Has your sex life come to a screeching halt due to herpes or bacterial vaginosis? While your health is obviously the main concern, the impact that conditions like this can have on your intimate relationships and dating life really sucks sometimes.
Whether you just got a diagnosis or you’ve completed a few rounds of treatment, the question of sex may be at the forefront of your mind.
When can I engage in sexual activities again? What kind of protection do I need to use? Are certain types of sex off limits? How do I communicate about my condition with my partner(s)? Will my sex life ever look the same again?!
Feeling overwhelmed with all of these questions is totally normal! After contracting an infection, everybody just wants things to return to ‘the way they were’. The best approach to deal with your anxiety and confusion is through education and self-care.
Be sure to remember this - if you’re in a relationship where you feel like your sexual availability and performance is more important than your personal health, it’s not a healthy relationship!
If you are struggling with toxic relational dynamics that become more evident due to your sexual unavailability, you may want to consult with a therapist or counselor.
How Soon Can I Have Sex Again After _______?
It’s important to make informed sexual decisions if you have an infection; chiefly, to protect your own health and wellbeing, but also out of consideration of your sexual partner(s). When pursuing treatment and communicating about your infection, make sure you have the support and guidance of a medical professional.
Keep in mind that regardless of what you’re dealing with, the right treatment and a bit of patience, a safe and fulfilling sex life is possible!
Let’s look at some common conditions and how quickly you can return to sex after treatment.
Oral Herpes, aka “cold sores,” & Genital Herpes
If you are experiencing a herpes outbreak, avoid any sexual contact until seven days after your sores have completely healed. Begin a treatment plan as soon as possible (be sure to choose an appropriate treatment for oral and genital symptoms), and use condoms whenever you have sex between outbreaks. Talk to your partner about herpes. It’s important that they’re informed and on your team throughout this process!
Unlike some of the other conditions discussed in this article, herpes may require a long-term treatment approach. Your partner will feel more confident and secure if they understand the game plan you’re utilizing to manage outbreaks and minimize the risk of spread.
Still wondering How To Discuss Herpes In Your Relationship?
Thankfully, antibiotics are a sure-fire treatment for chlamydia. Wait until 7 days after you complete your antibiotics before having sex again. It’s also a smart idea to get tested again a few months later to confirm that the infection is gone. Any long-term partners should undergo testing too, just to be safe.
If you have multiple sexual partners, it is essential to reach out and inform them of your infection so they can get tested. If you and your partner both acquire the infection, most states (except FL, OH, WV, KY) allow your doctor to write a “partner prescription” to begin treatment immediately.
Bacterial vaginosis is not an STI, but increased sexual activity can heighten your risk of developing this infection. Confused yet? Don’t be, just know that the main concern with this condition is ensuring you are healthy and pain-free before having sex again. Spreading BV between heterosexual partners is not a common issue, however, women can transfer BV through vaginal contact.
Wait until seven days after completing your bacterial vaginosis treatment before engaging in sexual activity. If you’re experiencing recurring BV, it may be helpful for you and your partner(s) to get an STI screening, just to rule out other possible infections or causes.
Urinary Tract Infections
Ah, UTIs—the burning discomfort associated with this infection is a feeling most women are all-to-familiar with. Fortunately, UTIs can’t be transmitted sexually. However, penetrative intercourse can worsen your infection and exacerbate pain. Most doctors recommend waiting until after completing UTI treatment before having sex.
Some vaginally-deposited UTI treatment options can be rendered ineffective by penetrative sex, making it particularly important to prioritize your healing before proceeding with any sexual activity involving your genitalia.
Yeast infections are not categorized as STIs because you can get one without sexual contact, however, they can sometimes spread through sex. It’s best to avoid sexual contact until your yeast infection treatment is completed. This is partly to minimize any risks of spreading, and partly to avoid further genital irritation.
Am I putting My Partner(s) at Risk?
Here’s your general rule of thumb when answering this question: if you have an STI or STD, it’s important that you avoid any kind of sexual contact (with or without protection), until treatment is completed and symptoms are gone. Typically, if you’re in doubt, that means you should avoid sexual contact. Regular sexual screening, at least once a year, is recommended for all sexually active individuals. In particular, if you have had Chlamydia, you should get checked to ensure the infection is completely clear, otherwise you may transmit the infection despite not showing any visible symptoms.
If you’re experiencing an infection that isn’t sexually-transmitted, the concern is primarily about you and whether sex will make your symptoms more painful or cause the infection to last longer.
It’s best to prioritize treatment and ensure that you’re in good health before engaging in sexual contact that involves any infected areas (for example, if you have bacterial vaginosis, giving a partner oral sex isn’t an issue). You and your partner may choose to engage in sexual activity that doesn’t involve infected areas, based on your personal comfort levels.
A good partner will treat you with courtesy and respect, allowing you to make the best decisions for your body without pressure. Don’t settle for anything less!
There’s no way around it, STIs, STDs and other infections do have an impact on your sex life. However, much of the stigma and unnecessary emotional upheaval caused by these conditions is minimized by an informed, modern approach in both treatment and approach.
Focus on clear, considerate communication, and follow the directions that accompany your treatment carefully. The sooner you pursue consistent treatment, the sooner you can return to safe and fulfilling sex!
Remember that the best way to clear up any further questions is to consult a medical professional. If in-person medical services are inaccessible or intimidating, online diagnosis and treatment is a viable and discreet option.