If you’re having sex, you can contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD). These infections don’t discriminate based on age, sexual orientation, or marital status. In fact, STDs among older women are on the rise. From the symptoms to long-term complications, women face unique challenges when it comes to STDs.
At OB-GYN Associates of Marietta, our team puts women’s health first. That’s why we curated this guide to help you learn what every sexually active woman should know about STDs.
What are STDs?
STDs are also called sexually transmitted infections. Though usually spread through sexual intercourse, STDs can also be transmitted by vaginal, oral, or anal contact.
STDs are one of the most contagious diseases, and the CDC estimates that about 20 million new STDs occur every year in the United States. Some STDs are treatable, while others cannot be cured and may even cause death. As such, STDs are considered serious illnesses and require attention.
What are the common types of STDs?
More than 25 STDs exist, each caused by many different bacteria and viruses. The most common STDs include:
- Human papillomavirus / genital warts
- Gonorrhea (“clap”)
- Hepatitis B
- HIV / AIDS
What do women need to know about STDs?
STDs are not only the concern of young, sexually-active women, as women of all ages are equally susceptible. In fact, as the fear of pregnancy leaves, older women can become more careless with sexual protection leading to an increase in STDs among older women.
Anatomically, women have a higher risk than men of contracting an STD. The vagina provides a good environment for bacteria, and the thick lining makes it easier for bacteria and viruses to penetrate.
Men experience more obvious symptoms, making it easier to diagnose and treat STDs. Women are less likely to have symptoms of common STDs, making it easy for the infection to remain and continue to spread. In addition, symptoms occurring in the vagina, such as ulcers or warts, are difficult to see. This makes it harder for women to notice problems and get treatment.
In women, STDs can lead to long-term health complications, like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can lead to chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy, and even infertility.
The CDC reports at least 24,000 cases of infertility in women due to STDs every year. Women with STDs who become pregnant can pass the disease to their child, resulting in stillbirth, low birth weight, blindness, deafness, and brain damage.
In addition, the main cause of cervical cancer is human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common STD in women, and while both men and women can contract it, men rarely develop related health problems.
How can I protect myself from STDs?
The only guarantee against STDs is abstinence, which isn’t practical for most women. Instead, take these steps to help protect yourself against STDs.
First, use condoms for protection every time you have sex. While spermicides and other forms of contraception may protect against pregnancy, they’re not a safeguard against STDs.
Next, be sure to get tested for STDs routinely. Women can have an STD and be symptom-free, so regular Pap smears are recommended. Be sure to ask your provider about STD testing and the HPV vaccine.
Finally, openly communicate with your sexual partners and medical team. Discussing your sexual history honestly with both your doctor and partners helps reduce your risk of getting or spreading an STD.
How do I know if I have an STD?
As a woman, it can be difficult to know if you have an STD. Some symptoms aren’t obvious, but if you experience sores, rashes, or unusual discharge in the genital area, call the team at OB-GYN Associates of Marietta to schedule a consultation.
It’s important to treat STDs quickly to reduce the risk of spreading the infection and avoid long-term complications. If you think you have an STD, it’s also important to let your partner or partners know so they can receive treatment, too.
How are STDs treated?
Treatment protocol depends on your STD diagnosis. The CDC recommends annual screening for certain STDs of all sexually active women younger than 25 years and women over 25 who meet certain risk factors.
At OB-GYN Associates of Marietta, our medical team is experienced in diagnosing and treating of STDs with compassion and discretion to women in every stage of life. We can help you learn about your risk factors and provide treatment, if necessary.
If you’re concerned about STDs or simply want to learn more, call OB-GYN Associates of Marietta or book a visit online for a free consultation at one of our two locations in Marietta and Woodstock, Georgia.