Few people like to discuss them and some even try to hide their symptoms from others. However, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) need to be talked about. The key to controlling the spread of STDs is regular testing combined with effective treatment.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in five people in the U.S. had an STI in 2018. Unfortunately, patients with untreated STDs have an increased risk of developing chronic pain, infertility and HIV.
STDs are especially dangerous to an unborn child. If left untreated, congenital syphilis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, blindness or stroke. Every pregnant woman should be tested for syphilis.
Additionally, pregnant women should have prenatal screenings for HIV, hepatitis B virus, and hepatitis C virus. The sooner an HIV-positive mother begins treatment with a combination of HIV medicines known as antiretroviral therapy (ART), the greater her chances are of preventing the transmission of HIV to her baby. Screening for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and TB is recommended for some pregnant women at a higher risk.
To lower your risk of contracting an STD, take the following steps:
Talk openly about STDs.
Before beginning a sexual relationship, talk about your sexual health history. This will promote honesty, trust and respect in the relationship.
Avoid sexual contact with anyone showing symptoms.
Beware of genital sores, a rash or unusual discharge. However, some STDs don’t manifest any visible symptoms.
Get tested regularly.
The CDC recommends that most sexually active adults get screened for STDs at least once per year. When beginning a new relationship, request that your partner gets tested before having sex. Pregnant women should also be tested for STDs that may affect the fetus.
Use barriers such as condoms.
Using barriers correctly and consistently during sexual activity will maximize your level of STD protection.
Practice mutual monogamy if you are sexually active.
Only have sex with your committed partner after you’ve both been tested and cleared for STDs. Sexual activity with multiple partners increases your risk of contracting an STD.
Avoid alcohol and recreational drug use.
These can lower your inhibitions and encourage risky sexual behavior.
Get the hepatitis B and HPV vaccines.
Most people who are vaccinated with hepatitis B vaccine are immune for life. Gardasil-9 (9vHPV) is distributed in the United States and protects against nine HPV types.
Complete abstinence is the only way to guarantee protection against STDs. This means avoiding all types of intimate genital contact, including oral sex.
If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Women’s Health Arizona. As Arizona’s largest ObGyn group, we’re trained and solely dedicated to delivering the best ObGyn experience in convenient and comfortable settings around Phoenix.