What is Sexual Health?
The ability to feel emotionally, physically and mentally safe when engaging in sexual acts and behaviour with yourself or someone else. This also includes anything to do with contraception, practicing safe sex and sexually transmitted infections (STI’s).
Using contraceptives such as condoms or femidoms (female condoms) can significantly reduce the likelihood of getting a sexually transmitted infection. This is not just for penetrative sex however! Condoms and femidoms are also recommended for use during oral sex to protect yourself and any sexual partners against STI’s.
Choosing the right condoms for you:
Condoms, sometimes referred to as external condoms, are a barrier method of contraception and are made of a very thin layer which are designed to be worn on the penis to prevent pregnancy and the spread of STI’s. When used correctly, condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy and at preventing STI’s transmitted through bodily fluids.
Choosing the right condom for you is very important – this includes the right size and material. If you have a latex allergy, do not use latex condoms.
You should choose a condom that is slightly larger than your penis to ensure there is room to hold ejaculate without breaking or leaking. This means choosing the right condom size for you. You can follow the NHS’ video guide on how to choose the right condom size here.
You must also ensure that the condom that you are using is in date. You should check the individual wrapper for the expiration date as, following this, the condoms are not guaranteed to prevent transmission of sexually transmitted infections or from causing pregnancy.
All of the condoms that your Students’ Union are providing are Skyn Elite Non-Latex Condoms. They will be provided in discreet packs of 10. They are:
- Coated in a silicone-based and non-spermicidal lubricant.
- Have a 53mm nominal width (regular sized condoms). If you are unsure if this is the right size, you should check the nominal width of your penis.
- Ultra-thin and ultra-soft.
All condoms are one-time use and should be stored in a cool, dark place such as a bedside table, purse, wallet, or glasses case. Do not keep them near anything that could damage them, such as keys or loose in a bag.
What are Femidoms?:
Femidoms, also called female condoms or internal condoms, are made from soft, thin synthetic latex. Latex ones are available but these are less common. They are a barrier method which are worn inside the vagina to prevent semen getting to the womb or to prevent transfer of STI’s during oral or other sex.
When used properly, they are estimated to be 95% effective at preventing pregnancy and against STI’s transmitted through bodily fluids. They protect a larger area of the body than a standard external condom.
The femidoms available from Your Students’ Union are latex free Pasante brand.
How To Use A Condom:
- Check the date on the packaging – condoms have expiry dates and after this date they start to break down and become far less effective at preventing against STI’s and pregnancy.
- Inspect the foil packaging to ensure there is no wear or damage to the packaging – if there is it is possible the condom is damaged and will be less effective.
- Carefully tear open the condom. You can push the condom to one side in the foil packaging to ensure you do not tear the condom.
- Remove the condom from the packaging and hold it so that the tip is between your thumb and finger to ensure it is the right way around and that no air is trapped inside it.
- Place the condom over the tip of your penis, still holding the tip.
- Whilst squeezing the tip of the condom, roll it down over the erect penis. If the condom is not unrolling, it is likely it is on the wrong way around. Take it off and flip it and try again.
- Make sure that you roll the condom as far to the base of the penis as possible.
- Ensure that the condom stays on and is not broken. If it comes off or is damaged, make sure that you replace it with a new condom.
- After ejaculation, remove the condom, tie it if possible, and place it in a tissue before placing it in a bin.
How To Use A Femidom:
- Check the date on the packaging – femidoms have expiry dates and they start to break down and become far less effective at preventing against STI’s and pregnancy after the date.
- Inspect the foil packaging to ensure there is no wear or damage – if there is, it is possible the femidom will be less effective.
- Tear open the foil packaging; you can push the femidom to the side in the packaging before you tear to ensure you do not damage it.
- Remove the femidom from the packaging and hold the thicker inner ring in your hand.
- Fold the thick inner ring with your thumb and finger to make it easier to insert.
- Place the thick inner ring in the vagina and allow it to open.
- Using one or two fingers, push your fingers inside the femidom and into the vagina, pushing in as far as it will go until it is reaching against the cervix. The thin, outer ring should remain outside the vagina and can be laid against it.
- Fix the condom to ensure it is not twisted and during penetration ensure that the outer ring remains outside of the vagina. If it goes inside at any point, stop and pull it back out.
- If the femidom tears or is damaged at any point, remove it and replace it with another one.
- To remove the femidom once you have completed any oral, penetrative or other sex, you should twist the outer ring and slowly pull it out.
- Tie it if possible, place it in a tissue, and dispose of it in the bin.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI):
Sexually Transmitted Infections, more commonly referred to as STI’s, are infections passed most commonly through sex and oral sex, but some can be transmitted through contact with an infected area or with something which has touched someone else with an STI.
STI’s are uncomfortable and can be painful, but many are treatable and all are manageable. Find the 5 most common STI’s in the UK below, including what they are and the main ways that they are passed on.
You should get an STI test every 12 months even if you are in a long-term relationship. You should also get an STI test when you have recently changed your sexual partner. You can get free STI testing available online or from a local Sexual health clinic.
If you think that you have an STI, you should go to a Sexual Health Clinic or order an online test as soon as possible.
Chlamydia – The most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK passed on through unprotected sex. A bacterial infection passed on through unprotected sex, sharing of unclean sex toys, genitals coming into contact with another’s genitals and more. It cannot be passed on through casual contact (kissing, hugging, sharing towels, toilet seats etc.). It is particularly common in teenagers and young adults. Symptoms include:
- Pain when urinating
- Unusual discharge
- Bleeding after sex and bleeding between periods
- Pain and swelling in the testes
Gonorrhoea (“the clap”) – a bacterial infection which can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, painful infections in the testes and prostate gland and may affect fertility. It is passed through unprotected sex and sharing of unclean sex toys. 1 in 10 infected men and almost half of women don’t experience any symptoms. Symptoms do include:
- A thick green or yellow discharge
- Pain when urinating
- Bleeding between periods
Genital Warts – A virus caused by unprotected skin-to-skin contact and sex, although rarely oral sex and sharing of unclean sex toys. Symptoms include:
- One or more painless growths/ lumps around genitals or anus
- Itching or bleeding from genitals or anus
- A persistent change to normal flow or urination
Genital Herpes – Caused by a virus called herpes simplex which will stay in your body and can be triggered by things such as friction in the genital area, smoking and drinking alcohol. Some triggers are unavoidable, however. It can be caught from skin-to-skin contact with the infected area, if a cold-sore touches your genitals, infected fingers touching the genital area or sharing toys with someone who has herpes. Symptoms include:
- Small blisters that burst to leave red, open sores around genitals, anus, things or bottom.
- Tingling, burning or itching around your genitals
- Pain when urinating
- Unusual vaginal discharge
Syphilis – A bacterial infection which can cause potentially life-threatening problems if not treated. Passed on through unprotected sex or coming into contact with an ulcer. Can also be passed on by injecting drugs with a needle used by an infected person. Symptoms are often mild and hard to notice but can include:
- Small sores (ulcers) on the penis, vagina or anus. Usually painless and may only be one. May also get sores on mouth, lips, hands or bottom.
- White or grey warty growths around penis, vagina or anus
- Rash on palms of hands or soles of feet that can spread (not itchy usually)
- White patches in your mouth
- Flu-like symptoms (high temperature, headache, tiredness).
- Swollen glands
- Patchy hair loss on head, beard and eyebrows.
- Find a sexual health clinic near you for help with STI’s, support with contraceptives, free condoms and femidoms, and more.
- If you are concerned about your sexual health, you can also visit your local GP.
- Call the national sexual health helpline for free on 0300 123 7123
- Free STI testing – You can get a free chlamydia test discreetly delivered to your house if you suspect that you have an STI test.
- Brook are an organisation with a website which hots a lot of information on sexual health, STI’s, contraception and what to do if you’ve had unprotected sex and might need emergency contraception.
- Integrated Sexual Health Services – A free confidential service that offers information about online testing, the C-Card scheme, healthy sex and relationships and more.
- HIV Testing – HIV testing is free at any sexual health clinic in Coventry. You can also order a free test online here.