, so it fits tightly against the cervix. Unlike the sponge, it isn’t pretreated with spermicide, so prior to sex a small amount of spermicidal gel is placed in the cup of the diaphragm, facing the entrance to the vagina.

    Combination pill

    The combination pill is hormonal birth control that’s taken orally. It contains both estrogen and progesterone and is intended to stop the body from releasing eggs. When taken exactly as directed, it can be 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. The pill is prescribed by a doctor. In some places, people under 18 may need parental permission to get a prescription. It’s important to note that hormonal birth control isn’t always as effective for people with a high body mass index (BMI) and may not be effective at all for people with a body mass index over 35.

    Progesterone-only pill

    This is another type of hormonal birth control pill, and it’s obtained by prescription only. It also prevents the body from ovulating. Progesterone-only pills (also called the mini-pill) make the mucus in the cervix thicker, which makes it more difficult for sperm to enter the uterus and fertilize an egg. The difference between the mini-pill and the combination pill is that the mini-pill doesn’t contain estrogen. People who have high blood pressure, have had a history of blood clots, or who are overweight may not be able to take pills with estrogen. The mini-pill might be a good option for them.

    Vaginal ring

    The ring is another hormonal form of birth control that prevents ovulation and implantation of a fertilized egg. It’s a small, flexible rubber ring that’s inserted into the vagina, where it rests against the cervix. It doesn’t interrupt sex — you can have sex with it in. It lasts for 21 days, then you take it out for seven days. There may be period-like bleeding during these seven days. Then you simply place a new ring in. It can pop out occasionally, so it’s good to have a backup contraception plan. As with the combination pill, it may not be as effective for people who are overweight or obese. A doctor can write a prescription for the ring.

    Contraceptive patch

    The patch is similar to a smoking cessation patch. It releases a similar hormone blend as the combination pill and the ring, so it prevents pregnancy in the same way. The patch is affixed to the skin and lasts a week, at which time you’ll replace it with a fresh patch. After three weeks, you go one week patch-free and then start again. The effectiveness of the patch is the same as other hormonal birth control pills, and it’s also available by prescription.

    Contraceptive implant

    For people who know they don’t want to get pregnant for a long time and don’t want to keep track of taking a pill or switching out a ring or a patch, a birth control implant may be a good option. The implant lasts for three years and may be better for people who can’t take hormonal birth control that contains estrogen. If you’re in a committed relationship and want to become pregnant, it can be removed. One common side effect of the implant is that your periods may stop.

    Contraceptive injections

    The formula for this is similar to the implant, as neither contains estrogen, which may be helpful for people who can’t take birth control with estrogen in it. The shot lasts 8–13 weeks, and if you decide you wish to become pregnant, you can start trying to conceive once the effects wear off. Both the shot and the implant are prescription drugs and are injected or inserted in your doctor’s office.

    Intrauterine device

    An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small plastic device that’s inserted into the uterus. The non-hormonal IUD releases copper, which makes an inflammatory reaction that is toxic to sperm and eggs thus preventing pregnancy. For people who can’t take hormonal birth control, a copper IUD may be an option. It lasts about up to 10 years and is inserted in your doctor’s office. There are also hormonal IUDs available that don’t last as long as the copper IUD.

    What is the best contraception for first-time sex?

    Condoms are a good choice for first-time sex. How old do you have to be to buy condoms? There are no age restrictions for buying condoms. Purchasing them is just as simple as purchasing a box of tampons. Condoms are easy to use and are the only form of contraception that also protects you and your partner from STIs.

    Condoms also don’t require a prescription and can be more effective when used correctly than other over-the-counter birth control like sponges or spermicidal jelly or cream.

    Possible consequences of not using contraception

    One major potential consequence of not using contraception is becoming pregnant. You should assume that you can get pregnant each time you have sex. You can even get pregnant if you’re breastfeeding.

    Despite what you may have heard, it’s possible to get pregnant in all of the following situations:

    • It’s your first time having sex
    • You don’t orgasm.
    • Your partner withdraws his penis before he ejaculates. Men secrete pre-ejaculate after they achieve an erection. This “pre-cum” may contain a small amount of sperm.
    • You have sex during your period.
    • You wash your vagina or douche after sex.
    • You try a different position, like being on top.

    If you don’t want to become pregnant, use birth control. To minimize the risk of contracting an STI, know where to buy condoms and use them every time you have sex. 

    Where and how to buy contraception

    You can buy condoms, sponges, and spermicidal foam or jelly at a drugstore, big-box store, or grocery store. You can even buy condoms in places like a gas station or rest stop vending machines. Check the expiration date on the condoms, especially if you buy them from a vending machine. Condoms have a shelf life of a couple of years, and if they’re expired, the latex may start to break down, leading to breakage.

    The pill, the shot, the implant, and other birth control methods are prescription drugs that you can obtain from a doctor. You may be required to have a physical exam first, including a pelvic exam. You’ll also be asked about your medical history, like if you’ve had high blood pressure or a history of blood clots, and if you smoke. Once you’ve received a prescription from your doctor, you should be able to pick up your contraception at your preferred pharmacy.

    You can buy condoms, sponges, and spermicidal foam or jelly at a drugstore, big-box store, or grocery store.

    Implants, including IUDs and the injections, are placed in the doctor’s office. Talk to your insurance company about what types of birth control it covers and which specific brands and work with your doctor to determine what they can prescribe.

    If you don’t have insurance or don’t have a regular doctor, you can also obtain condoms for free at your local health clinic. Some health clinics may also provide a free pelvic exam, birth control prescriptions, and STI screenings. People without insurance may also be eligible for government health programs that can help cover the costs of your reproductive health care.

    Things to remember

    The only 100 percent effective way to prevent pregnancy is not to have sex. However, when you do have sex, birth control can protect reproductive health and prevent unplanned pregnancy. Condoms are safe and almost 98 percent effective if used correctly, and they’re the only method of birth control that also protects against STIs. Whatever method you choose for birth control, make sure to follow the instructions exactly to ensure maximum effectiveness.

    History of updates

    Current version (07 February 2023)

    Reviewed by Olga Adereyko, MD, Primary Care Physician, General Practitioner, Medical Consultant

    Published (07 April 2020)

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