Having an STI can feel embarrassing, but it can happen to anyone. The CDC’s 2018 study estimates that 1 in 5 people in the United States has an STI – that’s pretty common! There’s nothing to be ashamed about. What matters is getting the proper care and treatment to protect your health!
But, how can you recognize the signs of an STI? Where can you go to get tested for STIs? Keep reading to learn more! Today, we’re exploring the impact of STIs on women’s health, and how they can be prevented and treated.
What are STIs?
Let’s cover the basics. Sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, are infections that are spread from one person to another through sexual contact, typically in blood, semen, and other bodily fluids. STIs can also be spread through nonsexual contact. For example, they can be transmitted to babies during pregnancy or birth, or through blood transfusions.
Some common STIs include:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
What are the Symptoms of an STI?
STIs can have a wide range of symptoms or none at all. In fact, the majority of cases go unnoticed until complications arise. It could take days (even years) for symptoms to appear, depending on the bacteria, virus, or parasite causing the STI.
That being said, if you’re concerned you may have been exposed to an STI, don’t put off getting tested. It’s crucial to take charge of your health now, to prevent the infection from snowballing in the future!
According to the Mayo Clinic, the STI symptoms to look out for are:
- Odorous or unusual vaginal discharge
- Unusual vaginal bleeding
- Pain during sex
- Painful urination
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- A rash over the chest, abdomen, pelvis, back, hands, or feet
- Sore, swollen lymph nodes, usually in the groin
- Sores or bumps in the oral/rectal area or on the genitals
How STIs Affect Female Reproductive Health
STIs can severely impact female reproductive health. They are known to contribute to:
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs. If left untreated, it can cause permanent damage to the uterus, fallopian tubes, and surrounding tissue, which leads to infertility. PID can also cause ectopic pregnancy and tubo-ovarian abscesses, which can be life-threatening.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are two of the most common causes of PID. The CDC estimated that 10-15% of women with untreated chlamydia will develop PID.
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system, making a person much more susceptible to other diseases, such as AIDS. It greatly increases the risk of cervical cancer and yeast infections. HIV can also cause complications with the menstrual cycle, such as missed periods, heavier or lighter bleeding, and more severe PMS.
Gonorrhea and syphilis increase the chances of getting HIV.
Cervical cancer develops in the cervix, which is the entrance to the uterus from the vagina. It’s one of the most common forms of cancer in women. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be about 14,100 new cases of cervical cancer in the United States in 2022.
HPV is a leading cause of cervical cancer. It’s responsible for more than 9 of every 10 cases! Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis also put you at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer.
Can STIs Be Cured? Can STIs Come Back?
Thankfully, many STIs can be cured through antibiotics prescribed by a doctor! Curable STIs include Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, and Trichomoniasis. However, any risky sexual behavior (such as not using a condom or having multiple partners) could cause them to come back.
Other STIs, such as HPV, can’t be cured and require lifetime treatment. However, HPV is preventable! If you’re sexually active, be sure to get yearly STI screenings. However, the only surefire way to prevent STIs is to abstain from sex.
Should My Partner Get Tested for STIs/STDs?
Once you’ve been diagnosed, talk to your partner about getting tested. It’s an awkward, but important conversation. While there’s no “right” way to tell your partner that you have an STI, these steps might make things easier:
- Be prepared. Know your options for testing and treatment. Pregnancy Help NYC can answer all your questions and get you connected with STI testing in New York! It also helps to write down or practice what you want to say beforehand.
- Be calm. Since it’s a sensitive topic, choose a private, relaxed space with no distractions. Stay calm, so you can communicate clearly and effectively.
- Be safe. If you’re afraid your partner might hurt you, it’s best to let them know via phone call, text, or email. No one deserves to be abused – period. To get help, call 1-800-799-SAFE or visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website immediately.
Confidential STI Testing in New York
We get it – STIs are never easy to talk about. But, getting tested can help you protect your health – both now and in the long term! Don’t know where to start? The advocate team at Pregnancy Help NYC is here to show you the support you deserve and help you get tested for STIs.
Give us a call at (212) 243-7119 or schedule your free appointment online. All services are confidential and free of charge!
STI incidence, prevalence, cost estimates. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, January 25). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/2021/2018-STI-incidence-prevalence-estimates.html
Infertility & STDs – STD information from CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, April 12). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/infertility/default.htm
Cervical cancer statistics: Key Facts About Cervical Cancer. American Cancer Society. (2022, January 12). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/about/key-statistics.html
Cancers caused by HPV. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, February 28). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/cancer.html