It can be a bit of minefield working out the complex issue of sexual health without looking like a bit of a div every now and then. Even though there's no such thing as a stupid question when it comes to your health, it can be a bit of embarassing when you're clueless about anything other than the basics.
So, we've decided to help you guys out by gathering up a bunch of questions that you might've felt too awkward asking anyone else in your life, and too scared to search on Google incase someone stumbles across your internet history by mistake.
Can you catch STIs from oral sex?
Yes, you absolutely can catch STIs from oral sex. If you're uncertain of your partner's sexual history, make sure you use a condom before engaging in oral sex. Gonorrhoea, genital herpes, and syphilis are some of the most common STIs passed on through this method, and they don't sound like a walk in the park.
Is lube safe to use if your partner is wearing a condom?
Well, oil based lubricants used with latex condoms can weaken them and may cause them to split - so, it's not particularly safe, no. If you're planning on using lube, it's safer to use a latex-free condom instead.
What should I do if I've had unprotected sex?
Head to a GUM clinic, your GP, or even Boots to pick up a morning-after pill. This won't protect you from STIs, but it will ensure you don't have an unwanted pregnancy on your hands.
After that, you'll need to book yourself in for an STI test - either with your GP or at a sexual health clinic. If you're under 16, the STI clinic will still keep your information confidential, so you don't need to worry about them telling your parents.
Where can I get the morning after pill and is it free?
If you're prescribed the morning after pill by your GP, it will be free. But, if you head to a pharmacy like Boots, you'll have to pay for it. Prices vary, but it tends to cost around £25, and there'll be no record of you having bought it.
The pharmacist will just ask you a couple of questions (your age, when you last had unprotected sex, any other medical conditions) and will then supply you with the relevant pill. By the way, you don't have to be over 16 to go down this route.
Can I only take the morning after pill *24 hours* after I've had sex?
Not at all. Levonelle has to be taken within 72 hours (three days) of sex, and ellaOne has to be taken within 120 hours (five days) of sex. Still, the earlier you take the morning-after pill, the more effective it will be.
Alternatively, you can also have an IUD (known as the coil) fitted up to five days after unprotected sex, which will also provide an ongoing contraceptive solution too.
What about same-sex couples? What are the risks there?
STIs can be shared through oral sex and sex toys, so you still need to be careful. Stonewall recently released information that less than half of lesbian or bisexual women have been tested for an STI - but of those who *had* been screened, 50% had an STI.
Also, gay and bisexual men are at a higher risk of certain sexually transmitted infections - such as gonorrhoea - than straight men, and even though anyone can catch HIV, they are still the most affected group from the condition.
Can I catch HIV from oral sex?
It's very unlikely, but it's still a possibility. HIV is generally spread through penetrative sex, but there have been some cases of HIV spreading through cuts and sores on the mouth of the person giving oral sex. So, it's still something you need to be careful of.
Do condoms expire? After how long?
Yes, they do expire. Always make sure to check the packet of the condom to see if it's still in date. Bear in mind that heat temperature can accelerate the speed at which a condom expires, so if it seems stiff or dry when you take it out the packet, try a different one instead.
If you don't have another one and you're going to have sex anyway (not the best idea), it's still completely safe to use an expired condom - and you'll be better protected than not using anything at all. But, you know, best to use one within date.
I missed a contraceptive pill. Am I still protected against pregnancy?
Check your pill packet for specific information about what you should do next. Usually, if you've only missed one pill in the pack, you're still protected against unwanted pregnancy. But, if you've missed a couple, or if the information on the pack isn't clear, contact your pharmacist and they'll advise you what to do.
If I track my ovulation, is it okay for me to not use further protection?
Ovulation is really bloody hard to track, and it can't be fully relied on. That means conception is possible during pretty much any point of a woman's cycle, so don't risk having unprotected sex on the hope your ovulation is on track.
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