With love in the air this Valentine’s day, we thought now would be a great time to talk about sexual health.
People are often embarrassed to talk about sexual health but before things heat up this Valentine’s day, it’s important that you take control of your sexual health and wellbeing. Being in the know, helps you to stay safe, and ultimately, will improve your sex life!
Have safer sex
Let’s get straight to the point. The best way to prevent sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy is using contraception.
Sexually transmitted infections can be transmitted by both penetrative and non-penetrative sex, this includes skin-to-skin genital contact and sharing sex toys – so no matter what your bedroom preferences are, make sure you know the risks. You don’t need to have multiple partners to get an infection either.
There are lots of types of contraception available, but condoms are the only one which will protect you against pregnancy and STIs. Protect yourself by planning ahead. Why not have a chat with your partner to make sure you’re both ready before having sex? This also gives you a chance to make sure you’ll have some protection handy – avoiding a potentially awkward situation, which can be a real mood killer too. Safer sex involves using a condom every time you have sex.
It’s important that you choose the right contraception for you, so whether that is a condom, a contraceptive pill or natural family planning – know your options and go with what’s best for you. Sexwise is a great resource, by the sexual health charity FPA, with lots of detailed and honest information on all the different types of contraception available, STIs and pregnancy.
Did you know you can also get contraception for free from most GP surgeries, community contraception clinics and sexual health clinics? You can easily to find your local sexual health information and support services just using your postal code. Many of these services can also offer information, testing and treatment of STIs.
Know the risks
In the UK, it is estimated that there are around 420,000 cases of STI’s diagnosed each year. Some of the most common sexually transmitted infections include chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, genital warts and genital herpes.
Not all STIs have symptoms. It is estimate that around 50% of women and 10% of men with gonorrhoea don’t experience any symptoms. So, if you’ve had unprotected sex it’s definitely worth getting checked out, even if you feel fine.
If symptoms do occur they may include; unusual discharge, pain or burning when peeing, rashes, itches, lumps or growths around genitals or anus, pain or bleeding during sex. If you experience any of these symptoms you should seek advice from your local sexual health clinic or a GP.
Most STIs can be treated and it’s usually best if treatment is started as soon as possible – so don’t wait to get tested if you think you may be at risk! If left untreated infections can become very painful and uncomfortable and may even lead to permanent damage to your health and fertility. Not to forget, left untreated, STIs can be passed on to others.
If you think you might be at risk of an STI or have had unprotected sex, visit your local sexual health clinic to get tested. You can also get free HIV testing in certain clinics, or even test at home.
Communication is key
If you’re just into a new relationship or have just started dating, don’t be afraid to start a conversation about your partner’s sexual history before having sex. Communication is key. Have an open and honest chat before your first time with a new partner – it’s the easiest way to find out when they last got tested, keeping you both safe from any unwanted illnesses!
What if I’m not ready?
Most importantly, don’t forget that “no” means “NO”. If you feel you may have been the victim of sexual assault, don’t be afraid to seek help – there are lots of support services available that are completely confidential and can give you the help and support that you need.
So remember…Your health is in your hands. So use this Valentine’s day to take control of your sexual health! Be in the know and be safe – for a much better and healthier sex life