Chlamydia and gonorrhea and crabs, oh my! Getting your first STI test can feel scary on so many levels. As if anxiously waiting for the results isn’t nerve-wracking enough, you’re forced to don a paper hospital gown and sit in a sterile-white room surrounded by shiny medical implements until that fateful moment when the nurse walks in to ask a series of super personal questions. If you’ve already got a fear of hospitals or doctor visits, it might be hard just calling in to make the appointment.
If you’re having sex, you need to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (the precursor to STDs) – no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it!
What could possibly be worse than spending the afternoon in a crowded waiting room?
Spreading around a potentially dangerous disease to unknowing sexual partners, and then waiting so long to get treatment that a usually curable infection begins to cause long-term health effects. It doesn’t matter how you slice it – prevention and treatment with a doctor’s care is the only way we can truly ever have the safest sex possible.
If you’re picturing a day packed with prehistoric gynecological instruments and huge needles, you might be confusing your local family planning clinic with a horror film. Basic testing for STIs is routine and generally painless, albeit mildly uncomfortable at times. You’ll likely spend more time in the waiting room than it takes to administer all the tests combined. In fact, this is likely one of the easiest days you’ll spend at the doctor’s office, and one of the best self-care practices you can do for your sexual health.
Myth: I don’t need to get tested – everything feels normal down there.
There are enough statistics on STIs to fill a term paper, but there’s only one you need to know in order to be convinced that testing is absolutely necessary. The majority of STIs have – wait for it – zero symptoms, even the ones that can lead to serious health issues like infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease. You’re not going to wake up with your genitals covered in oozing sores the morning after contracting an infection. You body might not send out any warnings, or the symptoms will show up well after you’ve already had sex with another partner. Even the most gnarly-sounding illnesses, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, can sneak into your body without showing any pain or discomfort worth noticing.
The bottom line? Yep – it’s still best to just get tested.
Myth: Medical testing? Ouch! This has to hurt!
There are plenty of medical tests that are undoubtedly painful, but a basic round of STI screening isn’t going to get any worse than mildly uncomfortable. Most STIs can be found through a urine sample or a quick prick on the finger for a few drops of blood. You might also have the insides of your cheeks swabbed to collect saliva. At the very worst, you’ll be put through a typical trip to the gyno – gown on, legs in the stirrups, and a cotton swab applied to the areas that might be infected, such as the cervix, vaginal walls, or vulva.
If you’ve already noticed sores in or around your genital area, those will also be swabbed, transferred to a glass slide, and put under a microscope. If and when necessary, any further tests will always be discussed and approved by you and your doctor. And the best part? Many STIs are completely curable – like chlamydia and trichomoniasis – if you catch them early, and those that aren’t – like hepatitis B and herpes – can be drastically reduced and managed with swift medical care before they get out of hand.
Myth: My doctor has never asked about my sex life before. This is going to get weird and embarrassing.
Even if you’ve never had the sex talk with your family doctor, trust us – they’ve talked about the nitty gritty details of being a sexually active human with a lot of other patients. Your doctor has been trained to perform all sorts of tests and answer all kinds of questions, and to them, it’s all the same when it comes to health and taking proper care of your body. Leaving out key details puts you at risk of being misdiagnosed and given the wrong treatment or medication. Without the right meds to fight your specific type of sexually transmitted disease, it’s still possible to transfer your infection to a partner or suffer more harmful effects to your body. If you’re still feeling shy about talking to your usual family practitioner, visit a specialized family planning clinic or Planned Parenthood, where most doctors and nurses perform STI tests on a daily basis (and often for free).
These medically-educated folks solve sexual health issues for a living and pride themselves on creating a judgment-free environment. They’ll walk you through your appointment from start to finish and ensure your comfort every step of the way!
Please note that advice offered by Intimina may not be relevant to your individual case. For specific concerns regarding your health, always consult your physician or other licensed medical practitioners.