Celebrating Valentine’s Day – The Safe Way

The following guest post comes to us via Morganne Rosenhaus, community engagement coordinator for Planned Parenthood Arizona.

Valentine’s Day might be filled with red roses, chocolate hearts, and candlelight dinners, but there is one thing this celebration of love often forgets to include … the mention of safe sex!

It is no coincidence that Valentine’s Day and National Condom Awareness Week happen around the same time each year. In fact, it’s planned … no pun intended!

According to a statistic from Lifestyles Condoms (released last year), there are, on average, 87 condoms used every second during Valentine’s Day. That’s more than 125,000 condoms on Valentine’s Day alone.

So the question isn’t, Are people having sex on Valentine’s Day? The question is, Are people having safe and healthy sex on Valentine’s Day?

As a trusted health care provider, Planned Parenthood Arizona knows firsthand the important role education plays in helping people make healthy decisions when it comes to sex. So here is your safe sex “lesson” for Valentine’s Day:

The first priority for being sexually healthy is using protection. Condoms are a popular method of contraception and can be anywhere from 82 to 98 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. And, when used correctly, condoms also offer added protection from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as HIV, chlamydia, HPV, gonorrhea, and syphilis.

But, before getting too carried away with all the benefits of condoms, let’s take a moment and talk about “correct condom use,” because if you aren’t using the condom correctly, you aren’t getting all of its benefits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlines the importance of correct and consistent use in five simple steps:

  • Step 1) Use a new condom for every act of vaginal, anal,and oral sex throughout the entire sex act (from start to finish).
  • Step 2) Before any genital contact, put the condom on the tip of the erect penis with the rolled side out.
  • Step 3) Pinch the tip of the condom to leave space for semen to collect. Holding the tip, unroll the condom all the way to the base of the erect penis.
  • Step 4) After ejaculation and before the penis gets soft, grip the rim of the condom and carefully withdraw. Then gently pull the condom off the penis, making sure that semen doesn’t spill out.
  • Step 5) Wrap the condom in a tissue and throw it in the trash where others won’t handle it. Do not flush it!

Let’s not forget a few other important things to consider when you pick a condom as your method of protection:

  • If you feel the condom break at any point during sexual activity, stop immediately, withdraw, remove the broken condom, and put on a new condom. If the condoms breaks during sex and you or your partner is at risk for becoming pregnant, purchase emergency contraception immediately (either at the pharmacy or any Planned Parenthood Arizona health center).
  • Ensure that adequate lubrication is used during vaginal and anal sex, which might require water-based lubricants. Oil-based lubricants (e.g., petroleum jelly, shortening, mineral oil, massage oils, body lotions, and cooking oil) should not be used because they can weaken latex, causing breakage.

The second, and equally important, priority to being sexually healthy is talking. Talking about your sexual health with your partner is just as important as wearing a condom. But let’s be honest, actually having that conversation can be tough. So, here are some suggestions, courtesy of Fascinations Love Expert, Meghan Krein. “Always talk to your partner before getting intimate. Start the dialogue off positively by stating that you care about him/her so you want to protect them, and you’d also like to be protected. It’s important to ask about STDs and tell your partner about any you may carry. Take the time to learn about any issues you bring to the table so you can answer important questions and ask them as well.”

Planned Parenthood Arizona is celebrating National Condom Awareness Week and Valentine’s Day by partnering with local businesses, restaurants, and hotels throughout the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas to provide free condoms to customers, so keep on the lookout for condoms in your neighborhood!