27 Jan How Often Should I Get Tested for STDs?
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), also known as Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), are infections that spread just how the name entails; sexually. This could be through vaginal or anal penetration or even oral sex. Unfortunately, many STIs come with no symptoms at all, and so it is imperative to get tested regularly when you become sexually active.
Many people wonder ‘how often should I get tested for STDS?’, which is why we’ve created this article; to educate you on common STDs in women, the symptoms they come with, getting tested, and prevention.
Most Common STDs in Women
There are many types of STIs, however, some are more commonly contracted by females than males. Unfortunately, the most common STD in women is Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which when left untreated is the primary cause of cervical cancer. HPV also is an STI that usually shows no symptoms, so they usually catch it months on from when it was first contracted.
There are three other common STIs that are common in women: Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Genital Herpes. Out of these three, the easiest to identify is genital herpes for several reasons:
- you will see blisters appear in the infected area
- the area will become itchy and tingly before the blisters appear
- your lymph glands may swell as they try to fight off the infection
Since there are visual symptoms to herpes, you will get treated earlier, however, herpes is not something that is curable.
Known as the “silent infection,” Chlamydia is an STD that many people will have while experiencing no symptoms at all, or delayed symptoms not showing until weeks after contracting it. As well as infecting the vagina, chlamydia can also infect the rectum if you have engaged in anal sex, and even your throat if you performed oral sex on someone with the infection.
There are different symptoms depending on the area in which you contracted it, and if they show.
- Burning while urinating
- Pain in your lower abdomen
- Painful sex
- Inflamed cervix
- Pain in the rectum
- Developing a cough
- Soreness in the throat
Unfortunately, if chlamydia goes undetected for too long, the infection can spread to their fallopian tubes. If this happens, a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) usually forms, and it is a serious medical emergency. PID can cause serious damage to a woman’s reproductive organs.
When a woman contracts gonorrhea, she usually won’t develop any symptoms that are clear there is an infection. Many of the symptoms are usually mild or mimic other common infections like yeast infections and other bacterial infections.
Along with chlamydia, they can also contract it in the throat and the rectum, in which you would see the same type of symptoms as stated above with chlamydia.
The symptoms for vaginal gonorrhea differ from chlamydia though, see below:
- Watery, creamy, or slightly green discharge from the vagina
- The urge to pee frequently
- Pain during sex
- Sharp pains in the abdomen
- Pain and/or burning while urinating
- Heavier periods or spotting between periods
As you can see from the above list of symptoms, there are symptoms of other infections in there such as a bladder infection or urinary tract infection (both have symptoms of sharp pains in the abdomen, frequent urge to urinate, pain, and/or burning while urinating).
Since there are these similarities, it’s hard to diagnose. It is always safe practice, though, to get tested if you have been sexually active.
Types of STD Tests
When you become sexually active, it is so important to go to your doctor and test for any STIs.
Along with this, if you have not had a Pap smear by this time, you should also have that done. Usually, doctors like to wait until a woman is around the age of 21 to perform her first Pap smear as the cells in the uterus and cervix are still changing, and so if tested before the age of 21, a woman is more likely to have a test result of abnormal cells.
Most times, having a result of abnormal cells is not something to worry about as this can come from many reasons including the weather, the clothes you are wearing, and if your body is going through any changes.
Your doctor will most likely want to do a Pap smear once you become sexually active, though, because this is the usual screening method for HPV. A Pap smear is also used to detect other STDs, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, and sometimes genital herpes.
As well as a Pap smear, STD testing can be done by blood in some cases. They carry blood tests out when the STD is more virally based such as HIV/AIDS, syphilis, and genital herpes (if the swab comes back negative at first, or if there are no symptoms).
How Often Should I Get Tested for STDs?
Now, the important question: how often should I get tested? Doctors recommend women get a Pap smear done every 3 to 5 years, however, if you are sexually active with different partners then it is good practice to get tested more regularly. As well, with getting your Pap smear done, ask your doctor to do a blood panel for STIs, and swabs specifically for different STDs.
You might think that if you are in a monogamous, serious relationship that you don’t need to get your Pap done, but this is not true. Although you may not like to think about it, and hopefully it is not the case, people sometimes stray in relationships and this can bring in an unwanted STD.
Now that we have talked about the most common STDs in women, the symptoms they may show, the tests that are done for them, and how often you should be tested – you need to know that the only prevention from STIs is condoms or abstinence. Other birth control methods do not protect from STDs because they are just that: birth control methods.
Hopefully, through reading this article, you have learned more about STDs and you now can answer the question “how often should I get tested for STDs?” If you are looking for gynecological services, such as Pap smears and HPV testing, then contact us and we will happily book you in for an appointment with one of our doctors.