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Unprotected sex? What now?

A young woman discusses her options with a sexual health doctor after having unprotected sex

You may not have planned to have unprotected sex, but it happens.

Unprotected sex is when no contraception is used – you may have missed your contraceptive pill, a condom slipped off or broke, or in more serious cases, you've been subjected to sexual violence or assault.

You may be worried about contracting a urinary tract infection, a sexually transmissible infection (STI), or falling pregnant.

It’s important to know you have options. Here are some steps to take.

Immediately after unprotected sex

Use the bathroom to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs). Try to remove any remaining fluids by bearing down and contracting your genital and anal muscles. Try to urinate, too.

You can wash, or shower, but avoid douching, as this can increase your risk of infection. [Do not bathe, shower, or wash if you have been subjected to sexual violence or assault. See Sexual abuse and assault: getting help.]

Taking these steps may help prevent UTIs but will not prevent pregnancy.

UTIs can affect people of all ages but are more common in women. They are caused by micro-organisms, usually bacteria, that get into your urinary tract.

They can affect all parts of the urinary tract from the bladder to the kidneys. Kidney infections (pyelonephritis) are quite serious and can cause serious complications.

See our blog Help! I think I have a UTI for detailed information on UTI causes, symptoms, and treatments.

A couple lie on a couch holding hands

Sexually Transmissible Infections (STIs)

STIs are caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites that can pass from one body to another during sex.

This includes vaginal intercourse, oral sex and anal sex. Some STIs are spread through bodily fluids, while others by skin-to-skin contact.

Many STIs don’t have symptoms, or the symptoms aren’t immediate. This means they can be passed unknowingly.

The only way to check if someone has an STI is with a sexual health check. It’s important to also know what STIs were tested for, as there’s no test that checks for everything.

If you’ve had unprotected sex, your best option is to get a sexual health check.

Sexual health check

A sexual health check is performed by a doctor, nurse, or other health worker. Some clinics offer screening where you can take your own swabs for testing and others, like those for chlamydia, are available online if you can’t access a GP or clinic.

During a sexual health check, the health professional will ask about your sexual history and may conduct a physical examination. This may include looking at your genitals, anus, and mouth for any sign of STIs. They might also take swabs for testing, or request blood and urine tests.

The questions asked about your sex life aren’t to judge you for how often you have sex, the type of sex or your number of sexual partners, it’s to understand your health better.

All the information you discuss is confidential, so it’s a safe environment to ask any questions you may have.

You can book a sexual health check with your GP, at a sexual health clinic, or through services like True Relationships & Reproductive Health (formerly known as Family Planning Queensland).

Two smiling men hug lovingly

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)

PEP is a treatment to reduce the risk of a person acquiring HIV if they’ve potentially been exposed.

It’s effective up to 72 hours after exposure and needs to be taken daily for 28 days.

It’s extremely important if you’ve had contact with blood or body fluids of an HIV positive person to seek urgent medical advice. For more information see the related fact sheet - Post-Exposure Prophylaxis - HIV.

PEP is free and available at most public hospital emergency departments or sexual health clinics. Use this simple locator tool to find your closest location.

Emergency contraception

There are several methods of emergency contraception available including the emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) and the intrauterine device (IUD).

When taken in the first 3 days after sex, the ECP prevents about 85% of expected pregnancies. While it’s often called the ‘morning-after’ pill, it’s effective for up to five days after unprotected sex. Try and get it as soon as possible to have the best chance of it working.

A copper IUD is the most effective method of emergency contraception, preventing 99% of expected pregnancies if inserted any time within 5 days of having sex.

Seek advice from your GP or a sexual health clinic.

If your period is more than five days late, it’s important to take a pregnancy test and seek advice from your GP if you’re pregnant.

Sexual violence or assault

Sexual violence is a crime. If you have been a victim of sexual violence (which includes sexual assault and rape), where you have been forced to engage in sexual activities when you didn’t want to, or were unable to give consent, find out where to get help.

More information

Last updated: 24 June 2022