Sexual health is a subject that can be scary, mysterious, filled with myths, half-truths and downright misinformation, fake news as it were in today’s parlance.
There exists so much in the way of mythology regarding sexual health, that we have gotten together a group of experts to figure out what is true, what is speculation, and what is downright wrong.
An expert opinion
Carleton Smithers, an expert in the field of human sexuality, has some strong thoughts when it comes to sexual health. “It never ceases to amaze me that something so important to our health and well-being is clouded with mistruths, innuendos and urban legends.”
He continued, “The biggest misleading myth that I get asked by women of all ages goes along the lines of “If I am on my period, I can’t get pregnant, right?” Yes indeed, women can get pregnant if they engage in sexual intercourse during their periods if they or their partner are not using birth control.”
Birth control and a very important health risk
Birth control certainly does play an important role in sexual health.
While the birth control pill has gotten much safer in the fifty years or so when it was first developed, it still presents certain health risks, especially to specific demographic groups.
Dr Anthea Williams cautions, “Women who smoke and who use the birth control pill are at a much higher risk for strokes and heart attacks than women who do not smoke.
If I could just send one message to all groups, men and women, it would be not to take up smoking.
It not only is dangerous for women who take birth control pills, but it is also dangerous for everybody. And the evidence is now beginning to point towards the fact that vaping too creates many health risks.”
One evergreen myth which never goes away
This myth has probably been around since toilets have been invented.
You cannot get a sexually transmitted disease from a toilet seat. No ifs, ands or butts!
You can get a sexually transmitted disease from a tattoo or body piercing
Unclean or used needles can transmit all kinds of unhealthy complications from the not so serious (a localized minor infection) to the deadly (HIV) to everything in between.
The problem is that germs, viruses and bacteria are carried in the blood, and if the needle is not sterile and it is re-used, whatever is on that needle will be transmitted. All needles that pierce the skin should be used once and then discarded.
Do your due diligence and make sure this is one hundred per cent the case before getting a tattoo or piercing.
And in addition to needles which should not be used more than once
Are condoms. Do not believe your cheap friend when he tells you that it is perfectly okay to rinse out a used condom and reuse it.
And another condom myth: they are not the best method of birth control. They are better than nothing, but there are too many chances for improper use, breakage, and leaking.
And another first
Leslie Williamson, an expert in teenage sexual health comments, “I don’t know why, but the myth that women can’t get pregnant the first time they have sex is still around.
My mother told me that she had heard that when she was in high school, and well, I am proof positive that that definitely is not the case since that is how I was conceived.”
A woman can get pregnant the first time she engages in sexual relations. End of story.
Yet another myth
Many people believe that you cannot get a sexually transmitted disease (STD) from oral sex. Wrong! While the risk is indeed lower than getting an STD through vaginal or anal sex, there is still some risk.
All of these sexually transmitted diseases can be transmitted orally: syphilis, gonorrhoea, herpes, chlamydia, and hepatitis.
Additionally, although the chances are quite low, HIV, the virus that causes AIDS can be transmitted through oral sex, particularly if there are any lesions present in the mouth.
Another myth which needs debunking
Anal sex does not cause haemorrhoids. It does not. Haemorrhoids result from increased pressure in the veins of the anus. This pressure can be attributed to constipation, too much sitting, or infection, not anal sex.
One more falsehood
Many people, especially women, believe that douching or peeing after sex is a form of birth control, and that one will simply not get pregnant if one engages in these actions. Nope. Think about it.
The average ejaculations contain between 40 million and1.2 billion sperm cells in a single ejaculation.
Those little guys are pretty fast swimmers, so before a woman could even get to the bathroom to douche or pee, fertilization could be happening.
Ignorance is not bliss
Most people feel they know themselves well, and they doubtlessly would know if they had a sexually transmitted disease. Unfortunately, some STD’s have few or no symptoms, or the symptoms might suggest another disease.
Some symptoms may not show up for weeks or months after being infected. In fact, a person could be walking around symptomless for years while having (and perhaps transmitting) an STD and not know it.
The prudent thing to do if you are sexually active with more than one partner is to be tested, and ask that your partner(s) be tested also.
A myth about Pap tests
A high percentage of women believe if their Pap test is normal, they do not have any STDs. Wrong! A Pap test is only looking for abnormal (cancerous or precancerous) cervical cells, not infections.
A woman could have an STD and have a perfectly normal result from her Pap test.
If a woman does not know if her partner is perfectly healthy and has been recently tested for STDs, she should be tested herself. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes.
There is so much mythology around about sexual health. Hopefully, this article has helped to dispel some of this for you. Here is an excellent resource if you would like to know more about this important area: http://www.ashasexualhealth.org.
It is vitally important that sexually active people take responsibility for their own sexual health since it affects not only themselves but also their partners.