The question that is very often posed, especially among younger part of the sexually active population is – are there some sexual practices which put you at a higher or lower risk of contracting an STI?
When it comes to lowering the risk, it is common knowledge that practicing safe and protected sex is the single most important precaution that you should take in order to minimize the risks of contracting an STD. However, is the opposite also true? Are there some sexual practices which put you at a higher risk of contracting and STD?
The short answer is yes. But, the exact factors can vary significantly – from the nature of the exact sexual act, to personal hygiene and improper use of contraceptives and protection. In this article, we will discuss different harmful practices which can increase the risk of you catching an STI, while also exploring what you can do in order to make your sex life safer.
What’s on this page?
Can you get an STI from oral sex?
Often considered to be a so-called low-risk practice, oral sex is far from being completely safe. Statistically it does come with a decreased chance of infection as opposed to vaginal and anal sex, but this doesn’t make it risk-free.
If practiced without proper protection such as condom or dental dam, there is still significant risk of transmitting various STIs, most notably gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis. In addition to this, the presence of ulcers, lacerations or any damages in the mouth significantly contributes to the increased risk of the transmission of bloodborne diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. Something similar can happen to people affected by genital warts, a viral STI caused by human papillomavirus (or HPV for short) – if you have active cold sores in the mouth area, you can transmit the condition to your partner’s genitals through oral sex. The same is true for hepatitis of both types.
Anal sex and sexually transmitted diseases
Practicing anal sex without proper protection comes with an especially high risk of contracting an STI. The significant dangers that accompany this practice stem from the fact that the lining of the anus is very thin and can be easily punctured, allowing sexual secretions to come into direct contact with the blood vessels. Numerous STIs can be transmitted through anal sex, including:
- Hepatitis B
- Genital herpes
- Genital warts
Vaginal sex: What are the risk factors?
It is important to note that STIs can be passed on at any point during unprotected vaginal intercourse as the transfer of both vaginal discharge and semen can be the vessel of transmission. In addition to this, secretions produced by penis can also pass on STIs so the whole act of intercourse is dangerous and not just the point of ejaculation – this is why protection such as condom shouldn’t be applied halfway through the act, but before any contact with partner’s body.
Unprotected vaginal sex increases the risks of contacting several STIs, including:
- Genital herpes
- Genital warts
In addition to this, conditions such as genital herpes and genital warts which are transferred by skin-to-skin contact can be transmitted even when proper protection is used. If you are affected by one of these conditions, you should avoid sex until the infection has been treated and forced into remission.
Poor hygiene as an STI risk factor
As surprising as it may sound, not all STIs will require sexual contact in order to manifest. However, this might very well be considered an overstatement. When mentioning this possibility, we are talking about bacterial vaginosis (BV).
BV is not an STI in the strict sense of the word – this condition is brought on by an imbalance of presence of different bacteria that naturally exist within the vagina. Poor hygiene or even use of a new shampoo or shower gel could be stimuli that can disrupt the balance of the natural vaginal flora and cause bacterial vaginosis. This condition will, in turn, also change the PH value of vagina environment, making it less acidic and more prone to secondary infections, bacterial or viral. Commonly, the onset of BV is followed by chlamydia infection since the body’s ability to respond to infection is compromised by BV.
When affected, women will notice characteristic symptoms of BV such as changes in the consistency, smell of colour of the vaginal discharge. Foul and “fishy” smell of the vaginal discharge is often considered to be the single most recognizable tell-tale sign of bacterial vaginosis.
Practices such as vaginal douching or the use fragranced cleaning products are also considered to be very common contributing factors to the onset of this condition and as such, they should be avoided.
In addition to this, symptoms of some other STIs which go through cycles of activity and dormancy can be exacerbated by poor hygiene, with the most notable example being herpes. Herpes is a condition that is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact and as such, it can spread rapidly, even when protection is used.
Having multiple sex partners
Individuals who frequently change or have multiple sexual partners are at a far greater risk of contracting an STI as opposed to those in long-term monogamous relationship. If you partake in a sexual act with multiple partners without protection, you are exponentially increasing the risks.
Sex toys and STDs
Some STIs such as hepatitis can live without a host for several weeks at a time which makes it imperative to thoroughly clean all sex used after use, especially so if they are shared between individuals. If a sex toy is shared during sex, a new condom should be placed over it prior to switching users.
Safe sex practices
The risk of contracting an STI can be significantly reduced by adopting safe sex practices. Barrier contraception such as male and female condoms as well as dental dams, when used properly, can make your sex life 95% safe from STIs.