Whether you just entered a new relationship, are a monogamous couple or have several partners, you have to be aware of your sexual wellbeing. Sexual health is not only about the type of birth control you use or protection against a sexually transmittable disease, but also about the making of positive and clear choices to promote the wellbeing of both you and your sexual partner.

Any individual who partakes in sexual activities is at risk of contracting an STI (sexually transmitted infection). Approximately 70% of females and 50% of males may not show any active symptoms, but could still have one. When untreated, an STI may cause more serious health problems.

Sexual Intercourse and Unwanted Pregnancy

The best method in avoiding an unwanted pregnancy remains the decision to not have unprotected sexual intercourse, or no sex at all. Sexual partners can make use of adequate contraception, which may also minimise your risk of contracting an STI.

To avoid the chances of an unwanted pregnancy, it is important that some form of contraception is used by one or both sexual partners.  Approximately 100,000 teenagers fall pregnant each year, simply because they neglected to use any form of contraception.

There are several choices of contraception available to protect yourself and your partner when having sexual intercourse, such as condoms, the contraceptive pill, contraceptive injection, the female condom, diaphragm, contraceptive implants and sterilisation for both males and females. It is advised that you find a method that suits you best, but still provides you with a certain level of protection. However, it should always be considered that no method of contraception is 100% effective.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

If one individual has a sexually transmitted disease, the infection could be passed onto your partner by means of vaginal, oral or anal sex. Regardless of whether you are female or male, homosexual or heterosexual, anyone who has sexual intercourse can contract an STI. An STI is often present in an individual without any symptoms and, although it may go away by itself, it often happens that the STI flares up at some stage.

There are several types of sexually transmitted infections, including Chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhoea, genital warts, pubic lice, scabies, genital herpes and HIV/Aids.

If you think you may have some kind of STI, it is very important that you visit your GP for a sexual health check up as soon as possible to receive the correct course of treatment immediately. There is no need to be embarrassed, as GPs have seen and heard it all and will never judge you in any way.

Thrush

Thrush is an infection that is commonly caused by Candida Albicans – a type of yeast that lives in the mouth, on the skin and in the gut, as well as the vagina. It is relatively harmless, but abnormal changes in the body, such as pregnancy or illness, can cause it to grow at a rapid pace and cause thrush.

Thrush could affect both women and men around the mouth or genital areas. Female symptoms include a soreness, itching and redness around the anus or vagina, a thick vaginal discharge that is white in colour, as well as painful urination and discomfort during sexual intercourse. Symptoms in males can include itching, burning and redness on the penis tip or underneath the foreskin, difficulty in retracting the foreskin, as well as a thick discharge underneath the foreskin.

Thrush is not a serious condition and it can be treated with over-the-counter medications from your local pharmacy. However, should the condition persevere, it is advised that you consult your GP as soon as possible.