Sex is a normal and healthy part of life, but you may feel confused or worried about the issues. Sexual health means enjoying the sexual activity you want without causing yourself or anyone else any suffering or physical or mental harm. Contraception and avoiding infections are not the only issues related to sexual health.
Making choices about contraception and sexual health is important not just for your physical health, but also for your general well-being. Whatever you decide, you may need to talk to someone about contraception and protection. There are lots of places that can help and you might also be able to get free condoms.
Learning to practice safe sex leaves you free to enjoy sex while reducing the risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or becoming pregnant. There are lots of sexually transmitted infections including Chlamydia, HIV, syphilis, herpes, hepatitis, gonorrhoea, genital warts and pubic lice (crabs). Many of these can be very serious.
Some forms of contraception (such as the birth control pill or 'the pill') can stop you becoming pregnant, but offer no protection against sexually transmitted infections.
Condoms can offer some protection against many sexually transmitted infections such as Chlamydia, HIV, syphilis, herpes, hepatitis and gonorrhoea. However condoms cannot protect you against genital warts and pubic lice (crabs).
Chlamydia is the most common bacteria sexually transmitted infection. At least one in 10 sexually active people under the age of 25 will have Chlamydia - and may not even know they have it, because most people do not have any symptoms. For more information, visit the Check Your Bits website.
Sex and the law
Many young people think that if they feel ready to have sex and as long as they use protection, it has nothing to do with anyone else. This is not the case, so it's important that you know the facts about sex and the law.
For more information
Brook provides free and confidential sexual health advice and services specifically for young people under 25. Brook is a registered charity with 40 years' experience of providing professional advice through specially trained doctors, nurses, counsellors and outreach and information workers to over 200,000 young people each year.
Call the national Sexual Health Helpline on 0300 123 7123 for free confidential information and advice on all aspects of sexual health.
The Mix offers essential support and information for young people under age 25.