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Sexual health is part of your wellbeing, but it’s often a taboo topic and talking about what goes on down there? Well, many people feel embarrassed and unwilling to learn more. If you were lucky enough to get sexual education at school, it was probably a passing comment about how STIs are bad, and that you should never get them before moving on swiftly.

However, the lack of knowledge about STIs causes more harm than good. When you don’t know the full effects of STIs, it’s difficult to comprehend the severity and how you can check and treat them. If untreated, STIs can develop into diseases causing significant organ damage and infertility.

The good news? This article explains STIs, including the most common ones, how to protect yourself, and how to treat them if you have an STI diagnosis. 

What are STIs?

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STI stands for Sexually Transmitted Infection, and it’s typically passed from person to person during intercourse. They can severely affect your health and lead to lifelong problems if you do not treat them properly. 

In 2020 (UK), there were 266,759 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhoea, genital warts, and herpes.

Common STIs include:

70% of women have an asymptomatic infection, leading to infertility and PID.

Herpes is a common STI, affecting 41% of people aged 15–24.

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HPV infects 8 out of 10 people during their life.

You can get HPV via sexual partners. However, it can also develop independently and become active, increasing cervical cancer risk. Ensure you attend your cervical cancer appointments to check for HPV.

15% to 30% of people infected with syphilis who don’t get treatment will develop complications known as tertiary syphilis.

How are STIs Different in Women?

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STIs affect women differently from men because they are more likely to be asymptomatic (have silent symptoms). Women have a higher risk of going infertile and suffering other complications if the infection goes undetected. 

Women also have a greater risk of contracting an STI during intercourse because the vagina has a larger surface area than the penis and the potential to receive a higher amount of bodily fluid if you do not use protection. 

How to Protect Yourself Against STIs

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What to Do if You Have an STI (Treatments and Advice)

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If caught in their early stages, you can treat the majority of STIs with the proper medication.

 

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What are the Benefits of Taking a Blood Test?

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A blood test allows you to keep on top of your sexual health and gives you peace of mind if a condom broke, you did not use one, or you had sex with someone with an STI. It can show whether you are clear of STIs or flag that you have one before you even show symptoms or are asymptomatic.

Taking a test once to twice a year (or more if you are sexually active with multiple partners) ensures you care for your body. Goodbody can get the results of a sexual health blood test back to you in days, so you don’t have to wait around to find out. 

FAQs

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What STI is most common in women?

HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is an STI most women may experience. However, it is not always sexually transmitted and can occur within the body. Either way, checking for HPV via a cervical screening is vital as it can turn into cancerous cells.

How can you tell if a woman has an STI?

Vaginal discharge with a different colour, consistency, and smell to regular discharge is usually the first sign a woman notices when she has contracted an STI. However, you can also identify sexually transmitted diseases by unusual rashes, warts, ulcers and abdominal pain.

What is a female health disorder that can result from an untreated STD?

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can develop from untreated gonorrhoea and chlamydia, which causes severe pain and an inability to get pregnant. Unfortunately, around 20% of women who do not realise they have chlamydia or do not take the correct medication to eliminate it early on will get PID.

Take the Right Blood Test to Check for STIs

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Taking charge of your sexual health is vital. If you have a new partner or are sexually active with multiple partners, then take regular blood tests to eliminate worries or catch symptoms early on.  Put yourself first and care for your body. 

I want to check my sexual health.

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References:

Can Chlamydia Affect Female Fertility?

Patient education: Genital herpes (Beyond the Basics)

Which Sexually Transmitted Infections Spread by Skin Contact?

How common is genital herpes simplex?

How often should you get tested for STIs?

Gender differences in the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections and genital symptoms in an urban setting in southern India

NHS- Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Tertiary syphilis What is it, Causes, Treatment, and More.

Syphilis

Treatments for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Does HPV cause cancer?

Program Level: Women at Risk

STDs & Infertility

STD Statistics

The Growing Epidemic of Sexually Transmitted Infections in Adolescents: A Neglected Population