While birth control is great at preventing unplanned pregnancy, it does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases. Women can have many more long-term complications with STDs and often have difficulty determining whether or not they even have one.
So, how do STDs affect women and men differently?
1) Women may not have noticeable symptoms as compared to men.
Women may not develop symptoms of STDs or the symptoms may go away, even though the infection is still there. Women may also not be able to see sores or ulcers, while men can readily see sores that appear on themselves.
2) Women are physically more vulnerable to STDs than men.
The tissue that lines the vagina is thinner and more delicate than the skin that covers the penis, so bacteria or viruses have an easier time getting a foothold.
3) Women may confuse symptoms of an infection with being something else.
Women often think discharge is normal, or that any itching and burning is related to a yeast infection. Men do not have a discharge normally, so they are more likely to seek medical care if it does occur.
4) HPV is different in men vs. women.
HPV is the most common STD in women, and is the main cause of cervical cancer. Men can also get HPV, but it may not develop into other health problems and they may never have noticeable symptoms. There is also no HPV test for men.
5) STDs can cause infertility in women.
According to the CDC, untreated STDs cause infertility in at least 24,000 women each year and results in infant death in up to 40 percent of cases of pregnant women with untreated syphilis.
6) Pregnant women can pass their STDs to their babies.
Certain STDs can be passed during pregnancy and during delivery of the baby. The infant can also suffer other complications, such as: low birth weight, brain damage, blindness and deafness, or be stillborn.
What can you do to prevent getting an STD?
Make sure you are being testing for STDs if you feel you are at risk. Also, consider getting an HPV vaccination, ask new sexual partners to be tested first and avoid unprotected sex.
Your body is your most priceless possession; make sure you are protecting it from more than just an unplanned pregnancy.