Protecting Yourself from STIs

Protecting Yourself from STIs

Sexually transmitted infections (STI) may be a topic of discussion most people wish to avoid, but one’s sexual health should never be ignored. STIs are highly transmittable and if left untreated, they can cause complications ranging from discomfort and pelvic inflammatory disease to infertility depending upon the infection.  

The risks of contracting an STI include unprotected sex, having multiple partners, or a previous STI. A physical exam and lab tests can confirm the diagnosis and indicate proper treatment.  

The typical process for treating an STI often involves antibiotics and abstaining from unprotected intercourse until both partners are adequately treated.  

“Infections can last several days or even weeks and people may not experience symptoms. It’s important to not ignore any physical changes. Complications can occur for pregnant women who may have an STI such as increasing the risk for pre-term delivery,” says Dr. Candace Jones, CNM AMCB, UPMC Obstetrics & Gynecology Specialists, adding treatments are safe for pregnant women and their babies. 

Three common STIs are chlamydia, trichomoniasis (trich), and syphilis.  


Nearly 3.7 million people in the United States are diagnosed with trich, which is caused by a tiny parasite and is spread through sexual contact. Most common in women, symptoms may begin within 5 to 28 days ranging from mild irritation to severe inflammation.  


Chlamydia spreads through unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex. The infection can be passed from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth. Pregnant women need treatment for Chlamydia to protect their infant’s health and avoid premature or stillbirths, miscarriages, ​or possible transmission to their newborn. 


This bacterial infection usually spreads through sexual contact and to unborn babies during childbirth. Different signs and symptoms are associated with each stage of the infection. Early detection and treatment are critical. The time between exposure to the virus and first symptom can occur anywhere from three weeks to three months.  

“The CDC strongly recommends that pregnant women be screened at the first prenatal visit, during the third trimester, and at the time of delivery for pregnant women who have an increased risk for syphilis,” says Jones. 

See your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms: 

  • Pain during sex 
  • Painful or frequent urge to urination  
  • Blood in the urine 
  • Rash or sore in genitals or anus 
  • Pelvic pain 
  • Discolored or foul-smelling discharge  
  • Vaginal spotting or bleeding 
  • Genital burning, redness, swelling, or itching

For more information about women’s health, visit UPMC.com/CentralPaWomen.  




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