If you’re anything like us, weather that hits the low 50s is feeling dead tropical to you right about now. The spring fever is REAL. But before you head out on spring break (or adult spring break), we’re here to answer your most pressing vacation-related sexual health questions.
We sat down with our in-house expert on all things sexual health and wellness, Robin Watkins. She’s a nurse practitioner, a certified nurse-midwife, and a very patient human.
Q: Our most pressing question first, because it’s literally life or death: if you have your period, should you avoid the ocean? Are there any period products that will prevent you from becoming shark bait?
A: First of all, periods attracting sharks just isn’t a real thing. You’re just not producing enough blood. It’s literally a drop in the ocean. But there are definitely period products you can swim with. Tampons and menstrual cups are probably going to be your best bet since they go inside the vagina and collect the blood before it comes out, so you don’t have to worry as much about leaks or having a period product that other people can see. It’s possible to use a pad while swimming but it might absorb a lot of water and be more obvious.
Q: How bad is it to get sand in your vagina while having sex on the beach?
A: Besides being uncomfortable, sand in the vagina could cause abrasions which could put you at higher risk for a sexually transmitted infection. If you’re using a condom for penis-in-vagina sex and sand gets in your vagina, it could cause the condom to break, which could lead to pregnancy and/or STIs. I’d say generally try to keep sand out of your vagina and away from your condoms. If you really want to have sex on the beach, just don’t lay down directly in the sand, use a nice big (and thick) blanket or towel.
Q: What if you throw up after taking your birth control pill, like from bad shellfish or too much tequila for example? Asking for a friend.
A: If you throw up more than 2 hours after you took your pill, you’re good to go. Nothing to worry about. If you throw up within 2 hours of taking an active pill (those are the ones that contain hormones), your body won’t have had time to digest and absorb the medicine properly, so treat it as if you missed that pill and take another active pill right away. If you throw up after taking an inactive pill, don’t worry about it. Those are just placeholders and don’t have hormones in them, so missing one won’t make you more likely to get pregnant. Just a note that not all pills have active and inactive pills so make sure you know which kind you’re taking.
Q: Let’s say you’re lathering up with some coconut oil after a long day in the sun—can you slap on a little extra and use it as lube?
A: Coconut oil is probably fine for your vagina as long as it’s clean (though everyone is different so you may find it doesn’t work for you). Obviously, don’t use it after you’ve cooked with it, and if you or others have been sticking hands that may not be clean directly in the jar, I don’t recommend then scooping coconut oil out of that same jar and putting it on your vulva or in your vagina. But if it’s clean, it should be fine. Just make sure there are no other ingredients in it—it should just be one ingredient: coconut oil. You don’t want to put any kind of sugar in your vagina, so be careful of additives.
The other consideration is when you’re using condoms while using coconut oil. As with other oils, it’s not safe to use coconut oil with latex or polyisoprene condoms. Generally, oils aren’t thought to break down polyurethane, nitrile, or lambskin condoms, but unfortunately, there’s no research about coconut oil specifically as a lubricant, so we don’t know how for sure how it does with other types of condoms. Proceed with caution.
Q: Okay, what about sex in a pool, hot tub, or other body of water? Can you get pregnant? What happens if you get salt water in your vagina? And most importantly, how is it possible that sex in water feels so dry?
A: Yes, you can get pregnant if you have sex in any body of water, including a pool, hot tub, lake, or the ocean. The chemicals/heat/salt/whatever else is floating around in there won’t affect the sperm’s ability to do their job. There’s a chance that pregnancy can occur any time a penis ejaculates inside the vagina of a person who’s able to get pregnant. But those chemicals and salt can irritate your vagina, and natural bodies of water are teeming with organisms that can cause infection.
Sex underwater can feel surprisingly dry because the water washes away the natural lubrication your vagina produces. Your best bet for fully submerged sex is going to be a silicone-based lubricant. Or skip the pool or hot tub and have sex in the shower instead. Think of it like hydrotherapy instead of immersion therapy.
Q: Does alcohol interfere with any types of birth control? What about recreational drugs?
A: It’s not so much an issue of “interfering.” It’s more that if you’re using a type of birth control where you have to remember to take some action (like put on a condom) at the time you’re having sex, and you’re impaired in any way, you may not use that method correctly and it may not be as effective as a result. But no, neither alcohol nor recreational drugs will directly make your birth control less effective (though some prescription medications can).
Q: We know sex in an airplane bathroom has both pros and cons, but what about from a health perspective?
A: Think of it like a flying Porta Potty.
Well that settles that! Gotta go wash our hands.
P.S. Traveling to a different time zone? Find out how to adjust your birth control to make sure you’re covered.
Medically reviewed: March 2019