Does washing immediately after intercourse prevent pregnancy?
Originally Published: February 15, 2008 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: August 16, 2013
I'm wondering if washing immediately and throughly after intercourse helps prevent pregnancy.
Dear Wondering woman,
Washing immediately after sex may give you a squeaky clean feeling, but it will not help prevent pregnancy. Showering or bathing after sex can help clear the vulva of semen. Douching (which is not recommended by women's health care providers for many reasons) may even clear some semen out of the vagina. However neither of these can flush out sperm that have already entered the uterus through the cervix. This is a myth that may have grown out of the (common 19th century) idea that douching could help remove semen. However, studies have shown that douching is not an effective contraception. See What is douching? for more information.
There are many other (water not required) ways to prevent pregnancy including condoms, the pill, and IUDs to name a few. Also, if you're seeking a post-sex birth control solution, you can use emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy up to 120 hours after unprotected sex. Columbia students can make an appointment with a health care provider at Medical Services (Morningside campus) for contraception information through Open Communicator or by calling 212-854-7426. If you're on the CUMC campus, try reaching out to the Student Health Service by calling 212-305-3400. If you're not at Columbia, you can check out Planned Parenthood for more information on birth control options.
Hopefully this satisfies your wondering mind.