Posts for category: Sexual Education
Have you been screened for STI's, or Sexually Transmitted Infections? Surprisingly, most Americans do not prioritize this important health testing. Plus, many health care providers do not routinely offer testing for STI's of any kind; so, patients must ask them about it, says the American Sexual Health Association.
How often should you be screened for STIs?
The short answer is that everyone from ages 13 to 65 should receive a baseline screening for HIV, or the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, states the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). STIs, including HIV, often show no symptoms but can cause serious health issues over time. Also, says the CDC, routine testing, treatment, and follow-up limits transmission of disease from sexual partner to partner. So, all adults should ask their doctors for testing once a year. In fact, they should insist upon it.
Who is at risk for an STI?
Potentially anyone is at risk. However, some populations definitely are more prone to infection. They include:
- Male homosexuals
- People who have several sexual partners
- Women under the age of 25
- Sex workers
- Individuals who have unprotected sex
Transmission of STIs is easier than most people realize. Oral, anal, or vaginal sex can spread the microbes or insect vectors responsible for these often dangerous and hard to treat diseases. While many people believe they cannot ever have a Sexually Transmitted Infection, WebMD says the vast majority of Americans actually have had an active form some kind of STI.
What do tests look for?
Screening tests look for:
- HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus
- HPV, or Human Papillomavirus, which is linked to oral and cervical cancer
- Hepatitis B and C, caused by viruses
- Trichomoniasis, a parasite infection
Tests are simple, utilizing a urine sample, blood draw, or swab of oral or genital tissues.
Don't ignore the obvious or not so obvious
STIs can impact your health and interpersonal relationships. So, be sure you know where you stand. Women, talk to your OB/GYN about testing, and men, do the same with your primary care physician. It's what you do not know that can truly harm you and your loved ones.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. According to the CDC, approximately 79 million Americans are infected with HPV. There are many strains of this infection, some of which can cause cancer. This is why it’s important that you visit your gynecologist once a year for annual checkups and screenings.
Symptoms of HPV
Unfortunately, men and women can have HPV and never know, since symptoms aren’t common with this STD. Some strains of HPV cause genital warts, a cluster of bumps that can be found on the vulva or cervix of a woman and may develop on the penis or scrotum of a man. Once infected, genital warts can appear as early as 3 months after exposure; however, it can sometimes take longer.
Since high-risk HPV (HPV that causes cervical cancer) doesn’t often cause symptoms this means that the best action you can take to protect your health is to visit your gynecologist once a year for an annual exam. During this exam, your OBGYN can perform a physical examination, as well as a PAP smear and HPV test to check for changes in cervical cells that could be a warning sign of cancer or pre-cancer.
While there is no test to determine if you have HPV or not, there are tests available that can check for cervical cancer that is most likely caused by HPV. These screenings usually begin around the age of 30. Of course, if you develop vaginal bumps, sores or other changes it’s important that you see your doctor right away.
During a Pap smear, your gynecologist will scrape cells from the cervix and send them to a lab, where they will look for any cellular changes. A Pap smear only takes a couple of minutes to perform and those who’ve never had abnormal results may only need to get a Pap smear every three years. Those who have had positive results in the past may need to get tested more regularly.
Luckily, there is now a vaccine available to protect against certain types of HPV, particularly the strains that are the greatest risk for developing cervical cancer. Before recently, the vaccine had only been approved for people ages 9 to 25 but now the FDA has approved the vaccine for adults ages 27 to 45. These vaccines only work on patients who’ve never had HPV before; this is why it’s important to vaccinate teens early on to protect against certain strains of high-risk HPV.
Is it time for your annual women’s appointment? If you are interested in getting tested for HPV, you can easily schedule an HPV screening to be performed during your next checkup.
When it comes to preventing pregnancy, there are many options available today. Common birth control methods for women include oral contraceptives, intrauterine devices and Depo-Provera injections. However, contraception isn’t one size fits all and, depending on your personal situation and family planning objectives, one birth control method might be better for you than another. Your OBGYN can help you decide which type of contraception is best for you.
Types of Contraception
Oral contraceptives, otherwise known as birth control pills, are a popular contraception choice among women of different ages. Many women prefer birth control pills because they are easy to use, as simple as taking one pill daily. Birth control pills also help regulate the menstrual cycle and can ease menstrual camps, both advantages appreciated by many women on the pill. Another advantage of birth control pills is that their effects are easily reversed when you are ready to try conceiving.
Birth control pills are a convenient option for many women. However, they are not a good fit for women who have or have had certain types of hormone positive cancers. Most birth control pills contain estrogen, progestin or both and are not suitable for women unable to use hormone treatments or therapies. This is particularly true for women who must avoid estrogen-based therapies.
Depo-Provera is another popular type of contraception. Depo-Provera is an injection that is administered every three months by a nurse or other healthcare professional. For women who worry about forgetting to take oral contraceptives daily, a tai-monthly injection like Depo-Provera offers a convenient and practical alternative. Injections like Depo-Provera typically contain the hormone progestin, but not estrogen, so it can be an option for women who avoiding contraception methods with estrogen.
A third type of contraception is the intrauterine device. This option is popular among women who do not want to worry about their contraception daily or even every few months and who do not plan on becoming pregnant for several years. The intrauterine device is placed in the uterus by your doctor and remains in place for anywhere from three to five years, during which time pregnancy is prevented. The device can only be removed by your doctor.
The different types of contraception available to women each has its own advantages and benefits. Discuss your needs and preferences with your gynecologist or OGBYN. Your doctor can help you choose the method of contraception that is right for you and your situation.
What you need to know about sexually transmitted diseases
Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, cause irritating symptoms, but they can also result in severe illness or even death. Abstaining from sex is the most fool-proof way to avoid an STD, but this is not always possible or practical. You can protect yourself from STDs in other ways by following a few simple steps. Your doctor wants you to stay safe by:
- Always using condoms when you have sex, because condoms are highly effective in preventing STDs.
- Practicing mutual monogamy, because having only one sex partner dramatically reduces your chances of being exposed to STDs, as long as you and your partner are uninfected
- Limiting your number of sex partners, because fewer sex partners reduces your risk of exposure to STDs
- Get vaccinated, because the vaccine to prevent HPV is both safe and effective to protect against cervical cancer
One of the most important ways to protect yourself and others from transmitting STDs is to get tested. Testing can aid in early diagnosis and treatment of STDs, which can result in a better treatment outcome.Your doctor wants you to consider STD testing for you and your partner before having sex for the first time. You should also consider STD testing if you have had:
- Sex without using protection
- Sex with multiple partners, or sex with a partner who is not monogamous
- Intravenous drug use yourself, or sex with a partner who has used intravenous drugs
It’s important to protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases, but it is just as important to be able to recognize when you might have an STD. Your doctor wants you to be able to recognize some of the common symptoms of STDs, including:
- Penile or vaginal discharge
- Genital sores
- Burning and Itching during urination
You can have an STD and not have any symptoms. The only way to know for sure is to get tested by your doctor. You and your partner both deserve to enjoy sex and remain healthy. Visit your doctor to get tested and find out more about how to protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases. Call today!