STIs FAQs

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  • Can having a sexually transmitted infection (STI) stop you conceiving a child?

    Yes, certain STIs can cause infertility if left unchecked. Chlamydia and gonorrhoea especially can cause scarring and pelvic inflammatory disease. They often have no symptoms so many people do not realise that they have them.

    If you are sexually active, you should consider being tested for STIs.

    Types of STIs Testing for STIs

  • Can I contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI) from having oral sex?

    Yes, being wet and warm, the mouth provides the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. Infections such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia and herpes are all prime candidates.

    Flavoured condoms and dental dams are designed to help prevent the transmission of STIs through oral sex. However, the majority of people choose not to use them.

    If you suspect your partner may have had an infection or if you've developed a sore throat, or have unusual mucus/discharge in your mouth then it's worth visiting your local Umbrella clinic.

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    To be perfectly safe you should always use condoms and dental dams for oral sex.

    How to avoid STIs

  • Do I need to have the hepatitis B vaccination?

    The following people should be tested for hepatitis B infection and consider having the hepatitis B vaccination:

    • Men who have sex with men
    • Anyone who has ever injected drugs
    • Anyone who has been paid for sex
    • Anyone who has paid for sex
    • Anyone who has had 9 or more sexual partners within the last 12 months
    • Anyone who has a sexual partner with Hepatitis B infection
    • Anyone who has been sexually assaulted recently

    Hepatitis B infection and vaccination

  • How can I avoid catching hepatitis B infection?

    Hepatitis B infection can be prevented by completing a course of the hepatitis B vaccination. Vaccination is done through a course of injections into the upper arm. In most people a full course of hepatitis B vaccination prevents infection.

    Using condoms can protect against catching hepatitis B infection through having sex.

    Hepatitis B infection and vaccination

  • How do you test for STIs?

    The types of tests you'll take will vary depending on your concerns. Our medical staff will explain what tests are going to be done and why. Don't be afraid to ask questions.

    For most procedures, it's best not to urinate for two hours before your check-up. During the examination you will have to undress partially or completely.

    The doctor or nurse may carry out some or all of the following procedures as part of the physical exam.

    Men

    • Visual check of your genitals
    • Examine the penis and testicles to check for discharge, pain or sores
    • Take a swab from the urethra (the opening of the penis)
    • Ask for a urine sample
    • Take a blood test

    Women

    • Visual check of your genitals
    • Speculum exam: this involves placing a device called a speculum inside the vagina to hold it open so that the vagina and cervix can be observed
    • Swabs may be taken from the vagina and/or cervix
    • Bi-manual exam: this involves the doctor or nurse placing the fingers of one hand into the vagina while the other hand presses on the abdomen. This is so they can feel your ovaries and uterus
    • Take a swab from a lesion or sore if you have one
    • Ask for a urine sample
    • Take a blood test

    Testing for STIs

    Self-sampling kits

    If you're aged 16 or over and live in Birmingham or Solihull, you can request a free self-sampling kit. This allows you to take your own samples at home and have results sent to you for free.

    Self-sampling kits

  • How often should I get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?

    If you're sexually active, it's a good idea to get tested for STIs every year, even if you feel fine. It's a good practice to go for testing if you're about to start a new relationship. Ask your partner to do the same.

    Some STIs have no symptoms so you may not even know you have one unless you get tested.

    STI testing

  • I had sex and used a condom but I've missed my period and I'm concerned that I may have an STI

    There may be a number of reasons why your period is late – including stress – but, to be safe, visit your local Umbrella service provider and ask to be tested for both STIs and pregnancy. It's important not to panic, Umbrella sexual health service staff are used to dealing with situations like yours and will put you at your ease. It will also provide an opportunity to discuss and review your contraception choices.

    It is unlikely that you are either pregnant or have contracted an STI if you used a condom. Occasionally, however, condoms can break and to be safe it is always advisable to use condoms along with another form of long-acting contraception such as the pill, implant or coil.

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  • I recently found out that I have Chlamydia but I don’t know how long I’ve had it. I’ve taken my medication but am worried that I won't be able to conceive. How can I find out if I can still have children?

    It is correct in that chlamydia can lead to fertility problems. However, this is usually from having chlamydia that has been untreated long-term. One of the key issues with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia is that they often have no symptoms whatsoever, or the symptoms go unnoticed. As a result, often people carry the infection for years without realising.

    If you have been treated without any complications and have been given the all clear, it would be highly unlikely that you have been done any lasting damage due to having the infection for such a short space of time. If however, you are experiencing any pain or symptoms then pop back to the service where you were treated to get yourself checked over.

  • Recently I’ve had more discharge than usual and noticed spots around my vagina that hurt when I touch them. The discharge is clear and thin and smells. Have I got an STI?

    Vaginal discharge is perfectly normal and naturally varies in consistency throughout your menstrual cycle – and you will naturally make more when you become sexually aroused.

    It is a good practice idea to be aware of what is normal for you as you move through your cycle or at times of sexual arousal so that any changes that are unusual are spotted more easily.

    If you have had unprotected sex recently you may have an infection.

    The spots could simply be a reaction to shaving or waxing or a reaction to a change in soap, body wash, washing powder or even the material your underwear is made from. They could, however, be genital warts.

    The only way to be certain is to visit your local Umbrella service provider and get yourself checked out.

  • What are the symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?

    It's not always easy to recognise the signs of an STI in you or your partner. In fact, some STIs have no symptoms at all, so you may not even know you have one unless you get tested.

    You might have an STI if you experience any of these signs:

    • Burning feeling in your genitals or when you pee
    • Sores, small bumps or blisters on or near your penis, vagina or anus
    • Itching around your penis, vagina or anus
    • Unusual discharge – like a different colour, smell or amount – from the vagina or penis
    • Lower abdominal pain
    • Pain in the testicles
    • Bleeding after intercourse or between periods
    • Pain during sex or masturbation
    • For women, unusual bleeding during your period

    Testing for STIs

  • What do I do if I think I have a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?

    If you think you might have an STI, get it checked out as soon as possible.

    You can see your family doctor or visit an Umbrella service provider in your area to find out exactly what you have and how you can treat it.

    If you're aged 16 or over and live in Birmingham or Solihull, you can order a free STI self-sampling kit. You can have a kit delivered to your home or another address, or collect one from a pharmacy or clinic. Follow the simple instructions in your kit to take some samples, then return your kit in the pre-paid package. We will then text or call you with your results.

    Self-sampling kits

    To be on the safe side, it's best to avoid having sex until you've been tested.

  • What is a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?

    STIs can infect you in many ways. They can be caused by bacteria. They can be viruses. They can even come in the form of parasites like pubic lice. STIs are found on the body, in blood and in body fluids like semen and vaginal fluids. Sometimes, STIs like genital warts and herpes can be spread through skin-to-skin contact.

    STIs are spread from person to person during sex – including oral sex and anal sex. Injection drug use (IDU), tattooing or body piercing can also spread an infection if the needles and equipment aren't clean. An STI can sometimes be passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, at the time of delivery and through the process of breastfeeding.

    Most STIs can be cured, but some will never go away and require lifelong treatment.

    More on STIs

  • What is hepatitis B infection?

    Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus. It is very infectious (100 times more infectious than HIV) and very easily transmitted through unprotected sex or by sharing needles to inject drugs.

    Hepatitis B infection and vaccination

  • What is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI)?

    The most common STIs are probably chlamydia, as it often has no symptoms so people don’t know they have it, and human papilloma virus (HPV – the virus that causes genital warts). Many people have HPV but only about 13% will get warts.

    Types of STIs

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