A fulfilling sex life doesn’t look the same for everyone. Some love the intimacy of an exclusive relationship, others enjoy experimenting with different sexual partners. There’s no ‘right’ way to enjoy your sex life, but no matter what yours entails, it’s always important to practice safe sex. Uncomfortable or ‘awkward’ conversations are inevitable. Because whatever situation-ship you have, taking care of your and their sexual health should be your priority, and that means having open lines of communication. So, let’s chat about some common topics that may come up before, during or after sex.
Having vaginal, oral or anal sex means you’re at risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Luckily, with a little forward planning, you can significantly minimise this risk by:
Finding a way to feel comfortable having open conversations about sexual history and STI testing is the first step to a safe and healthy sex life. Try and find a time, perhaps outside of the bedroom, where you can discuss this. Ask your partner if they are currently sexually active with others, and if so, ask them when they were last tested for STIs. You should get tested every 6 months, when you change partners or if you show symptoms. If they’re due for a test, maybe you are too — why not go together? Sure it’s not exactly a romantic date to the movies, but it could be a nice way to break down some boundaries and let each other know that you care.
People with STIs often don’t know they have an infection. There are a lot of STIs that aren’t visible, or can be asymptomatic (meaning there are no symptoms). If you want to enjoy your sexual experience, then it’s best to know all the ways you can be protected from STIs. When it comes to protection, condoms are one of our favourites. Used correctly, they’re over 98% effective in protecting you from both STIs and pregnancy.
Sometimes the condom can slip or break — so it’s best to know all the dos and don’ts of condom usage before trying them out. They’re also easy to find, you can buy condoms from local supermarkets, chemists or pharmacies, convenience stores, petrol stations, or get for free from Youth Health Centres, and Sexual Health Clinics. There’s really no good excuse not to use a condom…and we’ve heard them all!
We know that even if you do your best to be as safe as possible, sometimes things can go awry. A condom could break, you could get swept up in a moment of passion or the communication between you and the other person may not have been clear. If you’ve had unprotected sex, try not worry. You can get tested for an STI or talk to your doctor about pregnancy concerns. There’s also the option of the Emergency Contraceptive Pill (ECP) AKA ‘The Morning After Pill’. This is available as a backup plan, it’s not the primary method of contraception but can be taken to reduce the risk of pregnancy after unprotected sex. If you do need to consider the ECP, make sure you consult a health professional about what to expect and any possible side effects before you take it. You may be wondering how soon after the unprotected sex, can you get tested for an STI? You could go for a test as early as the next day.
If you think you could have an STI — feel free to take our sexual health quiz.
Having sex can be a really enjoyable, passionate and nurturing experience, but it also means you’re exposing yourself to a variety of common STIs. We know that using condoms can protect us from most of these, but we also know that things don’t always go to plan. With the rise in STIs, there’s always the chance you’ll come across an STI (or two, or three). It’s important to be informed about what’s out there, so you can make the right choice about your preferred protection method with a partner.
HPV stands for human papillomavirus and is the most common STI worldwide. There are many different types of the virus and most of us will get the virus at some point during our lifetime. The good news is, they’re mostly harmless, or treatable. HPV can cause visible genital warts which can be removed with treatment, a cervical screening will detect HPV on the cervix (this one you can’t see). It’s important to have regular cervical screenings, in accordance with NSW Health guidelines, because if left undetected — there are some strains of HPV that can cause cervical cancer later in life. Though, most HPV will go away on its own over the course of your life. If you’re concerned about HPV, book an appointment and talk with your doctor about vaccination options.
You can get herpes through skin-to-skin contact during oral, vaginal or anal sex. You can also catch it through non-penetrative genital to genital rubbing, rimming, as well as kissing. Herpes is the most contagious when you have symptoms, but can sometimes be passed on even when there are no symptoms at all. One of the best ways to lower the risk of Herpes is by using a condom every time.
Most commonly, chlamydia is usually free from symptoms — so it’s probably one of the tricker STIs to know if you have or not. It’s caused by a bacterial infection and can be easily treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease which can damage the uterus and impact fertility.
This is why having a conversation with your partner before sex is the best way to enjoy a safe sex life. So many STIs are treatable and cause little damage if they’re diagnosed early. You never know, your ‘awkward’ conversation about STI testing and sexual history may just uncover a hidden STI for a partner. It could have been passed on to someone else if you hadn’t had that conversation.
We’ve spoken about this a little bit already, but finding out if you have an STIs can be as easy as peeing in a cup. The key is regular testing. And frank conversations with your sexual partners about their most recent tests, or asking them to have another one (if they haven’t), you can ensure your own safety and that of your partners too. You can’t treat something if you don’t know you have it, so STI treatment really relies on regular STI testing. We recommend every 6-12 months or every time you change sexual partners.
Although awkward moments and chats can be totally normal, there are instances where these feelings are a sign of genuine problems. Safety is the number one priority in every sexual scenario — for your mental and physical health.
If you don’t feel your partner is listening to your concerns about practising safe sex, using protection and getting tested, then it may be worthwhile holding off having sex until you’re both on the same page. Remember, at the end of the day, sex can be spontaneous but you should always feel comfortable with every element and take the time to discuss safety before the fun begins.