Whether a regretted (or not) one night stand or a natural progression in a stable relationship, sex can bring a number of risks such as unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Before you have sex at the very least you need to consider protection.
There is a wide range of contraceptive methods available to help each individual prevent pregnancy; some of these methods also offer protection against Sexually Transmitted Disease's (STD's). Below is a useful summary of contraceptive methods, for further information you should contact your GP, a family planning clinic or the Advice Centre.
Condoms and Femidoms
Both of these methods are reasonably reliable if used carefully, following the instructions. Using a spermicidal increases protection further. As you all know 'barrier methods' also offer protection against STD's, including AIDS.
I Don't Like Condoms!
By not using a condom you are opening yourself up to greater risk of transmitting STD's, however if you are in a stable relationship you may feel that you would prefer another method of contraception more suited to protection against pregnancy. The Pill in this instance is often what most people turn to. It is available on prescription from your GP, after health checks, you will also have to have regular check ups during use.
The Combined Pill
The combined pill is the most effective oral contraceptive with few or no side effects. It contains two hormones and is designed to prevent the release of a woman's egg. It is usually taken for 21 days with a 7 day break over the menstrual period. A benefit of the pill is that it often reduces period pains.
The Mini Pill
The mini pill contains only the hormone progesterone and is taken every day with no break. The mini pill works by thickening the mucus at the neck of the womb, thus preventing entry of the sperm. It is not as reliable as the combined pill although it is still very effective. A side effect of the mini pill is that it can lead to irregular periods.
If you are a woman who has already had children it is possible to use an IUD which is placed inside the uterus by a doctor. It is a reliable form of contraception.
The contraceptive injection (Depa Prova) and the contraceptive implant are also forms of contraception that must be fitted by a qualified nurse or Doctor.
There are as ever other methods such as the rhythm method (where intercourse is planned when the woman is least likely to conceive) or withdrawing the penis before ejaculation. Both of these methods are extremely unreliable and offer no protection against STD's.
The Emergency Pill or Morning After Pill
This can be taken 72 hours after sex (though preferably 48). This can be used if you have had unprotected sex or if another method has failed. You can get an emergency pill from your GP (though not all doctors agree to prescribe them) at a family planning clinic, some pharmacies and A&E. The emergency pill should not replace regular birth control. It can cause unpleasant side effects like vomiting, and it offers no protection against STD's. The emergency pill is in fact a course of medicine with two hormone pills being taken within 72 hours of sex and a further two pills being taken 12 hours later.
Pregnancy testing is available for free from the Advice Centre.
If your period is more than 6-10 days overdue it is possible that you could be pregnant. However, it may be due to many other reasons, such as stress for example. You should find out as soon as possible, as late discovery of a pregnancy may have serious implications for your options. Kits can be purchased from any chemists, or you can contact your GP, Family Planning Clinic or Nightline.
If you find out that you are pregnant, you need to examine the options open to you. If you decide you want to keep the baby, the University is likely to be very supportive and can assist you in making all the relevant arrangements. Adoption is another possibility. If you want to terminate the pregnancy you will need to see a doctor within 16 weeks of conception.
You’re GP, a family planning clinic, or Nightline will be able to help you. You can also talk through your options with a counsellor or the welfare advisor, at the DSU Advice Centre.
Family Planning Clinics
These can offer help with all aspects of contraception and pregnancy. The following are your local clinic:
Framwellgate Moor Clinic
29 B/C Front Street, Framwellgate Moor,
Wednesday 6.30 - 8pm
Wednesday 1.30 - 3pm (Nurse-led)
Durham St. Margaret's Health Centre
Monday 6.30 - 8pm
Tuesday 6.30 - 8pm
Thursday 6.30 - 8pm
STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases)
These are diseases that can be passed from one person to another during sex. There are at least 25 different types of infections which come under this classification. These diseases can be passed on through vaginal, oral or anal sex. When spread through oral sex the mouth and throat can also be infected.
If you have sex with an infected person it is likely that you, too, will develop the infection. It is important that a sexually transmitted disease is diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Some can cause serious and permanent damage to a person's health or lead to infertility if they remain untreated.
Symptoms of STDs can range from nothing to different odours, unusual discharges or soreness around the genital region. Even if you have no symptoms but you are still worried that you might have put yourself at risk, then it is worth having a check-up.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you think that you have caught an infection then you will need to visit your GP or, if you wish to remain anonymous, you can go to the Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM)
IS better than cure. There are a number of precautions that you can take. Firstly limiting your number of sexual partners reduces the likelihood of you coming into contact with an infection. Secondly, barrier methods of contraception (as mentioned earlier) lessen the chances of bodily fluids becoming mixed and therefore reduce the risk of infection. Thirdly, if you or your partner is at all unsure about an inflammation or unusual discharge from the genital region, then do not have sex until it has cleared up. Similarly do not have oral sex if either of you have sores around the mouth. It is possible to avoid infection just by taking a few sensible steps.
HIV and AIDS
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus which attacks and damages the body's defence system, stopping it from fighting certain infections. The virus lives in body fluids such as blood, semen and vaginal fluids. It is this virus which may lead to the condition known as AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). A person can have the HIV virus without developing AIDS. They may feel perfectly well but they will still be able to pass on the virus to other people unless they take precautions.
There is no known cure for AIDS nor is there a vaccine. For this reason, individuals must be aware of behaviour that might put them at risk and how they can protect themselves.
HIV is passed on mainly by:
• unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person;
• sharing a hypodermic needle with an infected person;
• an infected mother to her baby, before, during or after birth.
can get HIV by having unprotected sex with a person who has the virus because intimate contact is made with that person's blood, semen or vaginal fluids. There is a risk of getting HIV through unprotected vaginal or anal sex. Oral sex may carry a risk if there are cuts or sores around the mouth or genital region. Other forms of non-penetrative sex such as masturbation, ejaculating outside your partner's body and massage all considerably reduce the risk of infection. HIV cannot be passed on by kissing, shaking hands, sharing food or cutlery, toilet seats or in swimming pools.
There are a number of ways in which you can reduce the risk of HIV infection:
• use a condom or femidom;
• never share any device which punctures the skin unless it has been properly sterilised: This includes hypodermic needles, syringes, ear-piercing equipment, tattoo and acupuncture needles.
You can be tested at a Genito-Urinary Clinic (e.g. at Dryburn see below) or by your doctor. Talk through with your doctor the implications of having the test done as if your GP is involved with testing you it will normally be added to your medical records. There is still, sadly, some possibility of prejudicial treatment against people who have taken the HIV test so you will need to think carefully about whether you really want to take the test and where you want to take it as well as what the result could mean. Help is available from the clinic, or you may wish to visit the University Counselling Service or DSU Advice Centre before taking a test.
Testing has become far more efficient and rapid HIV test are now available, they take 5 minutes to process a result.
LGB Students and safe sex
The more you socialise, the more guys and girls you're going to get to know. Getting into bed with someone might not be a problem, so we have drawn up a list of pointers that ought to see you SAFELY through the night. STD's (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) are a part of sexual society that aren't going away, so STAY SAFE:
• By using EXTRA-STRONG CONDOMS whenever you have penetrative sexual intercourse, and use plenty of WATER BASED LUBE. (Both are free from the LGBT officers at Dunelm House)
• By not sharing sex toys,
• By avoiding ejaculating in the mouth,
• By keeping fingernails short,
• By getting yourself EDUCATED as to the type of sex you want, and the best ways to stay safe whilst DOING IT!
Come and get a safe sex leaflet from the LGBT Association in the Blue Room, Level C, Dunelm House.
Remember: safe sex between partners is mutual and based on respect. The more comfortable you feel about the sex you are having, the better that sex will be! Stay safe!!
University Hospital of North Durham
(0191) 333 2660/1 (appointments)
(0191) 333 2927 (advice)
The doctor will ask you about any symptoms that you have had and about your general health. You may also be asked about your sex life. This is to enable the doctor to make an accurate diagnosis. You will also have a check-up. This involves an examination of the genital area. You will probably need to give a blood sample, a urine sample and a sample of any discharge. Usually you will then be asked to return in a few days for a diagnosis and to collect your prescription. If you do have a sexually transmitted disease then it is very important that you tell your partner because it is likely that they too are infected.