Pregnancy is not the only thing to be concerned about after having sex. STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and STIs (sexually transmitted infections) are common. Some can be cured. Some cannot. Many have lifelong effects.
Sexually transmitted diseases are spread through sexual activity, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Even if a condom is used every single time you have sex, you are still at risk for catching a sexually transmitted disease. You can have an STD without realizing it, and pass it on to others unknowingly.
VIRAL/PARASITIC STDs and STIs
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). About 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. About 14 million people become newly infected each year. HPV is a different virus than HIV and HSV (herpes). HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. There are many different types of HPV. Most HPV infections have no signs or symptoms; therefore, most infected people are unaware they are infected, yet they can transmit the virus to a sex partner. HPV can cause cervical and other cancers including cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. It can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (called oropharyngeal cancer).
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV): There are still over 1 million people living with HIV in the United States (35 million worldwide). About one-fourth of those have not yet been diagnosed and are unaware of their infection. This virus causes the immune system to breakdown and may have symptoms that mimic many other diseases. These can include fever, sore throat, fatigue, and swollen lymph glands. Sexually active men and women should be tested for this regularly.
Genital herpes is common in the United States. In the United States, about one out of every six people aged 14 to 49 years have genital herpes. Most people with the virus don’t have symptoms. It is important to know that even without signs of the disease, it can still spread to sexual partners. Genital herpes can cause recurring painful sores around the genital region, mouth or throat. It can also cause complications in pregnancy for years to come. There is currently no cure for herpes.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is an infection caused when too much of certain bacteria change the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina. BV is linked to an imbalance of “good” and “harmful” bacteria that are normally found in a woman's vagina. Many women with BV do not have symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you may notice a thin white or gray vaginal discharge, odor, pain, itching, or burning in the vagina. Some women have a strong fish-like odor, especially after sex. You may also have burning when urinating; itching around the outside of the vagina, or both. Pregnant women with BV are more likely to have babies who are born premature (early) or with low birth weight than women who do not have BV while pregnant.
Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted disease in the United States. Any sexually active person can be infected with Chlamydia. The greater the number of sex partners, the greater the risk of infection. Because the cervix of teenage girls and young women is not fully matured, they are at particularly high risk for infection. Oftentimes there are no symptoms present; however, if left untreated, these hidden infections can cause serious and permanent health problems in both men and women.
Gonorrhea symptoms in women are often mild, but most women who are infected have no symptoms. Even when a woman has symptoms, they can be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection. Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent health problems including Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) and infertility. Also can increase the risk of HIV infection two to five times.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) refers to an infection of the reproductive organs causing damage to fallopian tubes, tissues and ovaries. Untreated sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, a serious condition, in women. 1 in 8 women with a history of PID experience difficulties getting pregnant. There are no tests for PID. A diagnosis is usually based on a combination of your medical history, physical exam, and other test results. You may not realize you have PID because your symptoms may be mild, or you may not experience any symptoms.
Syphilis is an STD that can cause long-term complications if not treated correctly. Symptoms in adults are divided into stages. These stages are primary, secondary, latent, and late syphilis. You can get syphilis by direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Syphilis has been called ‘the great imitator’ because it has so many possible symptoms, many of which look like symptoms from other diseases. The painless syphilis sore that you would get after you are first infected can be confused for an ingrown hair, zipper cut, or other seemingly harmless bump. The non-itchy body rash that develops during the second stage of syphilis can show up on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet, all over your body, or in just a few places. You could also be infected with syphilis and have very mild symptoms or none at all. Syphilis can be cured with the right antibiotics from your health care provider. However, treatment will not undo any damage that the infection has already done.
Trichomoniasis (or "trich")is a very common sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is caused by infection with a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. Although symptoms of the disease vary, most women and men who have the parasite cannot tell they are infected. Trichomoniasis is considered the most common curable STD. In the United States, an estimated 3.7 million people have the infection, but only about 30% develop any symptoms of trichomoniasis. Infection is more common in women than in men, and older women are more likely than younger women to have been infected. When trichomoniasis does cause symptoms, they can range from mild irritation to severe inflammation. Some people with symptoms get them within 5 to 28 days after being infected, but others do not develop symptoms until much later. Symptoms can come and go.
Sex is a big deal. Know the facts. Make informed decisions. Respect yourself.
Information obtained from www.cdc.gov