Frequently Asked Questions


What is ejaculation?

Ejaculation occurs when semen shoots out from the penis when a man has an orgasm. There is usually about 5ml of liquid, but there may be more, especially if a man hasn't ejaculated for some time. Women can also ejaculate fluid, but this is far less common than for men.

What is orgasm?

Orgasm is the peak or climax of sexual excitement. It usually involves pleasurable feelings and rhythmic contractions of the muscles in and around the genital area. For males, ejaculation usually happens at the same time as an orgasm. When a man ejaculates, the sperm rushes out along the tube in his penis and spurts out in 4 or 5 spasms. These spasms spread over all of his genitals and sometimes through the rest of his body. A woman’s orgasm involves a series of short spasms in the walls of the vagina which spread to the uterus/ womb and sometimes through the whole body.

Is masturbation normal?

Yes. Apart from the pleasure it gives, masturbating can help you learn what you like and don't like sexually. Men can also use masturbation to learn how to control their orgasms, while women can find out what helps them to achieve an orgasm. Many couples masturbate together and find it a very enjoyable part of their relationship. Other people don't and that's fine: it's a personal choice.

Is masturbation safe?

Yes. Masturbating doesn't cause blindness, insanity, or acne and won't make hair grow on your palms. Joking aside, there's no risk of pregnancy or catching STIs from masturbating on your own.

What is Pre-cum?

When a man gets an erection, a small amount of fluid gets sent through the tube to the tip of the penis. This cleans out any stale urine or bacteria. This fluid is called Pre-cum and contains much sperm. Even before the man ejaculates, as soon as he has an erection the head of his penis will have sperm on the top via the pre-cum. People can get pregnant or contract an STI through Pre-cum.

What type of lubricant is OK to use with a condom?

Water or silicone based lubricants are OK to use with condoms. Vaseline and moisturiser may actually damage them.

Can you wash condoms and use them again?

No, condoms should only be used once.

Do you always get symptoms if you have an STI?

No, you might not know if you have an STI.

Sometimes you might have symptoms, such as it hurting when you pee, or an usual discharge, smell or soreness. But many people don't notice signs of infection, so you won't always know if you're infected.

The only way to know for sure is to get tested.

How long does sperm survive after ejaculating in the body?

On a dry surface, such as clothing or bedding, sperm are dead by the time the semen has dried. In water, such as a warm bath or hot tub, they'll likely live longer because they thrive in warm, wet places. But the odds that sperm in a tub of water will find their way inside a woman's body and cause her to get pregnant are extremely low.

When sperm are inside a woman's body, they can live for up to 5 days.

Is it possible to get pregnant the first time you have sex?

Yes. It is even possible to get pregnant if you have never had a period before.

Can you get pregnant from oral sex?

No, a girl can't get pregnant following oral sex, even if she swallows sperm.

But you can catch STIs through oral sex, including gonorrhoea, chlamydia and herpes.

Can you get pregnant from fingering?

Fingering on its own can't lead to pregnancy. But it is possible to get pregnant if a man gets pre-ejaculate (precum) or ejaculate on his finger and then puts it in a woman's vagina. The chances of this happening are low, though.

A more likely situation than pregnancy is getting an infection from fingering.

How many times can you take emergency contraception?

You should use it in emergency situations only. The morning after pills effectiveness is lower than the contraceptive pill or the condom. They also won’t protect you against STIs.

If you find that you have to use the morning after pill every month or even several times a month, you need to see your GP to discuss other contraceptive options.

Can women who have sex with women get STIs?

Yes, women who sleep with women can get or pass on STIs. The infection can be passed on through vaginal fluid (including fluid on shared sex toys), blood or close bodily contact. 

Always use a new condom on shared sex toys. If a woman is also having sex with a man, using contraception and condoms will help prevent STIs and unintended pregnancy.

Do periods happen during pregnancy?

The short answer is no. You might experience “spotting” during early pregnancy, which is usually light pink or dark brown in color.

As a rule of thumb, if there’s enough bleeding to fill a pad or tampon, then it’s a sign you’re probably not pregnant. If you’ve had a positive pregnancy test and are bleeding heavily, seek medical care.

Can HIV be passed to a baby in the womb?

Yes, it's possible for HIV to be passed from a woman to her baby. This can happen during pregnancy, labour and birth and through breastfeeding.

But if a woman is receiving treatment for HIV during pregnancy and doesn't breastfeed her baby, it's possible to greatly reduce the risk of the baby getting HIV.

Can a girl get pregnant if she has sex during her period?

Yes. Sperm that’s been ejaculated into a woman can live inside the uterus for 5 days. That’s why it’s possible to get pregnant if you have unprotected sex while menstruating. If you ovulate shortly after you finish your period, the sperm may still be alive and can fertilize the egg.

Is withdrawing the penis before ejaculation a safe way to avoid pregnancy?

No. Pulling out before the man ejaculates, known as the withdrawal method, is not a foolproof method for birth control. Some ejaculate (fluid that contains sperm) may be released before the man actually climaxes. In addition, some men may not have the willpower or be able to withdraw in time.

If there is sperm on a guy’s hand and he puts it in the girl’s vagina, can she get pregnant?

Yes, it’s possible. One way this might happen is if your partner masturbates and then uses the same hand or hands to finger you. If your partner washes their hands between the two acts, your risk of pregnancy is low.

Can washing the vagina after sex prevent from getting pregnant?

No, it can’t. Rinsing the vagina — whether it’s with water, a douche, or any other kind of liquid — after unprotected intercourse will NOT reduce the risk of pregnancy. In fact, if a woman does douche after intercourse, there’s a possibility that it may actually push the sperm further up through the cervix, making it even easier for sperm to join with an egg.

Can a woman get pregnant while breastfeeding?

Yes. Even though breastfeeding may suppress or delay menstruation, you can still get pregnant. Ovulation will occur before you start having menstrual periods again, so follow your doctor's recommendation on the appropriate birth control method to use.

What is the legal age of consent?

In the Republic of Ireland, the legal age of consent is 17.