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Health & Wellness

Safe Sex

What is Safe Sex?

Safe sex is a way of engaging in sexual activity that is informed, consensual, and decreases the risk of unwanted pregnancy and spreading sexually transmitted infections.  Safe sex can play an important role in keeping you and your partner(s) healthy.

Birth Control Options

Where you can get free birth control

The Women’s Health Clinic (opens in new window) provides free birth control, safe sex supplies, and counselling. Book an appointment to learn more. 

What kind of options are available?

Hormonal methods

These methods use hormones to prevent pregnancy in people with uteruses.

Brand Effectiveness Cost Frequency
Pill 93% $15-$20 / month Daily
Patch 93% $15 / month Weekly
NuvaRing 93% $15 / month 5 weeks
IUD (copper or Progestin) 99% $175-320/ one time

Copper – 10 years

Progestin – 3 to 6 years

Depo-Provera (Depo shot) 97% $40 / 3 months 3 month


Condoms prevent the sperm from reaching the egg.

Type Effectiveness Cost
Male condom 85% $0.50 – $1 each
Female condom 79% $5 each

Natural Methods

These don’t require the use any products to prevent pregnancy.

Method Effectiveness Cost
Not having sex 100% $0
Withdrawal/ Pulling Out 73% effective $0
Fertility awareness method* 75% $0

*The fertility awareness method predicts fertile and infertile times in your menstrual cycle.

Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception is taken after sex. It’s more effective the sooner it’s taken, but can still help up to five days after unprotected sex.

  • Plan B (the morning-after pill) is 95% effective within the first 24 hours of sex and 89% for the next 48 hours and costs about $20.


What is Consent?

Consent is an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent should be clearly and freely communicated. A verbal and affirmative expression of consent can help both you and your partner to understand and respect each other’s boundaries.

How Does Consent Work?

  • Consent is about communication. And it should happen every time for every type of activity
  • You can withdraw consent at any point if you feel uncomfortable.  Withdrawing consent can sometimes be challenging or difficult to do verbally, so non-verbal cues can also be used.
  • Ask permission before you change the type or degree of sexual activity with phrases like “Is this OK?”

  • Confirm that there is reciprocal interest before initiating any physical touch.

  • Let your partner know that any participant can stop the activities any time.

  • Periodically check in with your partner, such as asking “Is this still okay?”

  • Provide positive feedback when you’re comfortable with an activity.

  • Explicitly agree to certain activities, either by saying “yes” or another affirmative statement, like “I’m open to trying.”

  • Use physical cues to let the other person know you’re comfortable taking things to the next level.

Examples of Non-Consent 

  • Refusing to acknowledge “no”

  • A partner who is disengaged, nonresponsive, or visibly upset

  • Assuming that wearing certain clothes, flirting, or kissing are invitations for sexual activities

  • Trying to initiate sex with someone being under the legal age of consent

  • Trying to initiate sex with someone who is impaired by substances like drugs or alcohol

  • Pressuring someone into sexual activity by using fear or intimidation

  • Assuming you have permission to engage in a sexual act because you’ve done it in the past

Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)

How to Prevent STIs

There’s only one 100% guaranteed way to avoid getting an STI: no sexual activity. If you’re going to engage in sexual activities, here are some tips for minimizing the risk:

  • Use barriers for all oral, vaginal, or anal sex. Barriers include condoms, dental dams, and gloves.
  • Get tested and make sure your partner has been tested before becoming sexually intimate.
  • Get a full round of STI testing three to six months into every new relationship. Keep getting tested once a year.
  • Follow some or all of these lifestyle guidelines:
    • Try sex that doesn’t involve exchanging sexual fluids: kissing or making out, feeling up or massaging, clothed/dry sex, mutual or solo masturbation, sanitized sex toys, phone or cyber sex.
    • Delay sexual activity for a year or more into a relationship, or at least until you both have test results.
    • Be thoughtful and selective when choosing sexual partners. Avoid those who pose the highest risks, like people who won’t use barriers, or whose STI testing status you aren’t sure of.
    • Stay healthy. When you’re in good health, your immune system is powerful and does the best job fighting off infection.
    • Don’t overdo sex. Having frequent sex is tough on the genitals and can create tiny cuts or wounds, making it easier to get an STI.
    • Avoid recreational drugs and alcohol before having sex or making decisions about your sexual partners. When you’re under the influence of a substance, you are more likely to make riskier decisions.

Signs you might have an STI

    • Sores on or around your genitals
    • A rash spreading all over your body
    • Discharge from your vagina or penis
    • A burning feeling when peeing
    • Itchiness in your genital area

How to get tested

Go to the doctor and get tested. You can go to any clinic (opens in new window) and get tested for free.

You can also get tested online (opens in new window) 

I have an STI, now what?

If the test results come back positive that you have an STI, your doctor will likely prescribe you medication. It’s important that you:

    • Start treatment right away.
    • Write down the names of all the people you’ve had sexual contact with. This includes skin-on-skin touching, and exchanging bodily fluids.
    • Tell those people what infection you have and the treatment, and encourage them to get tested.
    • Finish your prescription. You might feel better before your prescription runs out, but the infection is still in you.

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