Sexual health goes far beyond getting tested for infections. Sexual health is about experiencing intimacy that is both satisfying and free from issues such as painful intercourse.
Remember, we’re partners in your care. We are always here for you, and welcome any questions you may have.
“Your sexual health is extremely important, and it’s about more than avoiding STIs [sexually transmitted infections]. We always want our patients to have a safe and fulfilling sexual life. Often, this means getting tested, having open communication with your partner, and seeing us if you have concerns about or symptoms of an STI,” said Dr. Anne Martinelli.
“Without treatment for STIs, women have an increased chance of developing pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to pain, infertility, and a greater risk of having an ectopic pregnancy.”
HPV [Human Papilloma Virus] is passed by sexual contact.
Because HPV is so prevalent, we’ll take a look at essential things you need to know about it and why testing is critical to maintaining good sexual health.
The Most Recent Statistics on STIs
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection.
Eighty percent of men and women who are sexually active will have an HPV infection at some point.
An estimated 79 million Americans currently have HPV while 14 million new cases occur each year.
Thirteen of the 30 strains of HPV are called high-risk strains because they can develop into cervical cancer. (Cleveland Clinic). The other strains can cause genital warts.
Questions We Wish Our Patients Would Ask About Their Sexual Health
First and foremost, we want to encourage our patients to be completely honest with us about all aspects of their sexuality, including how many partners they have had.
If we do not have all the information we need, then we’re not able to tailor the most effective health care plan for you.
Never be embarrassed.
We have worked with patients of all ages, from all walks of life, and our only concern is for your health and well-being.
We are dedicated to the highest standards of patient privacy and your medical history will always be kept confidential.
Here are some questions we wish our patients would ask us. We encourage you to make a note to ask these at your next visit or annual exam.
1. How can I talk to my partner about STIs?
Communication with your partner is vital for your sexual health.
If you are not sure how to start the conversation, we can provide some insight and talking points to help you.
Often, the most fulfilling sexual relationships are the ones where there is open and honest communication.
2. How often should I be tested for STIs?
There’s no blanket answer to this question; when you should get tested and how often depends upon a number of factors that we’ll be happy to discuss with you.
However, in general, those ages 13 to 64 should have at least one test for HIV.
Sexually active women younger than 26 should have annual testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Any woman with multiple sex partners or a partner who has an STI should be tested every year.
If you are pregnant, you should be tested for syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B starting early in pregnancy.
3. What screenings should I have at my age?
Regular screenings for your general health can help ensure your sexual health.
We recommend a Pap smear, pelvic exam and clinical breast exam at your OBGYN annual exam. Pap smears are done every three to five years depending upon the age of the patient and the results of the last Pap smear.
However, your personal health history may require other screenings or more frequent screenings.
4. What are the best birth control options for me?
There are several different options available, whether you’re considering temporary or permanent birth control.
Schedule an appointment with us and we’ll be glad to help.
Realize that birth control alone will not protect you from STIs .
5. Recently, sex has felt different for me. Why is this happening?
It’s not unusual to experience changes toward sex.
This could be due to everything from low libido to vaginal dryness, which can make sex uncomfortable. The important thing is to speak to us and maintain open communication with your partner so we can help.
We also would like patients to be completely honest and provide details about their:
- Sexual history
- Condom use
- Current symptoms
- Possibility of pregnancy
- Sexual practices
We can discuss these at your OBGYN annual exam.
10 Vital Things to Know About HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
HPV infections are extremely common. In fact, almost all men and women have at least one kind of HPV which can be detected during some point in life.
1. This common virus can lead to 6 different types of cancer that occur later in life. These cancers are:
- Cervical cancer
- Vaginal cancer
- Cancer of the vulva
- Penile cancer
- Anal cancer
- Throat cancer
Every year, HPV causes 33,700 different cases of cancer in men and women.
2. HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact. It’s possible to get it through vaginal, anal or oral sex.
3. Because HPV is so common, it’s important for children to start receiving vaccinations early in order to provide protection from cancers. It’s recommended that children receive this around ages 11 to 12.
4. Most people who have genital HPV don’t know it, and can therefore, spread it to others without being aware.
5. There are often no symptoms of HPV. However, there are treatments for health problems that are often caused by HPV, which include genital warts and cancer.
6. You can reduce your chances of developing HPV by:
- Abstaining from sex
- Limiting your number of sexual partners
- Using condoms (although these may not fully protect you from HPV)
- Getting vaccinated
7. In most cases, in those with healthy immune systems, HPV becomes undetectable and doesn’t lead to any health problems. However, even if you exhibit no symptoms of HPV, you can still spread it to others.
8. The most common signs and symptoms of an HPV infection are warts, particularly in the genital area. However common warts, plantar warts or flat warts can also be signs. (Mayo Clinic)
9. Almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV. After an HPV infection, it may take 20 or more years for cervical cancer to develop. This is why HPV vaccination, your OBGYN annual exam and regular cervical cancer screenings are so important.
10. Washing, urinating or douching after sex will not prevent HPV or any other sexually transmitted infection.
We Have Been Partners in Women’s Health for More Than 40 Years
Do you have questions about your sexual health?
Do you need to have an OBGYN annual exam?
Are you concerned about STIs or do you feel your sex life could be more fulfilling?
Please schedule an appointment with us. Working together we can tailor solutions to help you live the healthiest life possible.
Experience, compassion and access to state-of-the-art care. This, coupled with a personalized approach to medicine, has made Chapel Hill OBGYN one of the leading practices in the region and the provider of choice for hundreds of women in the Triangle area.
For more than 40 years, Chapel Hill OBGYN has served women in the Triangle area, sharing the joy of little miracles and supporting them during challenges. Our board-certified physicians and certified nurse midwives bring together the personal experience and convenience of a private practice with the state-of-the-art resources found at larger organizations. To schedule an appointment, please contact us for more information.
Cleveland Clinic. “HPV.” Online.
Centers for Disease Control. “HPV: The Facts.” Online.
Mayo Clinic. “HPV Infections.” Online.