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Sexual diseases and conditions

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is the most commonly reported bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI) in Canada. When left untreated, it can lead to painful health problems and infertility.

After a period of decline, the rates of reported cases of chlamydia infection have risen steadily since 1997. The increasing rate of this bacterial infection is attributed, in part, to improved lab tests and screening, as well as people not consistently using safer sex methods. Chlamydia disproportionately affects sexually active youth and young adults, especially women ages 15-24 in Canada.

Chlamydia is transmitted through vaginal, anal and oral sex and can be transmitted from mother to child during childbirth. It is known as the "silent disease" because it is estimated that more than 50 percent of infected males and 70 percent of infected females have no symptoms and are unaware of their condition.

The only reliable way to know if you have chlamydia is to be tested. It is diagnosed through a urine sample or by swabbing the infected area and is treated with antibiotics.

Symptoms of chlamydia

As noted above, the majority of infected people have no symptoms of chlamydia, and therefore may not know they are infected unless they get tested. Symptoms of infection for women can include:

  • vaginal discharge
  • burning sensation when urinating
  • pain in the lower abdomen, sometimes with fever and chills
  • pain during sex
  • vaginal bleeding between periods or after intercourse

Symptoms for men can include:

  • discharge from the penis
  • burning sensation when urinating
  • burning or itching at the opening of the penis
  • pain and/or swelling in the testicles

In both men and women, chlamydia can infect the rectum. Symptoms of anal infection include rectal pain, bleeding and discharge. Those infected through oral sex usually don't have symptoms. Eye infection can occur through contact with infected genital secretions.If symptoms do occur, they usually appear two to six weeks after infection, but it can take longer for symptoms to appear. Even without symptoms, however, chlamydia can be transmitted and can lead to serious health problems and infertility, especially in women. Anyone at risk should therefore be tested.

The health risks of chlamydia

For up to 40 percent of infected women, untreated chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID effects include abdominal pain, fever, internal abscesses and long-lasting pelvic pain; effects also include scarring of the fallopian tubes, which can cause infertility and increase the chance of potentially life-threatening ectopic or tubal pregnancies.

Men can develop scarring of the urethra, making urination difficult and occasionally causing infertility. Although rare, both sexes are at risk of a type of arthritis known as Reiter's Syndrome that causes inflammation and swelling of the joints.

If a pregnant woman has chlamydia, her baby may be born prematurely, have eye infections or develop pneumonia.

Minimizing your risk

Following these suggestions can help you avoid contracting and transmitting chlamydia:

  • Learn about safer sex methods and practice them.
  • Make informed decisions. Talk to your partner(s) about their STI status and the use of protection.
  • Correctly and consistently using a condom during sex reduces the risk of chlamydia and other STIs.
  • Get tested for chlamydia if you are sexually active.
  • If you are diagnosed and treated for chlamydia, be sure to follow your healthcare professional's treatment and follow-up recommendations. Avoid unprotected sexual activities that may put you at risk for re-infection until you and your partner(s) have completed your antibiotic treatment and have been told the infection is gone.
  • It is important that you or someone from your public health department notify any sexual partner(s) who may have been put at risk of infection. They will also need to be tested and possibly treated.
  • People who have chlamydia are more likely to become infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • People who have both HIV and chlamydia are more likely to spread HIV to others.

For more information

 

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can cause painful sores on the genital area. There is no vaccine or cure, but antiviral medication can help ease the pain associated with the sores and control recurrent episodes.

Genital herpes can be transmitted during unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex, even if the infected person has no visible sores or any other symptoms of infection. It can also be passed from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy or childbirth.

Practicing safer sex can help reduce the risk of getting or transmitting the infection.

Symptoms of genital herpes

Many people who have genital herpes are unaware that they have the virus because they have no symptoms, mild symptoms, or mistake the symptoms for other conditions such as jock itch, yeast infections, razor burn or allergic reactions to detergents. The infection can be diagnosed by taking a swab from the sores or through blood tests. Those with symptoms may experience a tingling sensation or itching in the genital area within a few days of having sex with an infected person. A cluster of blisters may appear and burst, leaving painful sores often lasting two to three weeks. A fever, headache and muscular pain may occur during the first attack.

After the sores from the first attack heal, the virus goes into a dormant stage, but recurrent outbreaks can occur. Some people have only one or two recurrences in a lifetime, while others have them frequently. Recurrences are typically shorter in duration and less severe than the first episode. Stress, menstrual cycle, illness, fever, surgery, exposure to sun, having sex, pregnancy, and the use of some medications can play a role in the frequency and severity of outbreaks. Herpes can continue to be transmitted to others, even between recurrences when the infected person has no symptoms.

Women's symptoms can include:

  • sores inside or near the vagina, the cervix, on the external genitals, near the anus, or on the thighs or buttocks
  • tender lumps in the groin (lymphadenopathy)

Men's symptoms can include:

  • sores on the penis, around the testicles, near the anus, or on the thighs or buttocks
  • tender lumps in the groin (lymphadenopathy)

For both men and women, the sores will usually occur on or near the area where the virus was transmitted.

The health risks of genital herpes

Pain and discomfort are the main health effects of genital herpes, but the virus can also cause emotional and social problems for those infected.  Although it cannot be cured, genital herpes can be managed with antiviral medication that may help control the recurrences. On rare occasions, genital herpes may cause serious complications such as blindness and inflammation of the brain.

Genital herpes can sometimes be passed from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy or birth. The infection can be life-threatening to the child or result in skin lesions or brain damage. Antiviral medication and a cesarean delivery can reduce the risk of infecting the child.

Minimizing your risk

Following these suggestions can help you avoid contracting and transmitting genital herpes:

  • See your doctor as soon as possible if you think you have an STI.
  • Learn about safer sex methods and practice them.
  • Make informed decisions about your sexual health. Talk to your partner(s) about their STI status and the use of protection.
  • Avoid having sex when skin sores are present. This includes not having oral sex when cold sores on or around the mouth are present. Get tested as soon as possible to find out whether you have an STI.
  • Correctly and consistently using a condom during sex reduces the risk of genital herpes and other STIs. However, when using a condom, remember that the exposed areas of skin are still unprotected.
  • To prevent spread of the virus during oral sex, use a condom on the penis and a condom cut lengthwise or a dental dam over the female genital area.
  • If you've had multiple sexual partners, talk with your healthcare professional about getting tested for genital herpes and other STIs.

If you have genital herpes:

  • See your doctor as soon as possible. The doctor can prescribe medication to help ease the pain associated with the sores and control recurrent episodes. Keep the infected area clean and dry.
  • Inform your sex partner(s) of your infection so they are aware of the risk of infection. It may be useful for those partner(s) to get tested to determine if they are infected. Couples where only one partner is infected may benefit from counselling regarding the pros and cons of continuous condom use. Antiviral medication may reduce the risk of spreading the infection to uninfected partner(s).
  • Wear loose fitting clothing made of natural materials such as cotton to help ease symptoms.
  • Do not engage in any sexual activity until the sores have completely healed.
  • Always use a condom when having sex, even if you have no symptoms. While there is a lower risk, you can still pass on the herpes virus without sores.
  • Do not touch your eyes, mouth, or genitals after touching the sores because you can spread the herpes virus to other parts of your own body. Avoid spreading the virus by washing and drying your hands after touching any sores.

Gonorrhea

Risks

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by infection with the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhea. Gonorrhea can result in infertility. Commonly known as "the clap", gonorrhea is transmitted through oral, genital, or anal sex with someone who has the infection. It can also be spread from mother to child during birth.

This bacterial infection is on the rise in Canada and is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics. Of more concern, in recent years there have been two cases of drug-resistant gonorrhea in Canada related to travel to Southeast Asia. Being aware of the risks of STI during travel (to any location) as well as using safer sex measures while travelling are important factors in preventing additional cases of drug resistant gonorrhea in Canada.

In females, untreated gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID health risks include abdominal pain, fever, internal abscesses, long-lasting pelvic pain, and scarring of the fallopian tubes, which can cause infertility and increase the chance of ectopic and/or tubal pregnancies.

Men can develop epididymitis, a painful inflammation in the tubes attached to the testicles. If left untreated, it can on rare occasions lead to infertility.

If untreated, you and your partner are at risk of the infection spreading through the bloodstream and infecting other parts of the body, including joints. This condition can be life-threatening.

If a person has gonorrhea and is pregnant, the infection can be passed to the baby in the birth canal during delivery, causing blindness, joint infection, or a life-threatening blood infection.

For couples where one has HIV infection and the other doesn't (i.e., serodiscordant), the risk of contracting and transmitting HIV is increased if you or your partner already have another STI.

Risk factors for contracting gonorrhea and other STIs include:

  • Having condomless vaginal, oral, or anal sex
  • Being younger (15-29 years old)
  • Having multiple sexual partners

Symptoms

The symptoms of gonorrhea infection are different in males and females. People with a gonorrhea infection, especially females, may have no symptoms at all. If symptoms do occur, they usually appear two to seven days after infection was contracted.

For men who do experience symptoms, these may include:

  • a burning sensation when urinating
  • yellowish/white discharge from the penis
  • burning or itching at the opening of the penis
  • painful or swollen testicles

For females, the early symptoms of gonorrhea are often mild and non-specific and are often mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection and many of those with the infection have no symptoms at all. In other cases, females may mistake the symptoms for a bladder or vaginal infection. For females who do experience symptoms, these can include:

  • a burning sensation when urinating
  • vaginal discharge
  • pain in the lower abdomen
  • pain during sex
  • vaginal bleeding between periods or after sex

Females with mild or no symptoms are still at risk of serious complications from the infection.

In both male and females, gonorrhea can infect the rectum. Symptoms of rectal infection may include:

  • discharge
  • anal itching
  • soreness
  • bleeding
  • painful bowel movements

People infected through oral sex may have a sore throat, however usually have no other symptoms.

Even without symptoms, gonorrhea can be transmitted to others. Anyone at risk should be tested.

Testing for gonorrhea can be done with a simple urine test or a swab. Gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics however; the infection is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics.

Prevention

Following these suggestions can help you avoid contracting and transmitting gonorrhea:

  • Learn about safer sex methods and practice them.
  • Make informed decisions. Talk to your partner(s) about their STI status.
  • Correctly and consistently use a condom and oral/dental dams during sex.
  • Get tested for gonorrhea, and other STIs, if you are sexually active, and encourage your sexual partner(s) to get tested.
  • It is important that you or someone from your public health department notify any sexual partners who may have been put at risk of infection. They will also need to be tested and possibly treated.

Treatment

Many of the gonorrhea strains circulating today, both in Canada and around the world have become resistant to previously recommended treatments. Along with the increasing number of gonorrhea cases in Canada in recent years, we are also seeing an increase in antimicrobial resistance.

If you are diagnosed with gonorrhea, be sure to follow your healthcare professional's treatment and follow-up recommendations. Both you and your sexual partner(s) will require treatment. To avoid re-infection after treatment it is important to avoid unprotected sexual activities with your sexual partner(s) until you and your partner(s) have completed your treatment and have been informed that the infection is cured. Remember condoms are your best protection against STIs.

Surveillance

The rates of reported cases of gonorrhea have risen more than 81% percent over the past ten years. The recent rise in gonorrhea can be partly attributed to improved lab tests and screening, as well as people not practicing safer sex methods. Gonorrhea disproportionately affects sexually active youth and young adults 20-29 years of age, especially men.

 

Hepatitis C

What causes hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus.

How is hepatitis C spread?

The hepatitis C virus is spread through contact with infected blood and bodily fluids, such as semen and vaginal fluid. You will only be infected if the virus enters your bloodstream.

In Canada, most people are infected by:

  • using or sharing drug paraphernalia contaminated with infected blood, including:
    • pipes
    • straws
    • spoons
    • needles
    • cookers
  • receiving body services that use unclean tools or work practices, such as:
    • tattooing
    • acupuncture
    • body piercing
  • sharing personal care items with an infected person, such as:
    • razors
    • scissors
    • nail clippers
    • toothbrushes

If you have hepatitis C, you can pass the virus to your baby during:

  • pregnancy
  • childbirth
  • breastfeeding if your nipples are cracked and bleeding, and your baby also has bleeding in or on the mouth
    • it can be hard to tell if a baby has bleeding in or on the mouth
    • cracked nipples may not be bleeding but may begin to during breastfeeding (this might not be noticeable right away)

You can also be infected if you receive contaminated:

  • blood
  • organs
  • blood products

Although rare, hepatitis C can also be spread through unprotected sex especially if it involves blood contact, such as:

  • contact with:
    • menstrual blood
    • open sores, cuts or wounds
    • semen or vaginal fluid if blood is present
  • through rough sex, including:
    • bondage and sexual satisfaction through pain
    • inserting a fist inside the vagina or anus (fisting)

Unprotected sex means having sex without using a condom or other barrier safely.

Hepatitis C is not spread through:

  • breast milk
  • food or water
  • casual contact, such as:
    • kissing
    • hugging
    • shaking hands
  • contact with someone who is sneezing or coughing

 

Hepatitis B

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is caused by a virus that infects the liver. It is one of the most common vaccine-preventable diseases affecting travellers and can cause either acute or chronic infection.

About 90 to 95 percent of adults with acute hepatitis B infection will clear the virus on their own within six months, and develop lifelong protection against it.

Some people are unable to clear the virus, and develop chronic hepatitis B. Untreated chronic hepatitis B can later develop into serious health problems. Children under four years old are at particular risk of chronic hepatitis B, because only up to 10% will clear the virus.

What is my risk?

Your risk depends of several factors: destination, length of stay, what you do when you are travelling and whether you have direct contact with blood or other body fluids. In certain destinations, your risk may be higher, as some areas have higher numbers of people with chronic hepatitis B in the general population.

The risk increases with certain activities, such as unprotected sex, sharing needles, tattooing and acupuncture.

Aid and health care workers and anyone who receives medical or dental care with unsterilized or contaminated equipment in a country where hepatitis B occurs are also at greater risk.

How is it transmitted?

Hepatitis B is highly infectious, and is spread from one person to another through exposure to infected blood and body fluids (including semen and vaginal fluid). It can be spread through:

  • blood transfusions or organ transplantation in countries where blood or blood products have not been properly screened for hepatitis B and other viruses transmitted through blood
  • unprotected sex with an infected person
  • sharing needles or equipment for injecting drugs
  • unsterilized medical/dental equipment and shared/contaminated materials or equipment used for tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture
  • sharing toothbrushes or razors
  • childbirth (an infected mother to her infant)
  • household contact between family members

What are the symptoms?

  • Symptoms can take 2 to 6 months to appear.
  • Many people who are infected with hepatitis B have either no symptoms or only mild symptoms.
  • Symptoms of acute hepatitis B can include fatigue, loss of appetite, joint pain, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, and dark urine. A small number of people will develop jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).
  • Some people develop chronic hepatitis B and most remain contagious for the rest of their lives. Chronic infection may lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and/or liver cancer. Most people with chronic hepatitis B are unaware of their infection.

What is the treatment?

  • There is no specific treatment for acute hepatitis B. Most adults completely recover from the infection by getting lots of rest, proper nutrition and fluids.
  • Antiviral drugs can be used to treat some chronic cases of hepatitis B infection.

Where is hepatitis B a concern?

Hepatitis B occurs worldwide.

Regions with higher numbers of people with chronic hepatitis B in the general population include parts of Southern and Eastern Europe, South and Central America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Recommendations

Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.

  1. Get vaccinated if you are at risk but are not immunized (either through previous vaccination or previous hepatitis B infection). Those at risk include:
    • Travellers who visit or stay in areas of risk for an extended period of time.
    • Travellers who engage in risk activities such as unprotected sex, tattooing and acupuncture, or sharing needles and other equipment for drug use.
    • Travellers who work in a health care setting.
  2. Protect yourself:
    • Avoid dental, medical or cosmetic procedures that penetrate the skin (for example, transfusions, acupuncture, piercing and tattooing) unless you are certain that the needles, materials and equipment are sterile.
    • Always practise safer sex (use condoms/dental dams).
    • Do not share personal items such as toothbrushes and razors.
    • Never share needles or syringes.

It is not always possible to protect yourself against accidents and the possibility that you may need urgent health care (medical or dental) while travelling. In developing countries, urgent medical care may increase your risk of becoming infected with hepatitis B and other infections transmitted by blood. If you receive medical care while in another country, it is important to follow up with your health care provider when you return to Canada, and to inform them of the care you received abroad.

 

Syphilis

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection that is on the rise in Canada. Syphilis is transmitted through oral, genital, or anal sex with an infected person. A pregnant woman with syphilis can pass it on to her unborn child, sometimes causing birth defects or death. Although less common, it can also be transmitted through sharing needles or through broken skin.

Syphilis cases were rare in Canada, but rates have been on the rise since 2001, when outbreaks began occurring in urban centres across the country. The number of cases continues to grow, suggesting that people are not consistently using safer sex methods. Syphilis disproportionately affects men in Canada, particularly those over 30.

Syphilis is diagnosed through a simple blood test and is easily treated with penicillin or other antibiotics. Left untreated, syphilis moves through four stages:

  • primary
  • secondary
  • latent
  • tertiary

Syphilis is usually infectious for less than a year, during the primary and secondary stages, and early in the latent stage. If the infection continues to go untreated, syphilis may progress to the tertiary stage. Not everyone infected with syphilis will develop symptoms. That is why it is important to know if you are at risk and how to take preventative action.

Health effects of syphilis

Syphilis is often referred to as "the great imitator" because of the wide range of symptoms that infected people may experience. These symptoms can easily be confused with those of other conditions. Healthcare professionals may overlook syphilis as a possible diagnosis because the rate of infection in Canada has been low until recently.

In primary syphilis, a painless open sore or ulcer appears at the site where the bacteria first entered the body, usually the genital area, throat, or anus, and swollen glands may be present in the groin. Symptoms can occur within a few days or a couple of months after infection. Because the ulcer is usually painless and hidden, you may not be aware you are infected. While the sore may go away on its own without treatment, the infection will remain and progress to secondary syphilis.

In secondary syphilis, the symptoms can sometimes overlap with those of the primary stage and vary considerably. They can include:

  • patchy hair loss
  • a rash on the soles of the feet, the palms of the hands, or elsewhere on the body
  • fever
  • malaise
  • swollen glands
  • flat grayish-white sores in mouth and on genitals

It is at the tertiary stage that syphilis can do the most damage to the body, affecting the brain, blood vessels, heart, and bones.  If untreated, syphilis can eventually lead to death.

Of particular concern is the interaction between syphilis and HIV/AIDS. Syphilis increases the risk of contracting or spreading human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It can also be difficult to successfully treat HIV patients who have syphilis.

Minimizing your risk

Following these suggestions can help you avoid contracting and transmitting syphilis:

  • Learn about safer sex and needle-sharing practices.
  • Make informed decisions. Talk to your partner(s) about their STI status and the use of protection.
  • Correctly and consistently using a condom during sex reduces the risk of STIs.
  • Get tested for syphilis if you are sexually active. If you are diagnosed and treated for syphilis, follow up with your doctor after treatment to make sure the infection is gone. It is also important that you or someone from your public health department notify sexual or needle-sharing partners who may have been put at risk of infection. They will also need to be tested and possibly treated.
  • Avoid unprotected sexual activities that may put you at risk for reinfection until both you and your partner(s) have completed your antibiotic treatment and have been told the infection is gone.

What is syphilis?

  • Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that is caused by a bacteria.
  • Rates of infectious syphilis have gone up 167% in the past ten years.

How is syphilis spread?

  • Syphilis is spread when someone with the infection has condomless vaginal, anal and/or oral sex with someone else.

Signs and symptoms:

  • Sometimes painless, open sores can appear on or inside the penis, vagina, rectum or mouth.
  • Swollen glands in the groin, behind the ears, under the jaw and in the armpits.
  • A body rash and/or feeling like you have the flu.
  • Many people won’t have symptoms at the beginning of an infection, so it’s important to get tested often if you are sexually active.

Get tested

  • Testing is quick and simple with a blood test and/or swab.
  • If you have experienced sexual violence, you should be tested for syphilis and other STI.
  • Talk to your doctor, nurse, sexual health clinic or local health unit about being tested for syphilis and other STI.

The number of babies born with syphilis is increasing.

If you are pregnant

  • You should be tested for syphilis as early as possible.
  • If you have the infection, you can pass it on to your baby before it is born or when giving birth. Untreated syphilis can cause birth defects and stillbirth.
  • Treatment for syphilis is safe during pregnancy.

Talk to your partner(s)

  • If you have syphilis, you should tell your sexual partner(s) so that they can be tested and treated.
  • If you are uncomfortable telling your partner(s), ask your doctor, nurse or local public health unit for help.
  • Talk to your partner(s) about STI and the use of protection, so you can make an informed decision about your sexual health.

Getting treated

  • Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics.

 

 

 Condoms - The Hows And Whys

Condoms greatly reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. Learn how to protect your health by practicing safer sex.

What are the benefits of condoms?

A condom is a protective barrier for use during sex. When used properly, it provides effective protection against many sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy. This is done by providing a protective barrier from skin-to-skin contact and preventing the exchange of bodily fluids (such as semen). Other contraceptives do not protect against STIs or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Condoms help prevent pregnancy when used as intended by the manufacturer. But condoms sometimes fail because of improper use or the material gets damaged. Pregnancy happens in about 10% of cases.

What is effective condom use?

You can reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancy or STIs by following these steps for effective condom use:

  • Store latex condoms at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. Heat weakens the latex.
  • Check the expiry date on the package. Avoid using expired condoms because their effectiveness cannot be guaranteed.
  • Follow the directions on the package.

What reduces the effectiveness of condoms?

Some substances can weaken a condom. Maintain condom effectiveness by being aware of the following:

  • Using two condoms at the same time increases the risk of a latex condom breaking.
  • If you or your partner is allergic to latex, use polyurethane or natural membrane condoms.
  • Petroleum or oil-based lubricants should not be used with latex condoms. These substances weaken the latex and can lead to breakage.
    • Oil-based lubricants can be used with some synthetic condoms. Always read lubricant labels to be sure it is safe to use with the type of condom you have chosen.
  • Some medications intended for vaginal use (like yeast infection treatments) can weaken latex condoms. Treatments that contain estrogen are especially damaging to latex condoms.

If you think a batch of condoms may be defective, report your concerns to your Regional Product Safety Office. You can also report problems through the toll free Inspectorate Hotline at 1-800-267-9675.

What if the condom breaks during or after use?

If the condom breaks, tears or slips off during sex, there may be a chance that either partner has been exposed to an STI. Discuss your concerns with a health care provider.

If your partner is living with HIV, or if their HIV status is unknown, you should seek immediate medical advice as there is medication that can prevent HIV infection from taking hold if taken within 72 hours.

If you are concerned about pregnancy, you may want to buy Plan B, an emergency contraceptive, available as an over-the-counter drug across Canada, except in Quebec where you will need a prescription. It should be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

What are the types of condoms?

Condoms are available for both men and women, and come in many sizes, shapes, colors and textures. Each type has advantages and disadvantages.

Condoms are medical devices and as such, their testing, packaging and labelling are regulated by Health Canada.

Male Condoms

A male condom covers the penis to create a protective barrier and prevent the exchange of bodily fluids between sex partners.

When used properly, male condoms have a breakage rate of about 1%. Leaks are even rarer.

However, condoms can break if you are not using the right size. Packages are labelled by width size. A condom that is too large can slip off. But if it is too tight, it is more likely to break.

Condom material is also important when making the right selection to suit your needs. Check out the different condom choices below.

Latex condoms

Condoms made from latex rubber are the type most commonly used. But they may cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction for some people.

If you are allergic to latex, use polyurethane or natural membrane condoms.

Synthetic polymer condoms

Synthetic polymer condoms are usually made of polyurethane (similar to latex). This material is effective in preventing pregnancy and STIs. This type of condom is a good option for people who are allergic to latex. Lubricants will not weaken this type of condom.

Natural membrane condoms

Natural membrane condoms are made from the intestinal lining of sheep. Natural membrane condoms contain microscopic holes. The holes are small enough to prevent semen from getting through the barrier and stop the transmission of certain bacterial STIs. But the holes are too large to prevent the spread of viral infections like hepatitis (HCV) and HIV.

Spermicidally lubricated condoms

Spermicidally lubricated condoms are coated with a lubricant containing nonoxynol-9 (N-9). This substance is intended to kill sperm and further reduce the risk of pregnancy.

But N-9 does not effectively protect against HIV or other STIs. N-9 may even increase the risk of infection by irritating the tissue inside the vagina or rectum, making them more vulnerable to infection. As a result, young women may experience urinary tract infections.

Because of this increased risk of infection, spermicidally lubricated condoms should be avoided for anal sex. They do not provide any additional protection when used with another form of birth control.

Still, this form of condom is better than no condom at all.

Female Condoms

A female condom is a liner worn in the vagina or anus to prevent semen from entering a woman's body. Female condoms are usually made of polyurethane or latex. Female condoms are 95% effective when used correctly and consistently for preventing pregnancy and STIs, including HIV.

Novelty Condoms

Novelty condoms should not be confused with condoms used to prevent pregnancy or infections. Novelty items cannot be sold for the prevention of disease or pregnancy.

Novelty condoms should not be used with a latex condom. This is because some novelty items are made of materials that weaken latex.

 

Contraception

Contraception, also known as birth control, is used to prevent pregnancy. There are many different birth control methods to help you and your partner prevent an unplanned pregnancy. You may be starting with a pretty good idea of what you are looking for, or you may not be sure where to start – or which method to choose.

In this section, we review the methods that are available to help you understand the options and help you narrow down the choices. You can always talk over your choices with your health care provider.

Download our Contraception Booklet to review the methods all in one place (also available in the Resources section).

*These summaries are for information purposes only and are incomplete. When considering contraception, patients should review all potential risks and benefits on a medicine, device or procedure with their health care providers prior to selecting the option that is most appropriate for their needs.

 

Posted on Monday, Dec 30, 2019 - 06:46:00 AM EST
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