If you are having an intimate relationship with someone, it’s important to look after your sexual health. That means not getting pregnant – or making someone else pregnant – unless you have decided to start a family, and protecting yourself from catching a sexually transmitted disease (STI).
No sexual relationship should ever involve abuse so if you are being abused, either physically or emotionally, you should seek help immediately.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STIs)
The majority of STIs are transmitted during intercourse so it’s always a good idea to use a condom, especially if you are having sex with someone with whom you are not in a long-term relationship.
There are some viruses, for example, the HPV virus that causes genital warts, that can be passed on simply by skin-to-skin contact. Pubic lice and scabies are others.
STIs like chlamydia present few obvious symptoms, so you may not always realise you have an infection.
Most STIs are easily treated with antibiotics but some can lead to more serious problems if they are left untreated, for example, gonorrhoea can lead to infertility.
This is why it’s important to overcome your embarrassment and seek treatment for your symptoms.
Syphilis and HIV are more serious forms of STI, which if left untreated, can pose major health risks in the future.
NHS 111 Wales has more information on specific STIs on its website, including sexual health clinics in your area.
You can buy chlamydia home testing kits from most chemists. If you do use one and the results are positive, you should seek medical advice from your GP or a sexual health clinic.
Your choice of contraception is a personal one and very much depends on whether you wish to start a family (or have another baby) in the near future.
Popular forms of contraception include:
- withdrawal – popular but risky and gives no protection against STIs
- condoms – the only kind of contraception which protects against pregnancy and STIs
- hormonal contraception – progestogen only and combined oral pills
- intrauterine devices, like the coil
- contraceptive patches
- contraceptive implants
Speak to your GP or search NHS 111 Wales for details of sexual health clinics near you.
If you have unplanned and unprotected sex and you do not want to get pregnant, you should probably consider using an emergency contraceptive.
The most effective form (it prevents 99% of pregnancies) is having an intrauterine device (IUD) fitted; this has no side effects and can be left in place to become your usual form of contraception.
The so-called ‘morning after pill’ is widely available at sexual health clinics and young people’s clinics across Wales. There are two types:
- Levonelle must be taken up to three days (72 hours) after having unprotected sex. You can get it free of charge on prescription but can only buy it from a pharmacy if you are over 16
- ellaOne can be taken up to five days (120 hours) after sex. You can buy it from a pharmacy without a prescription even if you are under 16
Neither pill is effective as the IUD; there may be side effects from both.