Having multiple sexual partners puts you at increased risk for many different types of STIs. Make sure to prioritize your health and always use condoms and backup contraception when possible.
Getting tested is essential, even if you don’t have any symptoms. However, some STDs don’t show up right away on tests.
1. The type of STD
There is no safe waiting period for sexually transmitted infections, or STIs. Whether you are in a relationship or not, you are at risk for infection if you engage in vaginal, oral or anal sex, genital touching and breast feeding without the use of a condom.
Most STIs are spread through sexual contact, but they can also be passed in blood transfusions or shared needles, or from mothers to their babies during pregnancy and childbirth. Anyone can get an STD, but young people are most at risk, especially teens and young adults who may have many sex partners or do not practice safer sex. People who use street-drug needles are also at high risk for infection.
If you think that you have an STI, there are tests available to help diagnose the type of infection and determine what treatment is needed. There are also treatments that prevent the transmission of STIs between partners. It is recommended that you use a condom for oral, anal and vaginal sex and that men wear male condoms when having sex. In addition, receptive condoms (a polyurethane pouch that inserts into the anus or vaginal canal) can reduce the risk of chlamydia and gonorrhea and offer additional protection against herpes and hepatitis. You can also reduce your risk of contracting a STI by abstaining from sexual activity until you have been tested and treated for any infectious diseases.
2. The prognosis
There are many different ways to protect yourself against STDs and unintended pregnancy, but the most reliable way is to use a condom every time. Using barrier methods like a diaphragm can also reduce your risk, but they don’t offer 100% protection against certain STIs like herpes or HIV.
If you’re planning to have sex, it’s important not to wait too long to get tested. Pregnancy tests work by looking for a specific hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin, which can’t be detected until about 10-14 days after conception. For that reason, the most accurate way to test for pregnancy is to wait until you miss your period.
Having multiple sexual partners is a risk factor for several STIs, including herpes and HPV. The risk of contracting an STI decreases with increasing time gaps between partners, but it’s still important to practice safe sex and use barrier methods.
If you’re concerned about a long gap between sexual partners, consider dating someone who is monogamous. According to a study published in JAMA Network Open, the risk of an STI diagnosis decreased when men and women had monogamous relationships with their most recent partners for four months or more for women and six months or more for men.
3. Your partner’s STD status
Some STDs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, are spread primarily by sexual contact. But some, including HIV and hepatitis C and B, can also be spread through nonsexual contacts. That’s why it’s important to ask everyone with whom you have any kind of sexual interaction to get tested and treated for STIs before you have sex with them. It can be a difficult conversation to have, but it’s crucial for their health and well-being. Plus, it’s just a decent thing to do.
When you are infected with an STI, it can take up to 60 days before symptoms appear or you are diagnosed. This is called the incubation period. During this time, your partner may have passed the disease to other people through nonsexual contact.
It’s a good idea to test yourself and your partners regularly for common STDs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. There are tests available at most drug stores, and at home testing kits are easy to purchase online.
It’s also a good idea to discuss with your partner(s) the best ways to protect themselves from catching and spreading an STI, whether they are infected or not. This can include using condoms and avoiding risky behaviors, such as injecting drugs or engaging in unprotected sex. Using HIV prevention medicines such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is also an excellent way to help reduce the risk of getting or spreading HIV.
4. Your relationship status
Having unprotected sex puts you at risk for contracting an STD. Sexual contact can spread STIs, including HIV and chlamydia. You and your partner should have an open discussion about sexually transmitted diseases. This includes discussing the importance of using condoms in all types of sex. You should also talk about the type of sex that is safest for you and your partner, such as oral sex or anal sex. If your partner doesn’t want to use a condom, you should respect their wishes. It is important to make sure that sex is completely consensual and that you are not using drugs or alcohol before having sex.
Aside from sex, other factors can also impact your relationship status. For example, if you are in a committed relationship, it is likely that you and your partner have terms of endearment, often use each other’s name, and frequently spend time together. You may even go on dates and visit each other’s families.
If you are in a monogamous relationship, you and your partner should have an open and honest conversation about your expectations of the relationship. This includes discussing how you want to label the relationship. This allows you to avoid confusion and ensure that the label aligns with your goals for the future of the relationship. In addition, you should regularly get tested for STIs. You can do this at your doctor’s office or with an at-home kit.