On the day I decided on a family planning method and got it done, the nurse in charge of the family planning unit hammered on the benefits and the risk factors involved in the options other women and I, present that morning, had chosen.
After we had a look at the different methods, as listed on an awareness material pasted on the wall of the unit, we each told her the one we would like to do. But then, we had also discussed it amongst ourselves, even though we didn’t know each other or if we would ever meet again. But in that unit, we all had the same goal; we wanted to be able have some sort of control over our reproductive lives.
On one of the options, the nurse kept saying, don’t bother doing this one, if you know you have more than one partner. At her statement, we had all looked at each other, because you see, we were a group of women of mostly nursing mothers, a few matured singles and women with older children like me. That look we shared had simply said, “Do we look like people who jump from one man to another? Or, is the “thing” that sweet that one man’s own will not do.”
The nurse caught the look and the inflection behind it as she told us all bluntly, “Dem no dey write am for head oh. I just have to tell you people.”
Ask me what that family planning method was. It was the Intrauterine Contraceptive Device, IUCD, older women call it Copper T, but it is supposedly made from better materials nowadays.
With this birth control method, women are a lot less likely to use condoms, which is still the number one way to prevent the transfer of STIs. So, you see, if a woman with an IUCD in-situ has multiple partners, with whom she has sex without condoms, her risk of getting pregnant is lower but her risk of catching an STI is multiplied by the number of partners she has.
If it were a case of just STIs, it would be better, but there is the issue of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) to worry about. Even though it took me years to make the correlation between IUCD and STIs, I finally did, and even though all the women at that unit felt offended that June morning, the nurse was actually just saying the fact and helping us to protect our fertility, until such a time some of us decide to have more children.
So, below are some of the habits that increase the risk of catching an STI.
Extreme shaving of pubic hair
According to new research, “extreme grooming” of pubic hair has been linked to an increased chance of sexually transmitted infections (STI).
A paper published in December, 2016, suggests that people who remove their pubic hair are 80 per cent more likely to have had an STI than those who don’t. This conclusion was arrived at after talking to 7,580 adults about their trimming habits.
It also found that ‘extreme groomers’ (those who removed all of their pubic hair more than 11 times a year) and ‘high-frequency groomers’ (those who trimmed daily or weekly) were at much greater risk.
The researchers said doctors should advise groomers to slightly reduce their levels of grooming or put off having sex until the skin had healed completely.
There is one surprising upside of the grooming trend though, the researchers found it led to a decreased chance of catching pubic lice.
Being young…below 25 years old
Young people are far more likely to be infected with STDs than older people. You wonder why? I do too.
There are several reasons, starting with the fact that young women are more biologically susceptible to STDs than older women. Their bodies being smaller, they are more likely to experience tearing during intercourse.
Their cervixes also aren’t fully developed, and are more susceptible to infection by chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and other STDs.
Finally, young people are also more likely to engage in sexual risk taking, particularly under the influence of alcohol, and more likely to have multiple partners.
Not using lube
Read and take to heart, these four words: Lube. Is. Your. Friend.
The simple reason being that friction promotes STI transmission, and lube reduces friction.
You may wonder, “Isn’t friction the point of sexual activities?”
Yes and no. Yes, because a certain amount of friction feels great. No, because the risk of STIs increases when too much friction occurs.
According to medical experts, the vagina, the anus, mouth and nose actually, are made up of mucous membranes. These layers of tissue are incredibly permeable by design, and one of their functions is to trap unwanted pathogens, so the body can rid them before they cause problems. Unfortunately, STIs cannot be rid of naturally.
Not only are the mucous membranes permeable, they are rather delicate. So, when too much friction occurs, small tears, rips, and cuts happen – they can happen anywhere, but the mucous membranes are often one of the first to become compromised – and then those trapped, unwanted pathogens (read: STIs) which the body cannot clear on its own, have a direct route into the system.
You’ve had an STI before
It’s unfortunate but the truth is, the chances of getting an STI are higher if you have already had to deal with one.
Experts assert that this may be because some STIs can cause sores and skin tears. And skin that is irritated, inflamed, or blistered is easier for another pathogen to infect
Also, being exposed once suggests that other factors in your lifestyle may be putting you at risk. In this instance, it’s time to take a second look at your lifestyle then.
So, these are some of the quite unexpected habits that increase our exposure to STIs. And I’m actually guilty of a few of these. Stopping will be a herculean task…but not an impossible one.
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