It’s estimated that half of the population will contract an STI or STD at some point before reaching age 25. This is a health issue that so many of us are dealing with, yet it’s still an uncomfortable subject for a lot of women. If you’re dealing with an STD for the first time and aren’t sure how to handle it, here’s how to take control of a sucky situation.
Easier said than done, I know, but don’t panic. STDs and STIs seem really scary but it’s super important to take a deep breath and handle your business as calmly as possible. Most sexually transmitted infections are easily curable and the ones that do stick around long-term are manageable with treatment. You aren’t doomed, you aren’t gross, and you’ve got this.
Get yourself checked out. Whether you suspect that something is amiss down there or you’ve already taken a positive at-home STD test, you absolutely must go see a doctor. Looking up your symptoms online is a great way to stress yourself out about an absolute worst case scenario, as anyone who has fallen victim to the WebMD symptom checker knows. Go straight to your doctor or another healthcare professional (like someone from Planned Parenthood or the like) and get tested.
Take a minute to deal with it. You officially have a diagnosis and probably a prescription to go along with it. You might be experiencing some difficult emotions like shame, fear, or anger. That’s totally normal. Take a moment to feel your feelings, but remember that you’re on the right path and getting answers along the way. You’re dealing with it like the badass you are. Go you!
Get thee to a pharmacy. Once you’ve got a prescription, you need to get it filled ASAP. An STI left untreated can become bad news with lasting consequences like infertility and symptoms can quickly get worse. Don’t waste precious time when it comes to your health!
Take your prescription exactly as you’re instructed. Now that you have medication, you can start treating your condition. Bacterial STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea require an antibiotic, while viral ones like HPV and herpes may need a long-term treatment plan to manage symptoms. Be sure to follow your medication instructions to the letter. Your symptoms should begin to lessen, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop treatment unless your doctor tells you to. Always complete the full course of your treatment.
If you’re in a relationship, sit down and have a talk. Finding out you have an STD while you’re in a relationship can be a tough hurdle for you and your S.O. However, it doesn’t automatically mean that somebody cheated. A lot of STIs can remain asymptomatic for years, so one of you may have brought it into the relationship from the start without realizing it. Sit down for a healthy, open discussion about facts and feelings and let your partner ask questions. Of course, they’ll need to be tested ASAP.
If you’ve had multiple partners since you were last tested, get ready to have some conversations. This is the part that everyone hates, understandably so. Calling up past partners to let them know they may have been exposed to an STI is nobody’s idea of a fun-filled afternoon. Unfortunately, it’s a chore you absolutely must woman up and handle. Resist the urge to send a quick text and have an informative conversation instead. If you absolutely cannot bring yourself to discuss it, a tool like STDCheck.com can anonymously break the uncomfortable news on your behalf.
Hold off on sex until your symptoms are under control. The last thing you want is to make a bacterial infection worse by having sex while you’re still dealing with symptoms. In theory, you should be in the clear as long as you’re using proper protection, but it’s better to be safe than sorry where your health is concerned. If you have a viral STD like herpes or HPV, having sex when you’re experiencing symptoms sharply increases the risk of spreading it to your partner. Talk to your doctor and find out what’s best for your individual case.
Use protection until you get the OK from a healthcare provider. If you have a bacterial infection, you should be able to have protected sex once your symptoms clear up. Stock up on condoms and dental dams so you have them on hand when the mood strikes. You don’t have to put your sex life completely on hold for the entire course of treatment as long as you’re safe about it.
Have safe sex in the future. Depending on the nature of your STI, this step can vary. If you test positive for a bacterial STI, you should be in the clear once you’ve completed your course of antibiotics. Things can get a little more complicated if you’re dealing with a virus, but just follow the guideline of abstaining from sex or using protection as soon as you start experiencing symptoms (or feel them coming on). Talk to your doctor about what precautions you can take for your individual case. When it comes to your health, knowledge is power.
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