QJSex: Unprotected sex & you: things to consider

Whether the condom broke, you forgot to bring one, or you just got caught up in the heat of the moment, unprotected sex (having sex without using a barrier method, such as condoms or dental dams) can happen to anyone. If you’re worried about STI transmission or pregnancy, there are a few steps you can take to address those worries.

Let’s address STI transmission first. The only thing that can be advised is to get tested. If you’ve had unprotected sex, there’s no way to “prevent” transmission. There are a lot of urban legends about this; actions such as showering, using the washroom or douching will not stop the transmission of STIs. Using the washroom after sex is recommended to prevent developing urinary tract infections, and showering is always recommended for good hygiene (especially if you worked up a sweat!), but actions such as douching could actually make it more likely that an STI will be transmitted by aggravating an already sensitive area or pushing fluids further inside the body.

Don’t run to get tested the morning afterwards — bacterial infections such as chlamydia or gonorrhea can take two weeks to show up, while HIV can take anywhere from one month to six months to show up on a blood test. It’s recommended to be regularly tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea, which can be detected on a urine test after two to four weeks. HIV can be detected after three to six months with a blood test.

It’s not recommended to be regularly screened for other STIs unless you know you have been exposed or if you are experiencing symptoms. If you ever notice any sores, abnormal itchiness, discharge that is abnormal (in its amount, colour, viscosity, or odour), difficulty urinating or pain while urinating, be sure to see a doctor about those symptoms. Since many STIs can still cause damage while not presenting visible or obvious symptoms, it’s still recommended to get tested for STIs annually if you’re sexually active (and if you have a cervix, to get a Pap smear biannually or your doctor’s recommendation). Find out about getting tested for STIs here.

If you’re worried about pregnancy and would like to take action to prevent it, this is something you want to deal with as soon as possible. Emergency contraception is available at all pharmacies without a prescription,but it only has a 72-hour window to be effective; the earlier it’s used in that 72 hours, the higher its efficacy as well. Plan B is available at Shopper’s Drug Mart over the counter for approximately $36.99 plus tax. DrugSmart Pharmacy on campus also carries Plan B ($29.99 plus tax) and a generic brand called Next Choice ($21.99 plus tax) is available behind the counter, meaning you’ll have to speak to a staff member or pharmacist before getting this one. Be sure to follow the instructions exactly as on the box, and ask the pharmacist if you have any questions or concerns.

If other precautions are taken, such as hormonal contraception, spermicides, natural family planning, and regular STI testing, unprotected sex can be negotiated with your partner(s) with a much lower risk of pregnancy or STI transmission. If you haven’t agreed upon this though, here are a few tips to prevent undesired unprotected sex:

• Keep a stash of condoms nearby, especially if you need very specific condoms because of size or a latex allergy, and regularly check their expiry dates.
• Follow the Ten Steps to Condom Use.
• Keep and use water-based lube: the more lubrication, the less likely your condoms will break and the less likely you are to injure your genitals through friction (and water-based lube can also safely be used with sex toys). Also make sure you’re using the right size of condoms!
• If you bring sex toys into the mix, avoid sharing them (or use a condom on them) and be sure to wash them (sanitize them, if possible) after every use.
• If you’re concerned about STIs, consider purchasing dental dams to use during oral sex as well, or make some out of condoms, and keep gloves handy for manual stimulation of the genitals.
• Be honest with your doctor about your sexual history and get tested regularly according to their recommendation.

This blog is being run in conjunction with the Sexual Health Resource Centre, located in the JDUC, room 223. Follow them on Twitter @shrckingston.

This is the final QJSex column of the semester. Check back in January for more.

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