Top 3 Sexual Health Tips

A healthy sex life is so important to help maintain your overall health. Check out these three tips that can help protect your sexual health:

Tip #1: Know Your STI Status

Above all else, if you are sexually active, it is so important to know your health status and whether you have contracted any STIs. Infections are tricky, sneaky, and dangerous. In many cases, they do not cause symptoms for a long time. While you may not think you are infected with anything, your body could be quietly developing infection-related complications like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), secondary and tertiary syphilis, or AIDS.

Having sex with even one partner can expose you to pesky or health-threatening infections like:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • HIV
  • HSV (herpes)
  • Syphilis
  • Trichomoniasis

Some STIs are curable (chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis), others are manageable (hepatitis B and C, HIV, and HSV), and almost all can be dangerous to your health if left undetected or untreated for too long.

Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and PID

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the two most common reasons women will develop PID, a condition where bacteria reaches your reproductive system and causes significant damage. If not caught and treated early enough, patients can become permanently infertile.

Additional symptoms of PID include:

  • Discolored and foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Heavy, painful periods
  • Non-menstrual bleeding or bleeding directly after sex
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain while urinating
  • Stomach or pelvic pain

Both infections are detectable and curable with antibiotics.

Syphilis’s Four Stages

A syphilis infection comes in four stages: the primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary stages.

  • Primary – Infection rarely causes symptoms in the primary stage, but if symptoms appear, it’s usually in the form of a painless sore on the vagina, penis, anus, rectum, mouth, or lips.
  • Secondary – In the secondary stage, you may notice red or brown rashes develop in various places on your body, most likely on the palms of your hands or soles of your feet. You may also develop fever, fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes. Symptoms will fade over time.
  • Latent – Next is the latent stage, where you will experience no signs or symptoms of infection for years.
  • Tertiary – At the tertiary stage, which can begin 10-30 years following infection, you can experience organ complications and even failure. Organs can include the liver, heart, and brain. Plus, systems like the vascular system or nervous system can experience significant damage. Untreated syphilis at the tertiary stage can lead to death.

If you let a syphilis infection remain untreated until the tertiary stage, you can still ultimately treat it. However, any damage caused by that point cannot be reversed with just STI treatment.

Chronic Hepatitis B and C

Hepatitis B and C can both either be acute or chronic, and both can be spread through sexual intercourse. Acute infections often become chronic and require a lifetime of management to prevent major complications from developing. Both infections target the liver and can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer. Without proper management, infected patients will experience significant liver issues.


HIV is an STI that, if left unmanaged, will progress to become AIDS, an incurable condition where the body’s immune system is significantly weakened. Symptoms of initial infection last 2-4 weeks and can feel flu-like.

HIV Symptoms

  • Body aches
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Night sweats
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes

AIDS Symptoms

  • Excessive night sweats
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Lasting diarrhea
  • Lasting lymph-node swelling
  • Neurological disorders
  • Pneumonia
  • Sudden weight loss

HIV is not curable, but it is possible to live with HIV and prevent it from developing into AIDS or keep from spreading it to other partners.

Herpes (HSV)

While a herpes outbreak, especially the initial one, can be painful and uncomfortable, HSV does not pose a threat to your health the way that the other mentioned STIs can. If you contract either strain of HSV (HSV 1 or HSV 2), there is a daily medication you can take to minimize the possibility of spreading the virus or experiencing outbreaks.

When you know your STI status, you can treat curable infections or begin an effective management treatment to salvage your health. Or, you can gain peace of mind knowing you are STI-free.

Tip #2: Know Your Partner’s STI Status

Just as it is essential to know your STI status, it is equally important, if not more so, to know your partner’s status before engaging in sex with them. As mentioned, STIs do not always show signs of infection. Your partner may assume they are clean because they have never noticed a sore or unusual symptoms, but the reality could be that they are carrying an infection without knowing it.

Before engaging with a new partner, ask them to get tested like you have so that you can remain safe and protected against infection.

If you are with a current partner, but you aren’t sure about their STI status, both of you should get tested for knowledge and peace of mind.

When you know your partner’s or potential partner’s STI status, you can make educated decisions to safeguard your own health.

Side view of a couple talking sitting on a couch and looking each other at home.

Tip #3: Use Protection Against STIs

All eight of the STIs discussed so far are easily spreadable or contractable, especially if you don’t realize you or your partner is infected. Barrier protection, especially a male or female condom, is your best defense against spreading or contracting certain STIs. With most STIs, the pathogens spread through bodily fluids, but a condom prevents fluids from either partner mixing with the other and potentially leading to the spread.

STIs that condoms help shield against include:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Trichomoniasis
  • HIV
  • Hepatitis

Keep in mind that condoms are not effective against ALL STIs. Those that spread through skin-to-skin contact are contractable whether you use a condom or not. These include:

  • Herpes
  • Genital warts (HPV)
  • Syphilis

Not All Barrier Methods Offer Effective Protection

Barrier protection is important to use to help protect against pregnancy, but not all options are effective at stopping the spread of STIs. A male latex condom is the best option when it comes to STI protection, followed by a female condom.

Less effective (or completely ineffective) options that you should avoid using for STI prevention include:

  • Condoms made of anything but latex or latex-free rubber
  • Cervical caps
  • Diaphragms
  • Spermicide
  • Contraceptive sponges
  • Oral Contraceptives
  • Nexplanon
  • IUDs

These options may help prevent pregnancy, but they leave STIs free to travel from one partner to the other.

Relying on barrier protection, namely a latex condom, each time you have sex can help prevent you from contracting or spreading STIs.

Sexual wellness is so important to focus on. Make sure you are informed and staying safe with help from Women’s Clinic of Atlanta.

The nurse practitioners, nurses, and staff at our clinics offer STI testing, treatment, contraceptives, and so much more to help protect your health. Plus, we provide educational resources, tips, and information to help you make informed decisions and avoid contracting or spreading STIs.

Schedule a sexual wellness exam by texting “appointment” to 404-777-4771 today.

Women’s Clinic of Atlanta is HIPAA compliant and AAAHC accredited.

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