Taking care of our sexual health during the pandemic



Sex in the time of COVID-19

A message from Dr. Unjali Malhotra, Women's Health Director, FNHA Office of the Chief Medical Officer; Andrea Medley and Cheryln Cortes, FNHA Indigenous Wellness Team; Cindy Preston, FNHA Pharmacist; and Barbara Webster, FNHA Clinical Nurse Specialist Maternal Child Health

Note: the following article includes adult messages about sexuality.

The pandemic has probably put a damper on the sex lives of many, considering that we have all been asked to physically distance from people we don't live with and that there is an invisible and dangerous virus circulating! But we are all trying to find some sense of normalcy during this unprecedented time –- and this may include sexual well-being.   

Some facts about COVID-19 and sexual intimacy

COVID-19 has not been shown to be a sexually transmitted infection. However, it is passed through what are called “respiratory droplets" from people who have the virus. These droplets can be passed from person to person through coughing, sneezing -- and yes, kissing (saliva and mucous).

It is entirely possible to not know we have COVID-19 and unknowingly pass it on through droplets. COVID-19 can also be passed if someone touches a surface that harbours it, then touches their or another's eyes, nose or mouth. This is why handwashing is so important.

Preventing the community spread of COVID-19 involves physical distancing, so there are a number of things to consider when it comes to sexual intimacy.  

 ​Consider intimacy in broad terms. The safest partner for you to have is yourself.

 The safest way to have “sex" with another person is via virtual / physical-distanced means, e.g., video call.

 The use of sex toys may be a good idea these days, ensuring they have been washed with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after use (not hand sanitizer).

 The fewer partners you have, the fewer chances of spreading or getting the virus.

 If you are a sex worker, your safest option to avoid the possible spread of COVID-19 is virtual sex or chat rooms.  

 Condoms / dental dams can reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections like HIV, Syphilis, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.

What if you live with your partner -- is it safe to have sex with them?  COVID-19 does not seem to be passed through vaginal secretions or semen. However, if you or your partner are symptomatic (for a list of symptoms, click here), there is a risk of transmission. What's more, it is possible to not have COVID-19 symptoms but still have the virus, so there is still a risk of transmission.

What if your partner doesn't live with you but does live in your community? ​Physical distancing is still recommended. It is a good time to consider talking to each other about what is best for you and maintaining intimacy.

What if my partner lives out of community? There may be travel restrictions and lockdown procedures to follow, so you will have to consider redefining how you are intimate. 

What if your partner is pressuring you to have sex but they're symptomatic? Some people don't feel safe saying no to sex – even if they or their partner are feeling sick or are symptomatic. Also if you are earning your living through sex work, you may be at risk of violence when trying to screen clients. In these cases, it is important to protect yourself and know there is support available. For more information, please click here.  

More information:

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada

CATIE Covid-19 resources

New York City Health

Skip Navigation LinksFNHA.ca>About>News and Events>News>Taking care of our sexual health during the pandemic