Sexual health covers many issues including safe sex, STIs, sexual organ health and pregnancy.
A culture of silence, shame secrecy or negative messages about our bodies and sex, prevents many of us from talking about concerns and experiences. We may fear we are the only ones to have a problem or feel a certain way. We may worry about a negative response if we do tell someone, or we just feel too embarrassed to bring up an issue. As a result anxiety can grow and problems can become exacerbated.
Information on this page is about keeping our sexual organs healthy. If you have concerns about your sexuality then check out our page on sexuality, or if it is concern about the actual sex act, then look at our sex and more sex page. If your more interested in your gender identity then have a look at our gender identity page.
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Below you will find three common blocks (barriers and misconceptions) that can prevent us from looking after our sexual health.
I don't know what normal is
In terms of the arrangement of sex organs the variety is astonishing. A significant portion of our population can also have a mix of sex characteristics - about the same percentage of people who have red hair. And then there is all the variance amongst sexual organs and how they function (e.g. erections, pain, periods, etc). On top of this things can change for us over time - as a result of pregnancy, infections, how we use our sexual organs, hormones, and age. Check out the playsafe site if you want to get some answers online. However, it is worth setting your mind at rest and getting a definitive assessment from a medical professional.
I'm in pain
Know that help is available and get help early (e.g. regular medical checks). Actually some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have no symptoms but are easily diagnosed and treated, preventing longer term problems such as loss of fertility (in the case of chlamydia, for example).
Sometimes pain can be caused by tension and muscle contractions, so it isn't always an STI. So as a a rule of thumb, if you are experiencing pain then see a medical doctor and have things checked out - whilst this might be an anxiety producing situation for you, once done then you are armed with knowledge and that allows change.
In the section 'Need more info' you can find some helpful services.
I'm pregnant / my partner's pregnant!
Depending on your aims and goals in life, or the time of life, being pregnant may not always fit in with your desires. If you want to explore your options it is vital to find a service that offers all the alternatives, and counselling if required, so that you can feel comfortable reaching a decision. In South Australia, the Pregnancy Advisory Centre is a good starting place.
Contrary to what we often hear, many women do not find their response to an unplanned pregnancy to be a difficult decision, for others it can be very difficult and it can be useful to talk this through with a counselling service specialising in this area, or by reading some quality information. Good information about the myths around unplanned pregnancies can be found on the Children by Choice website.
Below are three things you can do to boost success.
Be informed about all the aspects of sexual health
Maintaining the health of the sexual organs, which is what we have been focusing on here, is one aspect of the bigger picture of sexual health. It is also about feeling comfortable with your sexuality and gender identity (to see more information on this look at our sexuality and gender identity pages), and feeling comfortable with sexual contact (for more information on this check out the sex and more sex page).
Get a sexual health check
We are regularly checked throughout our lives for all sorts of ailments, and our sexual organs are just another set of organs that need some taking care of. It is a good idea to find health professionals (GPs in particular) that you are comfortable with so you can discuss these matters - and remember for them it is just another organ and they are very comfortable talking, examining and discussing this. There are some services that specialise in sexual health checks which can help to put you at ease.
Check out the playsafe site for some answers online.
Talk about contraception and infection prevention
It is useful to revisit your contraception methods and infection prevention from time to time to make sure it is the best possible choice for you. Don't assume that it is all taken care of by a partner. Whilst it can be a bit of a struggle to talk to a partner about addressing contraception and preventing infections it is also an important part of working out how someone is going to treat you. Why not gather some evidence early on?
Need more info?
Refer to our Sex, more sex page for information on problems, concerns, consent etc.