Sexual health is something that is still subject to stigma.
While some people may feel comfortable talking about their physical well-being, the pool shrinks when mental health is brought to the conversation and recedes even further when the subject turns to sexual health.
But while you might feel comfortable talking about your physical health, and may be willing to talk about your mental health, sexual health is also something you need to check up on.
Your sexual health impacts both your physical and mental health and failing to take care of it could have serious long-term consequences for both.
Below we discuss what sexual health is, and how you can take care of yourself.
What is sexual health?
STIs and STDs
What do you think when you hear the words: “sexual health”? For many people, their immediate reaction is STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection), or STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease).
While the two things are very closely related, they are not one and the same thing:
An STI is an infection
An STD is a disease
Not all sexually transmitted infections will turn into a sexually transmitted disease. This means that you can have an STI without having an STD, but you cannot have an STD without having an STI.
Click here to find out what the symptoms of genital warts are.
Sexual health is not just STIs and STDs
There is more to your sexual health than just whether you have an STI or STD, and where your nearest clinic is to get tested.
The World Health Organisation defines sexual health as: “a state of physical, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.”
It is about having a healthy relationship with all the different factors that sex is comprised of.
NHS Choices lists a variety of different factors involved in sexual health. These include:
- Your sexual organs
- Your sexual preferences
- Your sexual identity
- Your sexual fulfilment
- The menopause
How to take care of your sexual health
Practice safe sex
Using protection during sexual intercourse will significantly improve your chances of maintaining your sexual health.
There is a large variety of contraceptives available:
- Combined pill
- Condoms (female)
- Condoms (male)
- Contraceptive implant
- Contraceptive injection
- Contraceptive patch
- Intrauterine device (IUD)
- Intrauterine system (IUS)
- Natural family planning
- Progestogen-only pill
- Vaginal ring
You need to find the form of contraception that’s right for you. The important thing, though, is that practising safe sex will help you to look after your sexual health.
Remember that not all forms of contraception will protect you against infections or disease — contraception shouldn’t just be about pregnancy prevention, but sexual protection too.
Use NHS Choices
Not only does NHS Choices list the various factors that combine to make up your sexual health, it also has a raft of information on each.
In addition to that, it also has a sexual health FAQs page, which employs the expertise of a sexual health adviser.
You will find their FAQs page particularly helpful if you have questions concerning your sexual health you want to get answers to, but that you don’t want to ask someone about.
National Sexual Health Helpline
If you do want to speak to someone about how to take care of your sexual health, but don’t want to do so in person, you can do so by calling the Sexual Health Helpline.
This is a service run by Public Health England (PHE), which is an executive agency of the Department of Health (DH).
This is a free service which is open 9am-8pm, Monday-Friday and can be reached on 0300 123 7123. Any calls that you make to the Sexual Health Helpline are treated with strict confidentiality.
Speak to your GP
If you do wish to speak to an expert in person about how to take care of your sexual health, then your GP is the first place to start.
Your GP will be able to discuss how you can take care of your sexual health, or direct you towards a more specialised health professional who will be in a more informed position to assist you.
Visit a GUM clinic
If you feel you need to get tested for any sexually transmitted infections or diseases or want to speak to a professional who specialises in sexual health, you may choose to visit a GUM clinic (these used to be known as STI clinics).
These clinics are able to provide testing, guidance, advice, and counselling, and are completely confidential.
If you would like to visit a GUM clinic, you can find your local one using the NHS Choices Sexual health information and support services locator tool.
Use an online pharmacy
If you want to buy medication to manage your sexual health, but don’t want to deal with someone face-to-face or over the phone, using an online pharmacy is a discrete way of doing this.
We offer a range of medications to help you look after your sexual health. For instance:
- If you have genital warts, Warticon & Aldara are popular genital warts creams. Click through to find out more about Aldara side effects or to read our customer reviews on Aldara Cream.
- If you are suffering from chlamydia, Doxycycline or Azithromycin can tackle chlamydia.
- If you’ve contracted genital herpes, Aciclovir tablets are used to treat viral infections like herpes. Take a look at our what is Aciclovir page for further information or, click through for Aciclovir dosage advice.
- If you’re afflicted with BV, Metronidazole tablets help to clear up BV.
You are able to get these medications by completing an online consultation.
This means that you can get what you need, and when you need it, without ever having to engage in a direct conversation with another human being. Discreet, subtle, and fast — online sexual health management is on the rise.
It’s down to you
While there are many available resources to help you take care of your sexual health, you ultimately have to take care of your own sexual health.
This means keeping yourself informed about sexual health and staying in touch with yourself. – If you feel that there is something array with your sexual health, then seek help.
If you are not keeping an eye out then you will not spot the problem(s). Failing to do so could result in long-term damage to your physical, mental, and sexual health.
Sexual health is enormously important. It affects your physical and mental health, and if you do not take care of your sexual health then you risk damaging your well-being.
Make sure that you take care of your sexual health and if you have any concerns then seek the appropriate help for them.