Maintaining your sexual health during the COVID-19 pandemic is as important as ever! Many people are having to find new ways to protect their sexual health while practicing isolation and social distancing.
Sex During Social Distancing
Having extra time at home with your partner may lead to more time for sex. You may have just started a new relationship and are wondering if you can have sex during the pandemic. Or you or your partner may be infected with COVID-19 and don’t know when you can safely have sex. Your healthcare provider will be able to help you make the decisions that are right for you, but here are some answers to questions and concerns that you may have right now.
Can I Become Infected with COVID-19 Through Sex?
You can get COVID-19 from a person who has it if you are within 6 feet of that person when they cough, sneeze, or talk. COVID-19 is currently not known to transfer through semen or vaginal fluids, but it has been detected in semen, saliva (spit) and feces (poop). Even though vaginal sex may not spread the virus, other sexual acts, such as kissing, oral sex and anal sex may spread COVID-19 between you and your partner.
What if My Partner is Sick?
If your partner is sick and testing is available, they should be tested for COVID-19. The result will help guide your sexual decisions. If your partner tests positive, you should not kiss or have sex. COVID-19 spreads very easily through saliva. It’s important to remember that some people infected with COVID-19 may have few or no symptoms, but they are still infectious. Talk with your healthcare provider if you think you or your partner may have been exposed.
Your partner should self-isolate and follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines before leaving quarantine (staying separate from other people and pets). If you or your partner do not have access to COVID-19 testing, you should behave as if your partner is infected and follow self-quarantine guidelines.
A weakened immune system puts you at increased risk of infection with COVID-19 or any other virus. Complications from COVID-19 could also be worse if your immune system is weakened. Becoming infected with more than one virus at a time is also possible.
Discuss with your partner what you will do if one of you becomes ill. Always respect each other’s wishes whether or not to have sex if one of you is sick.*
What if I Don’t Live with My Partner?
Consider the health and safety of yourself, your partner, family members, friends, roommates, co-workers and everyone those people know. Seeing your partner in person is dangerous not only to each other, but to many other people in contact with both of you as well. You should follow the CDC’s guidelines for social distancing.
There are other ways besides sex that you and your partner can stay connected during social distancing.
- Go on a virtual date – Set up a video chat over coffee, a meal, or a drink.
- Play online games together – With tons of gaming apps available, stir up some friendly competitiveness and play against your partner.
- Read a romance novel together – Take turns reading a spicy story to each other or try creating your own!
- Virtual sexual activity – Only try this method if you and your partner have established boundaries and respect each other’s privacy. Texting, photos and videos may fulfill your desires during this time of isolation.
- Masturbation – Having sex with yourself is the safest form of sex there is. Just make sure that you wash your hands and any sex toys for at least 20 seconds before and after use.
What if I Want to Have Sex with Someone New?
Now is not the time to meet or have any new sexual partners. Although virtual dates may be perfect for the person you were getting to know before the COVID-19 outbreak, inviting them over for sexual activity is a decision that endangers you, your partner and many other people, and contributes to spreading the disease.
Preventing Pregnancy During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Many sexual health services are still available during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you need to refill a birth control prescription or you would like to start using prescription birth control, you have options. Many healthcare providers are working with patients through telemedicine (virtual) visits, such as voice and video calls.
If you have a long-term form of birth control, such as an IUD that is about to expire, contact your healthcare provider to find out if they can replace or remove it for you. If you have to wait, be sure you and your partner use another form of birth control during this time, such as condoms.
Preventing STIs During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Preventing the spread of STIs during this pandemic is still as important as it was before. Condoms and dental dams are available at drug stores and grocery stores, essential businesses that remain open. You can also get condoms at your local family planning health center. If you know or suspect you have an STI, you are responsible for getting tested and talking with your partner(s) before sex.
STI testing is considered an essential service during this time. Getting tested now instead of waiting for the world to go back to “normal” is important. Some STIs may be asymptomatic (not show symptoms), meaning you or your partner could have an STI without knowing it. Getting tested before having sex with new partners and asking new partners to get tested is important for your and their protection. Untreated STIs can have harmful long-term effects on overall health and reproductive health.
Finding a Health Center
Whether it is getting a refill on your birth control prescription or getting tested and treated for STIs, your sexual health is always important, even in the middle of a pandemic.
New Jersey Family Planning League supported health centers provide essential services, and still open and providing sexual and reproductive services to the public. Many health centers are working with their patients through telemedicine visits on the phone and over video when possible. In-person visits may be necessary in some cases.
* If you don’t feel safe talking to your partner about your sexual health or if you are the victim of domestic abuse, you are not alone and there are resources available to you. The New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline is accessible 24/7 at 1 (800) 572-SAFE (7233). They offer lifesaving tools and immediate support to empower victims and survivors to find safety and live free of abuse. Your safety comes first, so all calls are totally confidential. The New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence has a long list of other resources as well.