Double Sunrise Young Women's Health: early teen to college years


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GeneralHealth Info

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

At school you want to "Catch the Spirit"…but here's some things that

"You Don't Want to Catch"

As a young woman, you are empowered when you have information. Statistics and clinical practice with high school women demonstrate that there are some real and serious threats to young women that you should know about. One of these is what "you don't want to catch" …a sexually transmitted disease (STD). It is important to understand (even if it's for your friend) the most common sexually transmitted diseases for sexually active women your age.

Sexually transmitted diseases can affect young women seriously, and sometimes have life long (or even life threatening) consequences. Three common STDs of high school years are chlamydia, human papilloma virus (HPV) and herpes. There are others as well, but these are the ones that practitioners see the most of with high school women and college women at every campus, in every city and town, even where you live.

Statistics vary, but a common one sited is that 1:4 teens contract a STD. 3 million teenagers have a sexually transmitted disease, the consequences are high, and they can all be prevented.

Chlamydia This is the most common bacterial STD today. Most young women that have Chlamydia do not have symptoms for a long time. As the infection advances, it can ascend into the uterus and fallopian tubes and cause a painful and serious infection.

Long term consequences can be as serious as causing scarring and permanent damage of the fallopian tubes which can result in infertility.

The good news is that this infection can be detected and treated before any symptoms ever appear, by having a simple culture during a pelvic exam at your local family planning clinic, or with your doctor or nurse practitioner. This is one reason that any young woman who has been sexually active even once, should have a pelvic exam.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

This is the most common viral STD. A recent estimate is that 25-40% of sexually active young women have HPV. This is the virus that causes Genital Warts. This virus is very contagious. Because there are over 80 strains of the HPV they vary greatly in appearance. Some look just like warts being cauliflower in appearance, some are flat. Symptoms may appear in a few weeks or it may take several years to show. (The average is 8.5 months).

What's most concerning is that many strains of the infection can not be seen at all. Commonly, HPV is detected from a Pap smear. Many young women have an abnormal Pap smear because of genital warts (that may be invisible) on the cervix. That's why it is important to have a pelvic exam if you have been sexually active even once. These can develop into cervical cellular changes and cancer. That's why if your practitioner has told you that you need to follow up with further visits, it is very important, because treatment can only be done by a doctor or nurse practitioner and it depends on your return.

The best method to detect HPV is by having a pelvic exam.

Herpes

This is another STD that is seen clinically with young women who are sexually active. Genital herpes is caused by HSV type 2, which is similar to the virus that causes cold sores (HSV1). Genital herpes is very painful and gives flu like symptoms as well. One difficult issue is that a person can be contagious a day or two before any symptom shows. Herpes may never recur again, or there may be repeated flare ups for the rest of your life.

The consequences can be life long as a woman with herpes has an increased risk of cervical cancer. Also, it is very dangerous if a baby catches the virus from their mothers during childbirth, so many women with herpes choose a cesarean birth for all their deliveries as to not put their baby at risk.

When you have a sexually transmitted disease like herpes, there is alot of help available to help you live a quality life. It may feel pretty bad to find out that you have an STD but there are great resourses to support you as well as help you live a normal and happy life. Resources include your doctor or nurse practitioner, health clinic or school clinic.

Afraid of STD's?

Luckily, there are treatments for these sexually transmitted diseases. If you have a sexually transmitted disease, it feels awful, but remember that treatment is available and improving all the time.

To prevent problems from STDs remember this: If you have been sexually active even once, make an appointment with a health care provider for a discussion and a pelvic exam.

How do I find a health care provider?

For non-urgent problems or to schedule a pelvic exam call your doctor, nurse practitioner, health clinic or Planned Parenthood for information on a clinic near you.

For immediate help call 911, your operator or go to the nearest hospital Emergency Room.

The consequences of these STDs are difficult. As an example, with herpes, no one would embrace having to tell your future sexual partner prior to sexual intimacy that your have herpes and he could catch it.

There's no doubt that prevention is preferable for a young woman, and better for health

What are the ways to prevent these sexually transmitted diseases and the consequences that occur?

The only sure way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases is abstinence. Many STDs can be spread not only by vaginal sex or intercourse, but by other types of sexual activity as well. Ways to decrease your risk of contracting a STD are:

  • Abstinence is the only sure way to prevent an STD.
  • Consistent condom combined with spermicide (Nonoxynol-9) gel use
  • Being very selective regarding a sexual partner, and having few partners in your lifetime.
  • Avoiding alcohol and drugs, as this will empower you to make choices that will be protecting yourself.

Hang here at DoubleSunrise: Young Women's Health, where there will continually be more information on these subjects.

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