Let’s talk about sex, baby.
So much of what we do in the bedroom is a mystery (even to us while we’re doing it).
Sex is still pretty taboo to talk about; most of us go bright red at the very thought of uttering the word ‘vagina’ aloud, let alone asking if it’s normal to have discharge or pain after getting hot and heavy.
Add to this the fact all bodies are different and ‘normal’ doesn’t even really exist anyway, and sexual health becomes a confusing minefield to navigate.
So to save you the unnecessary stress, we’ve compiled a bunch of need-to-know questions we just know you’re itching (no pun intended) to have answered…
1. Why does it hurt when I have sex?
If you experience pain whenever you have – or try to have – sex, there could be a couple of culprits responsible.
Discomfort during intercourse is often the result of not being aroused enough before penetration, which can cause additional friction due to lack of lubrication; so taking more time for foreplay or using a personal lubricant could solve all of your woes. If this doesn’t help, there might be something more serious at play. One of the hallmark signs of endometriosis is pain during intercourse, and certain genital infections (like herpes and yeast infections) can also make sex very uncomfortable. If you experience regular pain during intercourse it’s important to pay a visit to your regular doc or gyno, as sex that hurts can also be an early warning sign of cervical cancer; something that can be easily picked up with a routine pap smear test.
2. Condoms are only for penetrative sex, right?
Unless you’re in a monogamous, long-term relationship, a condom should be the first thing put on before anyone puts out, even if you’re on birth control. Condoms protect against more than just pregnancy – they’re pretty much the only contraceptive that works to prevent STIs.
But so many people forget STIs can also be passed on through oral sex as well. While putting a condom on his penis before giving a blowjob might not seem like the sexiest thing to do, it’s definitely more appealing than a sexually transmitted infection. You can get most genital infections in the mouth and throat, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis, HIV, and HPV – the virus which can cause cervical cancer – which can develop into genital warts or even cancer of the mouth and throat. If you have sex with women, a dental dam can be used as a barrier to prevent STIs. To avoid any of these nasties, always put a condom on before going down on a guy, and before his penis goes near any other part of your body as well.
3. What are the signs of an STI?
There are so many different STIs, and each has their own unique set of symptoms, though some often don’t produce any symptoms at all. This is why it’s super important to have regular sexual health check-ups, especially if you’re having casual sex with multiple partners.
Generally, though, the signs of an STI include unusual discharge, pain during sex or going to the bathroom, visible sores, itchiness and irritation, unusual bleeding, and new lumps and bumps around the genitals, mouth or anus. It is amazingly easy and simple to have an STI test in places like Australia, America and other developed countries. They can be quickly and easily performed at most doctors’ offices, as well as specialist sexual health centers at little to no cost at all. Despite what you may think, a Pap test DOES not detect STI’s so unless the doctor explicitly asks, you can’t assume you’re getting a check every time you have a Pap test.
4. Should I be worried if I bleed after sex?
Bleeding during or after sex can often indicate nothing more than you’ve had a particularly rough session, or been scratched by a partner’s fingernail. If there’s only a little blood, and it’s light in color, there’s typically little cause for concern (though you should always consult your doc or gyno if something doesn’t feel right).
But if it happens regularly, and you’re bleeding a noticeable amount, you should see a doctor immediately to check if it’s coming from your cervix or caused by an infection. Unusual vaginal bleeding is the symptom most commonly associated with cervical cancer, which can be found early if you have regular pap tests. Luckily, the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation (ACCF) has a handy pap test reminder service, Get the PAP-TEXT, which will send you a reminder when you’re due for your next appointment, so you never have to stress about forgetting when your neck check-up’s due.
5. How common is cervical cancer, really?
According to the ACCF, over 270,000 women worldwide die of cervical cancer each year – that’s once every two minutes. Sadly, around 90 per cent of those women live in developing countries, where vaccines and screenings are not available.
Given cervical cancer is the only cancer preventable through vaccination, these statistics are especially upsetting. Organisations like ACCF work with women in developing countries, such as Nepal, to provide access to the vaccine to lower the mortality rate.
In Nepal, nearly 42 per cent of women screened by the ACCF were found to have cervical cancer abnormalities or infections. By vaccinating girls in these developing countries, their risk of dying from cervical cancer is reduced by 80 per cent. (Head over to the ACCF site to learn more about how you can participate in helping women in these areas access much-needed screenings.)
6. What sorts of fluids ‘down there’ are normal?
Vaginas make a whole bunch of fluids – from discharge, through to lubrication and ejaculate. Depending on where you are in your cycle, the discharge you see in your panties at the end of the day will vary, but can say a lot about your overall health. During sex, some women have no problem getting wet enough for intercourse while others have the total opposite problem. How much fluid you make during sex can depend on what birth control you’re on, where you are in your cycle or how aroused you are.
And when it comes to female ejaculate, even the experts are still trying to figure it out. Some women ‘squirt’ every time, and some never do. Both are just as normal as each other. Keep an eye out for any kind of fluid downstairs that is completely new or different, and if in doubt, see a doctor.
7. Is my vagina ugly?
Vaginas come in all shapes and sizes, and there is absolutely no ‘normal’ kind of vagina. The main thing to be aware of is what yours looks like, so you can know what normal is for you. That way, if anything changes, you’ll be aware of it and can see a doctor if you notice a change in its appearance. Getting familiar with yours by inspecting it with a hand mirror every so often and inspecting it with your hands under warm running water in the shower is the best way to do that.
8. What is the number one thing you can do for your sexual health?
The number one thing you can do for your sexual health is to have regular pap smear tests and see your doctor for regular check-ups. If you live in a developed country with access to a doctor and medication, you’re already extremely lucky compared to women in less developed countries who are still dying from preventable diseases, including cervical cancer.
It’s also important to know your body and what’s normal for you. This way, you can notice when things start to change, and get on top of them before they get on top of you.
Images via tumblr.com, popkey.come, mtvuk.com, imgur.com, pinterest.com, giphy.com.
Comment: What is something you’ve always wanted to know about sex?
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