What is Abstinence?

Abstinence simply means not having sex, and refraining from sexual intercourse. For most people, abstinence is the absence of sexual contact altogether.  It is the healthiest way to avoid teen pregnancy and the best way to avoid contracting a sexually transmitted infection.

How does abstinence work?

Abstinence prevents pregnancy because sexual intercourse does not take place. It involves refraining from any activity that leads to an exchange of body fluids. Periodic abstinence is often used by couples who are practicing the fertility awareness method of birth control as a means of preventing pregnancy during the fertile period of a woman’s cycle.

How effective is abstinence?

Abstinence prevents pregnancy 100% of the time when practiced consistently. It is the most effective form of birth control.

What are the side effects or health risks?

There are no side effects or health risks related to abstinence.

What about sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?

Abstinence prevents the transmission of sexually transmitted infections 100% of the time when practiced appropriately and consistently.

Frequently Asked Questions About Abstinence:

How can I be successful at abstinence?

Abstinence is most successful when you are diligent and use planning within your relationships.
To make it easier, try some of the following ideas:

  • Do things with friends or in groups
  • Go on double dates
  • Minimize physical affection that could lead to passion and desire, making it harder to abstain from sexual intercourse
  • Avoid situations where you are alone

What about teenagers and abstinence?

Relationships that involve sexual intercourse are filled with physical, emotional, and psychological risks. Abstinence provides teenagers the opportunity to avoid those risks. Individuals who abstain from sexual intercourse during their teenage years tend to have fewer sexual partners in their future.

Remaining abstinent as a teenager means that you will be less likely to:

  • Contract a sexually transmitted disease, which may also lead to infertility
  • Develop cancer of the cervix
  • Experience an unplanned pregnancy

How can my partner get to know me?

Sexual intercourse is not the only way two people can get to know each other. Too often, people open this door for drawing closer to one another only to regret the decision later, because they did not really know each other at all.
Intimacy can be developed through a variety of means such as:

  • Talking and listening
  • Sharing joys, hurts, dreams, goals, wishes and other aspects of life
  • Honesty and respect for one another
  • Having fun and playing together

Why should someone choose abstinence?

It’s chosen for a number of reasons, primarily it’s the best way to avoid being pregnancy or getting an STD. Other reasons:

  • The honor of personal, moral, or religious beliefs
  • Wait until they are married and in a monogamous and committed relationship
  • Pursue school, career, and other activities
  • To avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases

How can I express my affection? Intimacy and affection can be expressed in a number of ways other than sexual intercourse. Kissing, hugging, massaging, and holding hands are some of the ways that couples express their affection in a physical manner.
Intimacy and affection can also be expressed in other ways such as:

  • Conversations
  • Cards, letters, and love notes
  • Support in your partner’s activities
  • Creative and fun dating
  • The caution with any physical affection is that it can lead to passion and a desire for something more.

What are the pros and cons?

  • The Pros of Abstinence include:
    • Has no side effects or health risks
    • Prevents pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases
    • Free
    • Reduces emotional and psychological challenges related to relationships that involve sexual activity
  • The Cons of Abstinence:
    • Requires willpower and discipline

Want to Know More?


NIH National Library of Medicine: Abstinence and abstinence-only education

Women’s Health Policy: Abstinence Education Programs: Definition, Funding and Impact on Teen Sexual Behavior