Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are very common. In fact, about 50% of sexually active individuals contract an STI by the time they’re 25 years old.
As the terms imply, STIs and STDs are contracted through sexual contact. The only way to ensure you won’t get one is by abstaining from sexual activity. However, there are still lots of ways to lower your risk of STDs even if you are sexually active.
Daniel McDonald, MD, Marc Wilson, MD, and our team at OB/GYN Specialists in Denton, Texas, offer comprehensive gynecologic care for women, including STD testing and education. Take a look at our best tips for reducing your risk of STDs and staying healthy.
1. Use condoms every time you have sex
Along with reducing your risk of unintended pregnancy, condoms are one of the most effective ways to prevent STDs. Both external and internal condoms, when used correctly, can protect against STDs.
Use latex or polyurethane condoms every time you engage in any type of sexual activity. Keep the condom on the whole time, and make sure you and your partner know how to use condoms correctly.
If you use lubricant, choose one that’s water-based so it doesn’t compromise the efficacy of the condom.
2. Maintain good hygiene before and after sex
STDs are spread through sexual contact and bodily fluids. The best way to avoid contracting an STD is using a condom every time you have sex, but practicing good hygiene habits can further reduce your risk.
Wash your hands before engaging in sexual contact. After sex, wash or rinse off. Urinating after penetrative sex can help flush bacteria from your body, which may reduce your risk of STDs and urinary tract infections (UTIs). Always use clean towels, and never share towels or underwear with others.
3. Talk to your sexual partner(s)
Take the time to talk with any potential partners about your sexual history before you choose to have sex. Tell them about any STDs you may have, and ask them to do the same.
Being honest with your sexual partners is important, but remember that many STDs don’t exhibit symptoms. Without symptoms, it’s possible for an STD to go unnoticed and undiagnosed. That’s why it’s a good idea to get STD testing before beginning a new sexual relationship.
Your risk of STDs increases if you have multiple partners, or if your partner has additional partners. Your risk of contracting an STD is low if you’re in a monogamous relationship and both you and your partner have tested negative for STDs.
4. Consider getting STD vaccinations
With over 30 different types of bacteria, viruses, and parasites causing STDs, there’s not a vaccine for every one. However, there are FDA-approved vaccines for a few common STDs: human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis A, and hepatitis B.
These vaccines are most effective when administered before you’re sexually active, typically between the ages of 9 and 14. But they can still help prevent STD infection in older teens and adults who have already started having sex.
Practicing safe sex with partners you trust is a good way to reduce your risk of contracting an STD, but your health care plan should still include regular STD screening. Many STDs don’t cause noticeable symptoms, so the only way to know if you have an STD is with a test.
If your results are positive, our team offers a range of treatment options to cure the disease or minimize your symptoms, depending on the type of STD you have.
To learn more about how you can prevent STDs and maintain your best health, contact OB/GYN Specialists to schedule an appointment.