Skip to main content

How do you avoid getting pregnant after giving a handjob or oral sex?

Share |
AprilBeatriz18 asks:

Assuming you are a woman, (and if you are not please ask one to answer this) what did you do when you were a teen to avoid getting pregnant after giving a handjob or giving oral? What steps did you take?

I wash my hands a lot before using the restroom since I know I'll be wiping myself down there and I don't want there to be any sperm on the toilet paper or I don't want to accidentally touch my vagina while I'm down there.

But the thing is that when I washed them I realized that there could be sperm still living on the soap or living in the water on the container that holds the soap (forgot what it was called) or on the towel if I didn't get them all off the last time I washed them if I washed my hands just a little while ago due to the same reason.

Heather Corinna replies:

Nothing.

In other words, since it sounds like you're asking for a personal answer here, and I am someone who could have become pregnant, and am someone who engaged in those sexual activities when I was a teen, the answer is that I didn't do anything per preventing pregnancy and those activities.

That's because I didn't have to.

Neither do you.

That's because those activities aren't ways a person can become pregnant.

The things that you're worrying about -- sperm living on the soap you wash your hands with, becoming pregnant via toileting -- just aren't things you need to worry about. Really.

Take a big, big breath. Let it out slow. Let sweet relief wash over you. Repeat as needed.

Manual sex (fingering or handjobs) or oral sex (cunnilingus, fellatio or analingus) are activities where sexually transmitted or other infections can be spread, so basic hygiene (like handwashing before and after) and safer sex practices (like using barriers such as condoms) are important to reduce those risks. But they're not needed per preventing pregnancy, because that's just not how pregnancy happens.

When ARE there real pregnancy risks?

  • When you have had direct genital-to-genital sex with someone with a penis (or were sexually assaulted and there was direct genital-to-genital contact). Namely, those kinds of sex would be vaginal intercourse, and secondarily, direct genital-to-genital rubbing or anal intercourse.
  • When someone with a penis DID ejaculate inside your vagina or directly on or very near to your vulva (like around your anus).
  • When in either or both of those situations, reliable methods of birth control were NOT used at all, or were not used properly.

Some people have the idea that sperm cells are tiny, mighty superheroes who can do amazing feats of magnificent wonder all by their little selves. No offense to sperm cells, but they're just not like that.

In reality, sperm are very, very delicate and fragile: they don't hold up at all well outside the testes, where they are stored before ejaculation. (And the testes are the way they are because storing those cells properly is some tricky business.) They also don't have the capacity to jump or move from place to place like lice: in order to move anywhere, they need the fluid they're ejaculated with, a lot like a fish needs water in order to swim.

They're also only one of many factors involved in a potential pregnancy. They can't create a pregnancy just by being present, just like I can't create a bestselling novel just by having a typewriter.

In other words, not only do sperm cells need to be healthy ones that wind up deposited in the right place in a big group (just one can't create a pregnancy, it takes around a few hundred to do the whole job they need to do), a whole bunch of other things also have to be just right, like the timing of when they are deposited, those sperm cells having the fluid they were ejaculated with, the kind of cervical mucus present, and an ovum (egg) even being available and healthy in the first place. And that's just to even get to fertilizing an egg: there are a whole bunch of things that have to go exactly right for a pregnancy to actually occur after that step, things that probably only go right around half the time an egg gets fertilized. That's why even when people DO engage in the kinds of sex that pose real pregnancy risks pregnancy still doesn't happen anything close to every time people do those things.

By all means, keep washing your hands and ask your partner to if they don't, to help prevent infections and as a matter of good form. I mean, if it's bad manners not to wash our hands before eating, I feel that the same rules apply when we're putting our hands inside anyone's pants. And if you don't use condoms when engaging in oral sex with a partner, consider doing that because not doing so does potentially put you at a substantial risk of getting an STI that way.

But you really, really don't have to worry about pregnancy with these things, I assure you.

Here's a page that lists many sexual activities, including the two you asked about, which present no risk of pregnancy: Birth Control Bingo: NO Pregnancy Risks.

You might also consider stepping back with some of your sexual activity until you have more of the sex education you need in order to have a much better sense of what your real risks are and are not, and what you need to do to reduce risks. That's important for your physical health, but it's also important for your emotional well-being.

Sex, of any kind, is optional. And it's supposed to be fun. It sure is hard to have fun with it if before, during or after sex we find we feel terrified and panicked. We always all want to do what we can to reduce stress, especially stress that's 100% optional; stress and worry we don't need to have and can avoid. Slowing things down while you take the time to get more of the information you need is one easy, great way to do that. It's also really important that any of our sexual choices are informed choices: that we have the information we need when making them to know what we really do and don't want to do, and what we really might or might not be risking. With better information, you can be sure that you only choose to do things that carry any risks or level of risk you actually want to be taking.

If that sounds good to you, but you need some help with how to slow things down, take a look at this: Whoa, There! How to Slow Down When You're Moving Too Fast.

And if even with more information you find that you are still in a panic a lot of that time? I'd consider that that might be a cue that the kinds of sex you're having are just too much, too soon for you for some other reason. For instance, maybe you don't feel secure in the relationship or relationships these activities are happening in, maybe the sexual choices you're making don't mesh well with your values, maybe you're worried about getting in trouble. Sometimes people worry about risks that aren't real or realistic when really, what they're worried about are some other things that are. Taking some time to do a self-check about if the kinds of sex you're having feel right for you, in a bigger way, is always a good idea.

I'll leave you with some links here on our site to help you get started in educating yourself, as well as a few books I think are great ones to get an excellent sexuality education. If you want one more source of information, your family doctor or sexual healthcare provider are both people you can ask for information, too: giving patient information and education is part of their job, too, not just giving exams or writing prescriptions.

And some books (any one of these will probably get the job done, but you may find one speaks to you more than another):

  • S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College by Heather Corinna (me)
  • Our Bodies, Ourselves by Boston Women's Health Book Collective
  • Changing Bodies, Changing Lives: Expanded Third Edition: A Book for Teens on Sex and Relationships by Ruth Bell
  • Doing It Right: Making Smart, Safe, and Satisfying Choices About Sex by Bronwen Pardes

written 12 Dec 2012 . updated 13 Jan 2014

More like This

Scarleteen users often ask for our help making choices about engaging in sex with a partner. When we have those discussions, we'll usually link them to some basic information, then engage in a talk...

Information on this site is provided for educational purposes. It is not meant to and cannot substitute for advice or care provided by an in-person medical professional. The information contained herein is not meant to be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or for prescribing any medication. You should always consult your own healthcare provider if you have a health problem or medical condition.