Does anal sex have any health risks?

Like most sexual activities, anal sex carries the risk of passing on sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

What is anal sex?

Anal sex is any type of sexual activity that involves the anal area (bottom). This includes:

  • penetrating the anus with a penis
  • penetrating the anus with fingers or sex toys, such as vibrators
  • oral sex (stimulating the anus using the mouth or tongue, also known as rimming)

What are the main risks of anal sex?

Penetrative anal sex has a higher risk of spreading STIs than many other types of sexual activity. This is because the lining of the anus is thin and can easily be damaged, which makes it more vulnerable to infection.

STIs that can be passed on through anal sex include:

Some infections caused by bacteria or viruses can be passed on through oral–anal sex, such as hepatitis A or E. coli.

It's also possible to pass on an STI by inserting a finger into someone’s anus.

How can I make anal sex safer?

Use condoms to help protect you against STIs when you have penetrative anal sex.

Use a water-based lubricant, which is available from pharmacies. Oil-based lubricants (such as lotion and moisturiser) can cause latex condoms to break or fail. Get tips on using condoms properly.

Male and female couples should use a new condom if they have vaginal sex straight after anal sex. This is to avoid transferring bacteria from the anus to the vagina, which may lead to a urinary infection.

Read the answers to more questions about sexual health.

Further information:

Enjoying sex safely: condom negotiation

In the heat of the moment, how do you persuade your partner that safer sex can still be fun?

Media last reviewed: 07/01/2013

Next review due: 07/01/2015

Page last reviewed: 06/11/2013

Next review due: 05/11/2015