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Take Control of your Sexual Health!

Here at uBiome, we promote the sexual health of everyone. Here are our tips to stay safe and satisfied.

 

Open Communication is Hot

Before engaging in any sexual activity, encourage an open conversation about whether or not you and your partner plan to be monogamous. Beginning any type of relationship with the same expectations can certainly set you up for the most pleasurable experience.

Don’t be afraid to open up. It’s important that you feel comfortable discussing your past experiences, your likes and dislikes, and sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing prior to any sexual contact. This ensures that both you and your partner are engaging in a fully consensual, intimate experience.

 

Know What You Put Inside of You

Sharing is caring, but not so much with sex toys. If you’re sharing sex toys or vibrators with your partner, disinfect them per the manufacturer’s recommendations and/or put a new condom (if applicable) or other protective barrier on them between each partner’s use.

Pay attention to your lube! Be sure to read labels on all lubricants, as some can contain harsh chemicals. Studies show that the majority of commercial vaginal lubricants do not follow recommended standards relating to pH and osmolality (their concentration level), which poses some potential health risks. Simple, organic aloe vera is an excellent alternative.

If you experience a menstrual cycle, be mindful of the products you use. The FDA classifies tampons and sanitary pads as ‘medical devices,’ which are not required to disclose their ingredients on packaging. Given the lack of awareness of the chemicals within feminine hygiene products, one way to decrease your risk of potentially hazardous exposure is to use organic cotton tampons or a menstrual cup.

All of these practices can help you maintain both a healthy immune system and vaginal microbiome, which consists of the bacteria and other microorganisms in your vagina.

 

Not all STIs Cause Symptoms, but They Still Carry Risk

If you are sexually active, STI testing is extremely important – even if you’re not experiencing symptoms. Many of the most common STIs can be asymptomatic (symptomless) but still carry several risks.

Mycoplasma genitalium, for example, is an STI you may not have heard of, but it’s more common than the bacterium that causes gonorrhea in young adults aged 18-27. While the condition can be asymptomatic, it can be associated with cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix), pelvic inflammatory disease, and even infertility. If symptoms do appear, individuals may experience unusual vaginal discharge, painful sex, and spotting.

Unfortunately, Mycoplasma genitalium is not usually part of standard STI screenings since it has historically been more challenging to identify, but increasingly accessible DNA-based STI screening is making it easier for healthcare providers to diagnose and treat this infection.

Human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection in the US, is spread primarily through genital-to-genital contact, and recent research suggests it can also be spread through oral-to-genital contact. Using dental dams or female condoms can reduce the risk of transmission significantly, but doesn’t eliminate it entirely.

There are both high and low-risk strains of HPV, and the high-risk strains have the potential to cause genital warts and the development of abnormal cells, which can develop into cervical cancer.  While HPV infection is common, it also generally goes away on its own. HPV can take decades to develop into cervical cancer and is generally asymptomatic, so prevention is key!

There are things you can do now to reduce your risk of an HPV infection and to support your body in clearing the virus, including ensuring all of your sexual encounters are safe and protected ones. Don’t underestimate the power of eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, either. A strong immune system can help your body effectively clear HPV infections.

Your vaginal flora can play an important role, too! Studies have also shown a vaginal microbiome with an abundance of Lactobacillus bacteria can protect against the acquisition and persistence of HPV.

 

Screening and Regular Checks Up are a Must

Sexual health goes beyond just safe practices in the bedroom. If you are sexually active, it is important to be screened for STIs to not only ensure that you are safe, but also that you are not unknowingly spreading any infections to other partners.

Whether or not you are currently sexually active, consult with your gynecologist for periodic exams. Regular sexual health checkups that include a pap smear can enable you to identify and deal with STIs before they become a problem. The more you know, the more power you have!

Your vagina is unique. You can learn more about your vaginal health using uBiome’s at-home, vaginal health screening test, SmartJane™. SmartJane genotypes 14 high-risk HPV strains, 5 low-risk HPV strains, 4 common STIs (chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and Mycoplasma genitalium). SmartJane also measures 23 other microorganisms making up your vaginal flora.