Women’s health encompasses many areas like mental, gynecological and overall physical wellness. One area that is not often discussed but holds a great deal of importance is sexual health. Learn about the different factors that affect your sexual health and best practices to improve it.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
When most people hear sexual health, their mind goes to STD protection. Rightfully so, that is a large part of sexual wellbeing. Women and men have different STDs that are more common. For women, the most common include human papillomavirus (HPV), gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Some common symptoms of these STDs and treatment options:
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
According to Healthline, HPV is the most common STD in women and the main cause of cervical cancer. Luckily, three HPV vaccines have been approved by the FDA. The CDC recommends routine HPV vaccination for girls and boys ages 11 and 12, although it can be given as early as age 9. It’s ideal for girls and boys to receive the vaccine before they have sexual contact because once someone is infected with HPV, the vaccine might not be as effective or might not work at all. The CDC also recommends “catch-up HPV vaccinations for all people through age 26 who aren’t adequately vaccinated.
Most people with HPV don’t show symptoms or health problems while some develop genital warts. Regular check ups and pap smears are important for catching infections like HPV.
Gonorrhea is an STD that, with the right treatment, can be cured. Signs of gonorrhea can differ for every person and every gender. According to the CDC while most women do not have any symptoms, here are common signs of gonorrhea:
- Painful or burning sensation when urinating
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Vaginal bleeding between periods
Chlamydia is a common STD, especially in women. According to the CDC, more than 1.8 million cases were reported in 2019. Most women that contract chlamydia experience no symptoms at all. If a woman does develop symptoms, it often takes weeks for them to show. Some common symptoms include:
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Vaginal discharge
- Burning sensation during urination
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Inflammation of the cervix
There are a few ways to protect yourself against STDs. If you’re in a monogamous partnership, you and your partner should get regular testing and keep open communication about your commitment. If you choose to have multiple sexual partners, consider getting a test before having intercourse with someone new and also ask that they get tested. If you want more protection, condoms can be effective if used correctly. It’s important to note that birth control methods like IUDs, Nexplanon, and oral contraception don’t protect against STDs.
Pain during sex
Romantic comedies like to portray sex in a way that makes every sexual encounter you have a magical one with soft music playing in the background and rose petals on the floor. If you became sexually active only to find out that is not the truth, you’re not alone. Many women start having sex for pleasure only to get pain. Pain during sex, or dyspareunia affects most women at some point in their life. Most of the time, this is caused by lack of lubrication, positional changes, relationship issues or hormonal changes. However, sometimes it can be a sign of a more serious problem, for example, an ovarian cyst or vaginal infection. While you may be tempted to ignore this out of embarrassment or a sheer determination to get your romantic experience, a visit with your healthcare provider can be quite helpful. Schedule an appointment to find out what your treatment options are and get a solutions that make you feel comfortable.
Sexual assault support
Sexual assault is a horrendous act that no person deserves to be a victim of. If you are a victim of sexual assault, you’re not alone. We’re here to support you in the way that is most beneficial to you. These options include group and individual therapy for women across the nation. Your mental health can play an equally important role in your sexual health.
We’re here to help you with sexual assault support options.
Part of your sexual health is following safety practices that are best for you and your situation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teen pregnancies in the United States occur at a rate of 17.4 per 1,000 women aged 15-19 years. The birth rate in this age group has dropped in the previous few years but remains higher than in other developed countries.
While the birth rates are trending down, these young parents that experience teen pregnancies are facing many difficulties beyond the natural friend, school and relationship situations. Teen parents struggle with finishing their education and achieving financial stability in addition to mental health concerns. The steps to take toward preventing teen pregnancy are based on creating a safe environment for discussion. When adults are active listeners and bring knowledge that teens don’t have themselves, the conversation begins.
Improving your sexual health
It’s time to take action towards your sexual wellbeing!
- Protect yourself against STD transmission and get regular testing.
- If you experience a sexual assault or trauma, know there are support options to help you no matter what you choose to do. You have control over your healing and recovery.
- Open the conversation with teens about sexual health and wellbeing. The more we normalize the conversation, the safer they feel discussing it.