Health Articles

NHS choices logo

Sexual Health

Information and Support

Bookmark and Share

Find out the 10 things you need to ask yourself if you're thinking about having sex.


Most people have sex for the first time when they're 16 or older, not before. If someone’s boasting about having sex, it’s possible that they’re pretending.

Although there's a legal age of consent, it’s not necessarily the right age for you to start having sex. There are no rules about how long you have to be going out with someone before you do it. Being ready happens at different times for everyone – don't decide to have sex just because your friends are pressuring you. You can read this whole page or go straight to the sections:

It's your decision

You can always choose whether you want to have sex, whoever you're with. Just because you've done it before, even with the same person, doesn’t mean that you have to do it again. 

Working out whether you're ready is one of life’s big decisions. You're the only one who can, and should, decide. Whether you're thinking about losing your virginity or having sex again, remember the following tips.

Talking about sex

It’s better to have an embarrassing talk about sex than an embarrassing sexual encounter before you’re ready. There are lots of things to think and talk about, such as:

  • are you both ready?
  • will you be having sex for the right reasons and not because of peer pressure?

Sex isn’t the only aspect of a relationship, and there are other ways of enjoying each other’s company. Discuss what you want and what you don’t want to do. You can do other things that you both like, such as talking, meeting each other’s family and friends, going to gigs or the cinema, doing sport, walking, and listening to music.

10 questions to ask yourself

You need to have the confidence to work out how you want to respond if sex comes up, and how far to go. Ask yourself if you feel comfortable. Is it the right time, in the right place, and with the right person? Do you really trust the person, and do you feel the same way about one another?

If you think you might have sex, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does it feel right?
  • Do I love my partner?
  • Does he/she love me just as much?
  • Have we talked about using condoms, and was the talk OK?
  • Have we got contraception organised to protect against pregnancy? 
  • Do I feel able to say ‘no’ at any point if I change my mind, and will we both be OK with that?

If you answer yes to all these questions, the time may be right. But if you answer yes to any of the following questions, it might not be:

  • Do I feel under pressure from anyone, such as my partner or friends?
  • Could I have any regrets afterwards?
  • Am I thinking about having sex just to impress my friends or keep up with them? 
  • Am I thinking about having sex in order to keep my partner?

Being in a relationship doesn’t mean you have to have sex. Even if you’ve done it once or twice you still need to make sure that your boyfriend or girlfriend is as keen as you each time.

Safer sex

When you decide to have sex, there's the possibility of pregnancy and/or catching a sexually transmitted infection(STI) such as chlamydia. Whoever you're thinking of having sex with, it's important to talk about contraception and condomsbefore you have sex. Both of you have a responsibility to have this conversation.


You need to use condoms to reduce the risk of catching an STI, whoever you are having sex with. If you're a boy/girl couple, you need to use an additional form of contraception to prevent an unintended pregnancy.


There are 15 different kinds of contraception, including theimplantinjection, the combined pill and the progestogen-only pill. Most kinds of contraception are used by girls, but both of you have a responsibility to consider which you will use. A pregnancy will affect both of you.

Lesbian, gay or bisexual couples

If you have lesbian, gay or bisexual sex you can still get or pass on STIs. You still need to know about contraception in case you have straight sex as well. Find out more about sexual health forwomen who have sex with women and for men who have sex with men.

How do I bring up the subject of safer sex?

Starting a conversation about the different types of contraception could be a good way to start talking about other issues to do with sex, such as how you feel about it and what you do and don’t want to do. You could try saying, "I found out that there are 15 different types of contraception…If we were to have sex, which one should we use?"

And researching the options together will help both of you feel more confident and in control of the situation. Find out about the15 different kinds of contraception.


You can get free and confidential advice about sex, contraception and abortion at any time. Visit your local doctor, community contraceptive clinic, sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic (find your local services) or young persons clinic (call 0800 567 123) to find out more.

Read the signs that they want sex

Many people are surprised when a situation leads to sex, so learn to read the signs. If someone suggests that you find a quiet place, or makes lots of physcial contact, or suddenly tries to charm and flatter you, they might be thinking about sex, even if you’re not.

You need to decide whether you want to have sex. Don’t let someone else decide for you by just going along with it. Make the decision in advance and stay in control of the situation, especially if you've had alcohol, because you'll be less inhibited.

If you’re not sure that you can stay in control, avoid situations that could lead to sex, such as going to someone’s room or somewhere quiet.

Alcohol or drugs won't help

Many people have sex or lose their virginity when they’re drunk. After a few drinks, you're more likely to lose your judgement, and you may do things that you wouldn't do normally. You may regret your actions in the morning, and you won't be able to undo what you’ve done.

People are more likely to have sex without a condom when they're drunk. This can lead to an STI or unintended pregnancy.

Find out more about sex, alcohol and keeping safe.

Sex and the law

The law says that it's legal for you to consent (agree) to sex from the age of 16. If you're under 16, you can get confidential contraceptive and sexual health services, including abortions. You can get free condoms from some GPs, community contraceptive or young persons clinics, and Brook Advisory Centres.

If you're under 13, the situation is different because the law says that you can’t consent to sex at this age.

Find out more about confidentiality, whatever your age, in Will they tell my parents?

Bookmark and Share