Evie, Wellbeing Champion for the Counselling, Health & Wellbeing Service, talks about looking after your sexual health…
Sexual health is a topic which isn’t talked about in detail. It seems awkward to talk about and nothing seems sexy about discussing your sexual health with a potential partner. It is currently “SEXtember” which is a monthly campaign promoting sexual health awareness throughout September, highlighting the importance of good sexual health and promoting talking about sexual health matters openly. In honour of this, we are giving you our 5 things every student can to do to keep their sexual health in check.
1. Always use a condom!
I know it seems cliché to say but it really is the best form of contraception as, unlike other methods of contraception (such as the contraceptive implant or the contraceptive pill), condoms can prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is always best to use two methods of contraception like the contraceptive pill and a condom to prevent pregnancy. However, if you don’t have the implant or another method of contraceptive, you should always use a condom.
Some men (and even some women) prefer not to use them and make many different claims:
“I don’t need to use one – I’m healthy”
It is impossible to tell if someone has an STI just by looking at them! Just because you cannot see any rashes or warts doesn’t mean they don’t have symptoms and in some cases the symptoms have not shown up yet. Some STIs such as genital warts and herpes can lay dormant for months or even years before any symptoms appear.
“They are expensive”
You should always keep condoms with you and around the house. This solves the issue that if a partner says they are too expensive, you always have them with you. You can also get free condoms from community contraception clinics, sexual health clinics or even the Student’s Union (see more information about the C-Card Scheme below or you can pick up a condom at any time from the free dispensers at the reception of the Students’ Union or the Heath hub). If you are going to buy condoms, always make sure you buy condoms with the CE logo on it as this means that they meet the current EU standards.
“I don’t need to use one – we have been seeing each other for a while”
STIs like chlamydia can go unnoticed for a long time. You should always discuss your sexual health with a partner and get checked regularly. If your partner is unfaithful without you realising, then they can also pick up STIs then.
“The sex isn’t as good”
Your sexual health is far more important than a few minutes of pleasure.
2. Avoid perfumed soaps for cleaning down there
Using perfumed soaps can be dangerous for your genitals. It can affect the balance of Ph and the levels of bacteria which could lead to irritation. It is best to be very gentle, use plain soaps and you should wash once a day to keep everything running smoothly.
3. Always be prepared
Sex can be associated with drinking, so it’s always best to be prepared for whatever might happen. Not only can alcohol make you regret having sex, it can also change your decisions and the way you act. A few tips around alcohol and sex:
- Be prepared. If you think you may have sex, then make sure that you always carry some condoms as you might not have access to them later. You could keep them in a part of your wallet or purse, or in the zip section of a bag if you don’t want them to be be visible.
- Stay in contact with friends and this way they know where you are and that you are safe.
- Know that you have the right to say no at any point during the lead up to and during the act of sexual intercourse.
Watch a great video on sexual consent here!
4. Follow the 5 rules for using condoms
This feels like it should be common knowledge but it isn’t. Many people do not know these five rules that are essential to use condoms properly
- New sex = New condom. Every time you have sex, you need a new condom
- One at a time. Using two condoms at the same time can increase friction meaning that they are more likely to break.
- 30 minute rule. If you are having a long session, then condoms should be changed every 30 minutes, as excessive use can mean that they are more likely to break.
- Keep them cool. Heat can damage condoms so make sure you keep them somewhere cool and dry.
- They don’t last forever! Make sure you check the expiry date on them before using them and buy more if necessary.
5. Get regular checks
Despite popular belief, you don’t need to have sex to have an STI. You can get STIs from having oral sex. It is better to be checked than to be sorry. Finding out you have an STI isn’t great but it means it could be treated sooner. Putting it off would not help anyone. Even if you aren’t showing symptoms but you are sexually active, could still mean you have an STI as not everyone shows symptoms straight away.
The NHS provides a clinic at Cardiff Royal Infirmary which keeps all patients’ information confidential. Cardiff Royal Infirmary is equipped to deal with most issues.
For more details on sexual health check-ups visit: https://www.cardiffstudents.com/advice/health-and-wellbeing/sexual-health/
For more information about STIs, please visit the NHS website.
Cardiff University’s C-Card Scheme
SHAG (Sexual Health Awareness Group) run a C-Card Scheme once a week on Wednesdays, providing free condoms, lube and dental dams every week.
The next C-Card event is on Wednesday 4th October from 13:00-15:00 in Room 3D, Third Floor, Students’ Union. For more information or to ask any questions about the Scheme, please contact SHAG – firstname.lastname@example.org – or you can like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @sexualhealthCU.
If you don’t fancy visiting the C-Card Scheme, you can pick up condoms at any time for free from Cardiff University sexual health dispensers in the Students’ Union reception and Heath hub.
So, what now?
It’s not difficult to keep your sexual health in check. You must simply be smart and mature about it all.
The best thing you can do right now is to get yourself checked. It is not as awkward and embarrassing as everyone makes out, so why don’t you book an appointment? It is always better to get it sorted as soon as possible.
Contact the Counselling Health & Wellbeing Service
If you are experiencing any kind of emotional distress, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service who can offer support to anybody experiencing any sort of difficulty, however big or small.
The Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service offer booked appointments via an online referral questionnaire, in which friendly, approachable staff can offer you non-judgmental support in a safe and confidential space. They also offer a daily Wellbeing Walk-In Service (3pm-3.45pm: Monday–Friday and Wednesday mornings: 9.30am-10.15am at the Student Support Centre at 50 Park Place)
If you are worried that you are experiencing physical symptoms that may be affecting your health, we strongly advise you to make a GP appointment to discuss this. If you do not already have a GP, please contact NHS Wales on 0845 46 47 or check out their website.
Have you found this blog post useful? Please help us by commenting in the comments bar below, and if there is anything further you’d like to know ask your questions there too.
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Evie Ballard, Wellbeing Champion.
Your Student Life, Supported.
The Student Support Centre has a range of services dedicated to helping students make the most of their time at University, including: Advice & Money, Careers & Employability, Counselling, Health & Wellbeing, Disability & Dyslexia and International Student Support.
The Student Support Centres are located at 50 Park Place, Cathays Campus and Cardigan House, Heath Park Campus. For further details of services, events, opening times and more find us on the University Intranet.