Couple embracing against a pink background to represent good sexual hygiene

Good Sexual Hygiene: Here's What to Know

Medically reviewed on July 12, 2023 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Sexual hygiene refers to practices that help individuals and communities achieve optimal sexual health. Practicing sexual hygiene is important because while sex and sexuality are highly personal human experiences, they can have highly interpersonal implications.

Sexual hygiene tips can involve practical considerations, like determining your family planning goals and managing them through birth control methods. They can also include emotional practices, like fostering healthy boundaries and communication with your sexual partner(s).

But regardless of your sexual preferences, circumstances, and long-term life plan, all sexual hygiene starts with taking care of your anatomy. Below, we cover how people assigned female at birth (AFAB) and people assigned male at birth (AMAB) can begin to build the foundations of exceptional sexual hygiene for life.

Sexual Hygiene Recommendations for People Assigned Female at Birth

AFAB people require certain sexual hygiene habits by virtue of their reproductive anatomy.

For instance, their ability to carry children may make choosing a birth control method key for physical and psychological well-being. As another example, individuals AFAB are 50% more likely to contract a UTI than individuals AMAB, sheerly because of their urethra’s proximity to the anus. [13]

If you’re a person AFAB, the following habits and practices will help you build a far-reaching foundation for achieving sexual health.

Know What’s Not Normal

The following traits are associated with good sexual health in people AFAB: [9]

  • If you’re of reproductive age, relatively regular menstrual cycles
  • The ability to self-lubricate during arousal
  • A mild odor
  • Small amounts of white, clear, red, or brown discharge, most of which occurs near ovulation

If you have an infection, a disturbance in your vaginal flora, or another sexual health issue, you may notice: [9]

  • Cessation of menstruation or lack of regularity
  • Dryness or pain during sex, and/or pelvic pain in general
  • A foul, pungent odor
  • Voluminous or off-color discharge, particularly during parts of the month when you aren’t ovulating

That said, not all infections or reproductive ailments present with symptoms. For this reason, the following cornerstone is indispensable for promoting sexual hygiene in people AFAB.

Get Regularly Tested for STDs

Sexual health testing is among the most important variables in good sexual hygiene. Its purpose is to preemptively catch STIs/STDs, particularly those that may not exhibit noticeable symptoms.

Some common STIs include: [10]

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Herpes simplex virus (HSV)
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

Many STIs are reversible if caught early. However, people AFAB may risk serious health consequences if they remain untreated. Infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain are just a few possible complications that can result from undiagnosed or untreated STIs.

Today, sexually transmitted infection (STI screenings) may be conducted in two ways:

  • By visiting a clinic or healthcare provider
  • By taking an at-home STI test

If you want to prioritize regular screenings for STI symptoms more conveniently, you can check out the Everlywell Sexual Health at-home test collection to find the one for you.

Familiarize Yourself With Family Planning Options

Determining your reproductive care goals is another important aspect of sexual hygiene as a person AFAB.

Today, the most widely-used birth control options include: [5]

  • Barrier contraceptive methods – Barrier contraceptives include equipment like condoms, dental dams, and diaphragms. These help prevent pregnancy by imposing a physical barrier between an egg and sperm, though they’re not as effective as hormonal birth control.
  • Long-acting reversible contraceptive methods (LARCs) – Intrauterine devices (IUDs) and hormonal implants are widely-used forms of contraception. They can be highly effective at preventing pregnancy for up to 10 years after insertion.
  • Hormonal contraceptive methods – Hormonal contraceptives, commonly called “the pill,” require you to take a synthetic hormone every day to prevent unwanted pregnancy. They are one of the most effective options available for birth control, but they can come with some unpleasant side effects for some people.
  • Fertility awareness method (FAM) – FAM involves tracking your body’s inborn reproductive cues to determine your ovulation window and prevent unwanted pregnancy. The most common signs tracked include cervical discharge texture, basal body temperature (BBT), and cervical position.

See related: What to Do After Unprotected Sex

Try to Go to the Bathroom After Having Sex

UTIs are a highly common urinary condition frequently acquired from sexual partners. A urinary tract infection develops when bacteria from the colon or anus spread to the urethra. This can result in a bacterial infection of any of the following organs:

  • Urethra
  • Urinary tract
  • Bladder
  • Kidneys

UTIs are highly treatable if caught early, but if left untreated, they can result in kidney infection and damage.

The simple act of peeing after sexual intercourse is an effective method for lowering your risk of UTI.3 Urinating post-sex can help flush bacteria out of your urethra, lessening the likelihood you’ll get an infection. [3]

Let Your Anatomy Clean Itself

Douching is a practice that many people use in an effort to relieve vaginal odor or even rinse out semen. It involves flooding the vagina with a fluid or solution intended to “clean” the vagina. [2]

However, gynecologists generally do not recommend douching as a sexual hygiene practice, as douching disturbs the balance of healthy vaginal flora. [2]

Vaginas and their associated anatomy are very efficient at keeping themselves clean on their own.2 If you notice a foul odor, discharge, or itchiness, it’s best to avoid douching and instead reach out to your healthcare provider.

Avoid Having Sex With a Yeast Infection

Generally speaking, it’s best to avoid having penetrative or oral sex with a partner if you have a yeast infection.

Having sex when you have a yeast infection could have numerous repercussions, including: [4]

  • More discomfort as a result of aggravating the affected area
  • Prolonging the time it takes to heal the infection
  • In rare cases, passing the yeast infection onto your partner

Some fungal medications used to treat yeast infections can also cause condoms to break. [4] If pregnancy prevention is an important factor in your sexual hygiene routine, it’s best to wait until you’ve completed treatment to start having sex again.

Private STD consultations

See related: Is Sex Safe During Pregnancy?

Sexual Hygiene Recommendations for People Assigned Male at Birth

Certain sexual hygiene practices are tailored to people AMAB. Their needs can differ because of both sexual anatomy and the fluctuating men’s sexual health trends in specific communities. For example, sexually active AMAB people who belong to the LGBTQIA community may be at a higher risk of certain STIs like syphilis. [14]

The following core sexual hygiene practices can help promote sexual well-being in AMAB people, from improved sperm quality to noticing when something is “off.”

Know What’s Not Normal

  • A healthy, consistent libido
  • The ability to reach orgasm and ejaculate
  • The absence of genital sores, bumps, or rash
  • The absence of burning or itching sensations during urination
  • Generally non-painful sex

If you have an infection or sexual health condition, you may notice one or more of the following symptoms: [12]

  • Persistent rash
  • Pus or discharge
  • Burning during urination
  • Penile warts or blisters
  • Itchy urethra
  • Blood in urine

Like people AFAB, it is possible to have an STI/STD that exhibits no observable symptoms. Regular sexual health screenings can help ensure you’re diagnosed and treated as quickly and effectively as possible.

Make Conscious Choices About Underwear

Some studies suggest looser-fitting undergarments may be better for male semen quality.11 Opting for styles like boxers may support a higher sperm count, sperm concentration, and enhanced sperm motility in comparison with tight-fitting underwear. [11]

That said, there is still no official medical consensus about how much underwear choice impacts sperm. But if improving your semen quality is an important variable in your sexual hygiene, it’s a daily choice that may be worth accounting for.

Get Regularly Tested for STDs

Whether you’re in a monogamous relationship or have multiple sexual partners, screening for STIs keeps both you and your partner(s) informed of your health status.

The CDC reports the following AMAB demographics are at the highest risk of contracting an infection: [14]

  • Gay and bisexual men
  • Adolescents
  • Men under 25 years old
  • Men belonging to minority ethnic groups

Gonorrhea and syphilis are currently on the rise as the most widespread STIs among individuals AMAB.14 Both infections may be carried with no or no observable symptoms, so it’s important to make testing a part of your sexual hygiene regimen.

You can screen for infections regularly with a healthcare provider or an at-home STI test. Routine testing can help you catch the condition early, get treated, avert long-term health consequences, and avoid passing it on to a partner.

Talk To a Healthcare Provider About Sexual Dysfunction

Male sexual health—particularly sexual or erectile dysfunction (ED)—may be affected by many factors, including: [8]

  • A lack of fruits and vegetables in your diet [6]
  • Having a weak pelvic floor [7]
  • Living with certain health conditions (e.g. diabetes)
  • Taking certain medications (e.g. antidepressants)
  • Chronic or acute stress and anxiety
  • Using alcohol or drugs in excess
  • Excessive use of pornography [15]
  • Depression

There are many possible explanations for experiencing sexual dysfunction or ED, ranging from psychological to physical issues. For this reason, it’s best to consult with a healthcare provider who can help you determine possible causes and effective treatments for confronting them.

Everlywell Helps Makes Sexual Hygiene Simpler

Regardless of your biological sex, all sexually active people should make STI testing a cornerstone of their sexual hygiene regimen. With Everlywell, both people AFAB and AMAB can discreetly screen for the most common STIs using an at-home STD test.

At Everlywell, there are even options available for STD treatment online. This way, you can speak with a licensed clinician to voice your concerns and learn more about good sexual hygiene.

For a closer look at which test best suits your needs tomorrow, check out the full range of Everlywell Sexual Health at-home test kits today.

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  2. Why you should never douche. Cleveland Clinic. URL. December 13, 2022. Accessed July 10, 2023.
  3. Urinary tract infection (UTI). Mayo Clinic. URL. September 14, 2022. Accessed July 10, 2023.
  4. Can I have sex when I have a yeast infection? Cleveland Clinic. URL. March 16, 2023. Accessed July 10, 2023.
  5. Birth control methods | Office on Women’s Health. URL. Accessed July 10, 2023.
  6. Cassidy A, Franz M, Rimm EB. Dietary flavonoid intake and incidence of erectile dysfunction. The American journal of clinical nutrition. URL. February 2016. Accessed July 10, 2023.
  7. L; YDG. The effect of pelvic floor rehabilitation on males with sexual dysfunction: A narrative review. Sexual medicine reviews. URL. Accessed July 10, 2023.
  8. Symptoms & causes of erectile dysfunction - NIDDK. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. URL. Accessed July 10, 2023.
  9. Maintaining vaginal health - Cornell University. URL. Accessed July 11, 2023.
  10. Sexually transmitted infections | Office on Women’s Health. URL. Accessed July 10, 2023.
  11. Boxers or briefs? loose-fitting underwear may benefit sperm production. News. URL. August 9, 2018. Accessed July 10, 2023.
  12. Penis health: Identify and prevent problems. Mayo Clinic. URL. April 26, 2023. Accessed July 10, 2023.
  13. UTIs: Are they worse for men or women? Cleveland Clinic. URL. April 11, 2022. Accessed July 10, 2023.
  14. Sexually transmitted diseases among gay and bisexual men. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. September 16, 2022. Accessed July 10, 2023.
  15. Dwulit AD, Rzymski P. The potential associations of pornography use with sexual dysfunctions: An integrative literature review of observational studies. Journal of clinical medicine. URL. June 26, 2019. Accessed July 10, 2023.
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