Both men and women need to look after their sexual health and take time to understand the issues that surround contraception and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
For instance there are some STIs, like chlamydia, that you could be carrying without having any symptoms. This infection can affect fertility, so it’s important to make use of the sexual health services available for free on the NHS.
There are many different types of contraception available that you should be able to find the right method. You may have to try several different things before you choose the one you like most. Read more about your options here.
Many people do not notice symptoms when they have an STI, including most women with chlamydia.
If it’s left untreated, chlamydia can affect your ability to get pregnant.
Gonorrhoea can also affect fertility. Around 50% of women and 10% of men with gonorrhoea do not have symptoms.
Left untreated, STIs can affect your health. If you have any of the symptoms listed below, get tested.
In women and men:
- pain when you pass urine (pee)
- itching, burning or tingling around the genitals
- blisters, sores, spots or lumps around the genitals or anus
- black powder or tiny white dots in your underwear – this could be droppings or eggs from pubic lice
- yellow or green vaginal discharge
- discharge that smells
- bleeding between periods or after sex
- pain during sex
- lower abdominal pain
- discharge from the penis
- irritation of the urethra (the tube urine comes out of)
These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have an STI, but it’s worth seeing a doctor so you can find out what’s causing the symptoms and get treatment.
For example, it’s possible to get thrush without having sex, but it can cause STI-like symptoms, such as soreness, itching and discharge.
Where can I get tested for STIs?
We do not test for STIs at the practice. You can get tested at:
- a sexual health clinic – find STI services near you
- some community contraceptive clinics – find contraceptive services near you
- some sexual health services – call the national sexual health line on 0300 123 7123, or Worth Talking About (for under-18s) on 0300 123 2930
Some pharmacies can also test for chlamydia.
Find out where you can get a free chlamydia test through the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (under-25s only).
Have safer sex
Always use condoms to help protect yourself from catching or passing on an STI. Buy condoms that have the CE mark or BSI kite mark on the packet.
This means they have been tested to high safety standards. Condoms that do not have the CE mark or BSI kite mark will not meet these standards, so do not use them.
Find out what happens when you visit a sexual health clinic.