You know your body the best, right? This means it is important to pay attention to what it tells you – and all of its individual parts, from your breasts to your gut and, of course, your vagina. Adapting to how you feel out there can help you take on the often sneaky symptoms of sexually transmitted infections.
Lower Abdominal Pain
If you are sexually active and have a stomachache, it might not just be something you have eaten. If you have unexplained and persistent abdominal pain in the same place as you would have menstrual cramps, see a doctor. Several STDs, such as hepatitis and chlamydia, occur in the form of abdominal pain. If your stomach pains are higher on your abdomen or if you have a history of stomach pain (as if you have irritable bowel syndrome), it is probably not the result of an STD.
Sex generally should feel much more oh yeah than oh no. Know that if you’re feeling pain or discomfort during penetration, it’s possible you may simply be dry down there and in need of a good lube. But if that doesn’t do it and intercourse is still painful on a regular basis and it doesn’t seem to be related to anything you’re aware of (like recovering from a yeast infection or UTI), you should definitely talk to your doctor about testing.
You Have Weird Vaginal Discharge
A change in the color, smell, quantity or consistency in vaginal discharge is a surefire sign that something’s wrong. Most commonly, it could be a yeast infection, which CAN be spread sexually, but is easily treatable. However, if you’re sexually active, it could be something more serious. Chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis typically present as a change in discharge. Concerned? If you’ve never had vaginal intercourse, assume it’s a yeast infection and see your doctor. If you frequently have intercourse and experience a sudden shift from your normal discharge, definitely make an appointment with your gynecologist.
“HIV infection usually presents with flu-like symptoms which people may not think of as related to an STD,” . These symptoms include fever, headaches and fatigue and can occur within several days or weeks of infection—or you may not experience these symptoms for years until the virus impairs your immune system. HIV is very serious, so if you’ve had unprotected sex and are experiencing these symptoms, don’t just brush it off as feeling under the weather. Make a trip to the doctor or gynecologist to make sure you’re in the clear and remember that practicing safe sex and getting annual gynecological check-ups can help protect you from HIV.
Not all STDs give you symptoms “down there.” If you engage in oral sex, a sore throat may indicate herpes or gonorrhea. The best way to prevent this is to use a condom or dental dam during oral sex. If your sore throat really is an STD, it will often be accompanied by cold sores, fever, swollen glands and oral lesions, so don’t panic every time you come down with a cold.
“The number one message for STI prevention is obviously to have safe sex, but that doesn’t always happen, so make sure you get screened routinely and whenever you have a new partner,” Lauren Streicher, MD, author of Sex Rx: Hormones, Health, and Your Best Sex Ever
If you’re sexually active, see a gynecologist periodically. If you suspect you may have an STD, schedule an appointment with a doctor as soon as you can so that if you do have an infection, you can take care of it right away.