Sexually transmitted disease (STD) or sexually transmitted infections (STI) are infections that are passed from one person to another through sexual contact. Though the contact is usually through vaginal, oral or anal sex, they can sometimes spread through another intimate physical contact and can cause infertility in women.
Given that sexual health is fundamental to all people’s health and happiness, we got a doctor on board to share hygiene tips for reducing the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STI) and practices one can follow to lead a healthy, safe sexual life. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Sonal Kumta, Senior Consultant-Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Mumbai’s Fortis Hospital, shared:
1. INTIMATE HYGIENE: Since we live in a tropical country, it is recommended to bathe/shower twice a day. Genital areas can be cleaned using lukewarm water. Make sure you’re washing from front to back to prevent infection from harmful bacteria in the anal region; wash gently. Avoid scrubbing as it can damage sensitive skin. Soap can be used externally, not inside the vagina. Since the vagina has acidic pH, alkaline soap interferes with it and destroys the endogenous vaginal flora. Avoid douching the vagina using pre-packaged scented products as they can lead to inflammation, irritation and burning
2. INNER WEAR: Underwear should be loose, comfortable and preferably cotton. The material lets in air, allows your private areas to breathe. Cotton also absorbs moisture. It is not necessary to wash your private area after every act of urination. It is advisable to use tissue to gently wipe the area and make sure it’s dry because wet underwear can make you prone to fungal infection
3. SHOWER BEFORE SEX: Before engaging in sexual practices, it is advisable to wash/clean genital areas Wash your hands with soap and water and make it a part of your routine. Maintain oral hygiene. This is to prevent transmission of any infection
4. PREVENT STI’S: Use barrier contraceptives like male condoms, female condoms, dental dams when engaging in sexual activities. They can prevent sexually transmitted infections like Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Hepatitis B and HIV-AIDS, etc.
5. CLEAN YOUR SEX TOYS: Sex toys are objects that can be used for self-pleasure or used during sexual acts. They are personal, should not be shared and should be cleaned before and after every use. It is advisable to cover it with a new condom before use
6. CONTRACEPTION: Contraceptives/ birth control can be used to prevent pregnancy. The contraceptives available are barrier contraceptives like Condom, Birth control pills or OC pill (oral contraceptive pills) or EC pill (emergency contraceptive pills) IUCD’s (Intra Uterine Contraceptive Devices) like Copper T and injectable contraceptives. It is best to speak to your gynaecologist to figure out which method is best suited for you
7. SAFE SEX PRACTICES: Indulge in safe sex practices. Do not have sex under the influence of alcohol and drugs. It is advisable not to have multiple sexual partners. It is safer to engage in sexual practices with long term committed partner. Avoid early sexual encounters till the reproductive system is fully developed preferably till late teens or early 20’s.
8. ADOPT A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE: Consume diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly and avoid excessive alcohol and smoking.
9. SEEK SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH SERVICES: Your gynaecologist can optimize your sexual health by doing pelvic examination, pap smear, detect and treat Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI), suggest vaccines, give contraceptive options and help sexual counselling for all your concerns.
Dr Sonal Kumta asserted, “Reproductive and sexual health implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life, prevent sexual infections and have the capacity to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so. In other words, having access to sexual and reproductive health services, quality information about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and physical and mental health services can help couples achieve optimal health and wellbeing.”