Part 1 of 3: Overview
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are passed through vaginal, anal, or oral sexual contact. Female symptoms of an STD can include vaginal itching, rashes, unusual discharge, and pain. Many sexually transmitted infections display no symptoms at all. Left untreated, STDs can lead to fertility problems and an increased risk of cervical cancer, making it all the more important to practice safe sex. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), untreated STDs cause infertility in at least 24,000 women annually in the United States.
Part 2 of 3: Prevention
All women should take certain preventive measures to avoid catching or transmitting STDs.
According to the Office on Women’s Health, you should talk to your doctor about STD testing if you are sexual active. Women should get a Pap smear every year, and should ask their doctor whether the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination is suggested for them. It’s also important to ask if you should be tested for any other STDs.
Insist Your Partner Wear a Condom
Whether it’s for vaginal, anal, or oral sex, a condom can help protect you both. Spermicides and other forms of contraception may protect against pregnancy but they do not protect against STDs. Female condoms and dental dams can provide a certain level of protection. Opinion is still divided as to whether they are as effective as the male condom in preventing transmission of STDs.
Honest communication with both your doctor and your partner about sexual history is essential.
Part 3 of 3: Symptoms
Women should also be aware of potential STD symptoms so that they can seek medical advice if necessary. Some of the most common symptoms are described below.
Changes in Urination
Any pain or burning sensation during urination, the need to pee more frequently, or the presence of blood in the urine can indicate an STD.
Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
The look and consistency of vaginal discharge changes continually through a woman’s cycle, and most women know that a thick, white cottage cheese discharge is a sign of a yeast infection. Fewer women are aware that yellow or green discharge might indicate gonorrhea or trichomoniasis.
Itching in the Vaginal Area
Itching is a non-specific symptom that may or may not be related to a STD. Sex-related causes for vaginal itching may include an allergic reaction to a latex condom, a yeast infection, pubic lice and/or scabies, genital warts, as well as the early phases of most bacterial and viral STDs..
Pain During Sex
This is an often-overlooked symptom but abdominal or pelvic pain can be a sign of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), most commonly caused by an advanced stage of infection with chlamydia or gonorrhea.
Abnormal bleeding is another possible sign of PID or other reproductive problems arising from an STD.
Rashes or Sores
Sores or tiny pimples around the mouth or vagina can indicate herpes, HPV, or even syphilis.
There is no foolproof method to protect against STDs other than through abstinence. By being aware of changes in one’s body and by practicing safe sex, women can protect themselves and their partners, making the transmission of an infection far less likely. (Medically Reviewed by Kenneth R. Hirsch, MD)