A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is one surprise that you don’t want to take away from a sexual encounter. STIs are most commonly passed from one person to another through unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex.
The trouble with STIs is that you can’t always tell when you have one. Often there are no obvious symptoms. It is often suggested that young people aged under 25 are least aware of the associated risks of unprotected sex. According to YouthNet, who surveyed 329 young people, found that 50% of respondents said they were less picky about who they slept with after drinking alcohol. These lowered inhibitions could equal an increased risk of having unprotected sex that could lead to catching an STI.
Many people may not be aware they have an STI until tested, as several infections, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, do not cause symptoms in around half of cases. Some of the most common symptoms of an STI that occur in men and women include:
Additional symptoms in women can vary but include lower abdominal pain, pain during sex, discharge that smells, yellow or green vaginal discharge and bleeding between periods or after sex. Symptoms in men include discharge from the penis and irritation of the urethra.
If you have vaginal sex (penis in vagina) without a condom then not only is there a risk of pregnancy but your chances of catching an infection such as chlamydia, genital herpes, warts, gonorrhea, HIV and syphilis also increase. Infections can even be passed on when the penis doesn’t fully enter the vagina or even if a man doesn’t fully ejaculate.
Anal sex carries a higher risk of transmitting STIs than any other type of sexual activity. This is because the skin around the anus is thin and the lining can be damaged easily, meaning it’s more susceptible to infection.
Oral sex consists of licking or sucking the penis, vagina or anus. There is a risk of contracting an STI through sores or cuts around the mouth, genitals or anus. The risk of infection is thought to be lower when you receive, rather than give someone oral sex. Some of the STIs that can be passed on through oral sex include chlamydia, genital warts, gonorrhea, herpes, hepatitis A, B and C, HIV and syphilis.
Using a condom, along with a water-based lubricant, is the best way to protect yourself against sexually transmitted infections. If you think you might have an STI then it’s important you visit your local sexual health clinic, GP or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic to get tested as soon as possible.