Category Archives: Women’s health

Women’s Health: Facts about Birth Control, STIs and Condoms

From the Society of Behavioral Medicine

A Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) is a bacterial or viral infection that is passed from one person to another through sexual contact (i.e., anal, vaginal, or oral). More than 25 STIs have been identified, affecting 20+ million men and women in the U.S. each year.

Anyone who is sexually active can get an STI, even without having penetrative sex (i.e., vaginal or anal sex). Some STIs, like herpes and HPV, are spread by skin-to-skin contact. Many STIs don’t show symptoms for a long time. Even without the presence of symptoms, they can still be harmful and passed between partners during sex (i.e., anal, vaginal, or oral).

STIs occur in all parts of the population.

Young adults between the ages of 15 to 24 account for nearly half of all new STIs infections each year.

Racial and ethnic minority groups are experiencing significant increases in STI rates. In 2017, the rate of reported cases of Chlamydia among Black females was five times the rate of White females and 6.6 times greater in Black males than White males.

STI rates have significantly increased within the LGBTQIA+ community. A 2018 CDC report states Gonorrhea diagnoses nearly doubled between 2013-2018 in gay and bisexual men, and men who have sex with men (MSM). Data from 2018 indicate that gay and bisexual men accounted for 54% of all syphilis cases.

People 60+ account for the largest increase of in-office STI treatment. Between 2014-2017, rates for Herpes simplex, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Hepatitis B, Trichomoniasis, and Chlamydia rose 23% in this population.

Women who are pregnant can become infected with the same STDs as women who are not pregnant.

Fact: Oral contraceptives (birth control) cannot prevent an STI.

A common myth is that birth controls can prevent the spread of STIs. Two of the most common forms of birth controls are oral contraceptives and condoms. Many people may not use condoms because they are using another form of birth control, and feel they are safe from STIs.

Oral contraception is only effective in preventing pregnancy and cannot stop STIs from being passed between sexual partners.

Fact: Condoms can prevent an STI.

Correctly using male and female condoms can help prevent the spread of STIs and help prevent pregnancy. Dental dams, a barrier method for oral sex, can also help prevent STIs when used correctly. Most condoms and dental dams are made from latex or polyurethane, which may be preferable for individuals with a latex allergy.

Read the full article on Society of Behavioral Medicine.

STDs are sexist

From CNN

America is in the middle of an epidemic of sexually transmitted infections, and when it comes to heterosexual transmission, it’s hitting women the hardest. Why is that?

Simply put, because “STDs are biologically and psycho-socially sexist at all levels,” said Dr. Hunter Handsfield, a professor emeritus of medicine at the University of Washington Center for AIDS and STD who has studied sexually transmitted diseases for 40 years.

“Women bear the largest burden of these diseases,” agreed Dr. Edward Hook, co-director of the Center for Social Medicine and Sexually Transmitted Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “Chlamydia and gonorrhea, for example, are two of the leading preventable causes of infertility and ectopic pregnancies in the United States, and on Earth.”

Read the full article.

Sex and COVID-19

It may seem obvious that if a person is infected with COVID-19, they risk infecting others during sex. But people still have a lot of questions. Here’s an excerpt on the topic form the Mayo Clinic Website:

The virus spreads by respiratory droplets released when someone with the virus coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can be inhaled or land in the mouth or nose of a person nearby. Coming into contact with a person’s spit through kissing or other sexual activities could expose you to the virus. People who have COVID-19 could also spread respiratory droplets onto their skin and personal belongings. A sexual partner could get the virus by touching these surfaces and then touching his or her mouth, nose or eyes. In addition, the COVID-19 virus can spread through contact with feces. It’s possible that you could get the COVID-19 virus from sexual activities that expose you to fecal matter.

There is currently no evidence that the COVID-19 virus is transmitted through semen or vaginal fluids, but the virus has been detected in the semen of people who have or are recovering from the virus. Further research is needed to determine if the COVID-19 virus could be transmitted sexually.

Since some people who have COVID-19 show no symptoms, it’s important to keep distance between yourself and others if the COVID-19 virus is spreading in your community. This includes avoiding sexual contact with anybody who doesn’t live with you. If you or your partner isn’t feeling well or think you might have COVID-19, don’t kiss or have sex with each other until you’re both feeling better. Also, if you or your partner is at higher risk of serious illness with COVID-19 due to an existing chronic condition, you might want to avoid sex.

In case that wasn’t clear, The National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD), in partnership with National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), released a frequently asked questions resource regarding sex and COVID-19. In short, if you’re in the same room with someone who has the virus, you can get infected–sex or no sex.

If you have questions about getting tested, talk to your doctor or health care provider. You can also find testing in your area via a Google search. In Pennsylvania, call the Health Department at 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258).

STIs During Pregnancy: Knowing The Signs & Risks

From Babygaga.com

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) pose a serious risk to the health of an expecting woman’s pregnancy, particularly if left untreated. Luckily, most STIs are caught at the first prenatal screening, as the doctor will test for a variety of sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV, chlamydia, and syphilis, as many STIs go untreated if a woman isn’t showing symptoms. Your doctor may also recommend testing for gonorrhea or hepatitis C during if you have been promiscuous prior to or during pregnancy. If a woman is sexually active throughout her pregnancy, particularly if she has multiple partners, then she runs the risk of contracting an STI. The later the trimester, the more harmful an STI can be to the pregnancy.

Read the full article.

Self-obtained samples show similar performance as lab diagnostics for gonorrhea, chlamydia testing

From Helio.com...

Vaginal swab samples collected by patients performed similarly to lab-based molecular diagnostics for chlamydia and gonorrhea testing, therefore supporting the use of a new 30-minute point-of-case assay, according to findings published in JAMA Network Open.

Barbara Van Der Pol, PhD, MPH
Barbara Van Der Pol, PhD, MPH

“The new binx io CT/NG assay can facilitate a complete paradigm shift in how we offer testing for the two most commonly reported notifiable diseases in the United States — chlamydia and gonorrhea,” Barbara Van Der Pol, PhD, MPH, professor of medicine and public health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and president of the American STD Association, told Healio. “Rates of infection with chlamydia and gonorrhea continue to rise, suggesting the need for additional tools in order to effectively reduce the burden of disease. Providers can now identify and treat infections (that are predominately asymptomatic) during a single office visit to prevent transmission and development of sequelea.”

[…] “Sample-first collection by clients seeking sexual health care (or who are eligible for routine screening according to the CDC guidelines) immediately upon arrival at the clinic can enable rapid, accurate results that allow the provider to offer both accurate treatment and appropriate counseling,” Van Der Pol said. “This is the first truly rapid molecular assay for chlamydia and gonorrhea. It is a breakthrough development.”

Read the full article.

Why Are More Women Choosing To Get An IUD As A Form Of Birth Control?

From babygaga.com

Dr. Margaret Dufreney of New Jersey discusses why more women are choosing IUDs over other forms of birth control.

When it comes to birth control, women have a lot more choices to pick from than they realize. Most women begin with taking oral contraceptives, or the pill, because it is easy to take. However, not all oral contraceptives agree with every woman’s body or hectic schedules. Because of this, more women in today’s society are choosing to use an Intrauterine Device (IUD) for their birth control. IUDs have wonderful benefits, but there are inherent risks involved as well.

An IUD is literally a T-shaped device that is placed in a woman’s uterus. Depending on the type of IUD, it will block an egg from attaching to the uterine wall or it will use hormones to prevent a woman from ovulating. Surprisingly, IUDs have been available to women just as long as oral contraceptives. But in the 1970s, IUDs became discouraged because one type was made with an “ill designed removal string that funneled bacteria into the uterus”. After some serious developing, IUDs were back on the market by 1988 and are completely safe to use as birth control today.

Read the full article.

Six things you don’t (but should) know about STIs

From Seattle & King County’s Public Health Insider

Sex positivity is in, sex shaming is out. More people are comfortable talking about what it means to have a healthy sexual relationship, and that’s a good thing. But there’s one thing that many of us still feel awkward or downright avoid talking about: sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

You may know them as sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, which is the term doctors use when an STI has symptoms. (We’ll be using the term STI throughout this article because it’s broader.)

This omission can lead some people to assume there’s no real risk, says Dr. Lindley Barbee, an infectious disease specialist and medical director for the Public Health Seattle & King County Sexual Health Clinic at Harborview Medical Center.

Unfortunately, the risk is very real. Consider this the STI 101 class you probably never got in high school.

The six things you need to know… (read the full article).

Poll: U.S. Adults Lack STI Awareness

From US News and World Report

Despite cases of several sexually transmitted infections reaching a record level in the U.S., a large majority of people aren’t aware of how common they are among the nation’s adults, according to newly released survey results.

The poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that only 36% of those surveyed were aware that STIs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital herpes, syphilis and human papillomavirus, or HPV, have become more common in recent years, with 38% responding that they “don’t know enough to say.” An even smaller share – 13% – knew that more than half of people in the U.S. will get an STI sometime during their life.

Those results came even as the poll also found that a slight majority (54%) of those surveyed said they personally knew someone – themselves included – who had ever contracted an STI such as gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis. Larger shares of women and younger adults said they personally knew someone who has had an STI, according to a KFF report on the survey.

Read the full article.

How this sex educator is helping Black women embrace pleasure and heal form trauma

From Hello Giggles online…

The sex and wellness industry has expanded in recent years as more and more conversations take place highlighting women’s pleasure and undoing sex-negative messages. But as in other industries, the work of Black women in the realm of sex and wellness isn’t always highlighted or celebrated.

Historically, Black women have had a tumultuous relationship with sexual pleasure. As we continue to reclaim our bodies and our sexuality, we are still forced to navigate centuries-old stereotypes of either being hypersexualized deviants (the “jezebel”) or homely figures devoid of sex lives (the “mammy”).

So when it comes to our sexual health and pleasure, the conversation extends beyond trying a new sex toy or exploring a kink. It’s about healing and finding bodily autonomy as Black women and their bodies continue to be disproportionately subjected to violence and scrutiny.

That’s why the work of Black woman sex educators, therapists, and wellness practitioners is so important, and Jimanekia Eborn is a Black woman sex educator, trauma specialist, and podcaster who is out here doing the work to help Black women and femmes achieve sexual liberation. One example of this is Eborn’s recent collaboration with The KinkKit, a sexual wellness and education company founded by Candice Smith, on a pleasure-positive healing kit for survivors of sexual assault.

Read the full article.

Sex ed isn’t serving young Black women

From the Philadelphia Enquirer

This story is part of Made In Philly, a series about young residents shaping local communities.

When Shanaye Jeffers was in fourth grade, she often skipped touch football and double-dutch jump rope at recess to read a book on puberty. In fifth grade, she jumped at the chance to do a school project on childbirth.

Most girls don’t know about the inner workings of their bodies, sexual-health experts say — especially black teenage girls, who often face stigma against asking questions at home and are poorly served by sex-education school curriculums tailored for a white majority.

“Sex ed is not serving young black women really at all,” said Jeffers, now a 28-year-old obstetrics and gynecology resident at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. She’s trying to change that. As Philadelphia site director for Daughters of the Diaspora, a nonprofit founded in 2012 to teach black teenage girls about reproductive health and self-esteem, Jeffers is working to give other girls the same knowledge and passion to take charge of their health that she had as a child.

Read the full article.