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Our sexual health is just as important as any other aspect of our mental and physical wellbeing. It’s important to know where to turn if you have any worries about your sexual and reproductive health. Read on to learn where you can get help if you have questions about contraception, think you might have an STI, or need help when you’re pregnant.
Sexual health is a term that we often associate with STIs, but it actually covers a much broader area. Common worries include:
Many of us have questions like this about our bodies, especially when it comes to sex. We might think that our genitals look odd or wonder whether other people feel the same way that we do. It isn’t a topic that we’re always able to talk about with other people, so it can be difficult to know what is normal or what to do when something is wrong. Our concerns can also change with our situation. You might spend years wondering about the best way to prevent pregnancy before having the opposite concern if you decide to start a family. The best place to get advice on your sexual health will depend on which aspect you are concerned about.
The Internet can be a great source of advice on your sexual health, as long as you are looking in the right places. It can be a particularly good starting point if you aren’t sure whether you need to see a doctor or if you’re feeling embarrassed about talking to someone face to face. However, it’s very important to choose the right websites so that you can trust the advice you receive. Don’t just Google something and click on the first page in the search results or wander into a forum and ask a group of strangers.
The most reliable online sources include:
You can learn a lot about sexual and reproductive health online, but reading about a condition or another person’s experiences isn’t always enough. Looking for advice online can be a good starting point because it can help you to recognise when you need medical help. Sometimes you’ll discover that you are completely normal and healthy, but if you still feel like something is wrong you will need to see a doctor.
You should always seek medical advice if you:
Many of us feel a bit uncomfortable or embarrassed about seeing a doctor for sexual health problems, but it’s important to remember that they are professionals who have seen it all before. Even if you feel self-conscious about your body, your doctor won’t even notice how you look as they’ll be focused on your symptoms. You will always be treated with the utmost respect and everything will be completely confidential.
Your GP can help with a lot of sexual health concerns, from providing contraception through to diagnosing STIs or menstrual problems. If you aren’t sure what is wrong or you want to see a familiar doctor, then visiting your GP can be a good choice. However, they might not be able to help in every case. If you need specialist tests or treatments then you may have to be referred on to a consultant or another clinic. You may have to wait a while to access these services through the NHS, but you can choose to see a private specialist instead.
Sexual health, family planning or GUM clinics can usually help with contraception advice and STI testing. Many of these clinics provide free services, but the help they can provide tends to be limited and may be focused on younger people. You will need to check which services are available before you visit. However, these kinds of clinics can be a good option if you just want to change your contraception or have an STI test, especially if you would rather not see your GP.
Another option is to go straight to a specialist. You will usually need to visit a private clinic in order to access a gynaecologist directly. You might also want to see a private gynaecologist if you are referred to one by your GP, as you should be able to get an appointment much faster. Women’s health specialists can help with all kinds of sexual health problems, from having a contraceptive IUD fitted to deciding what to do about an unplanned pregnancy.
Some doctors will specialise in a particular area so make sure you choose the right clinic. For example, you might need an abortion clinic, a fertility specialist or a gynaecologist who focuses on treating conditions like fibroids and endometriosis. You can learn more about your consultant from their website, which will help you to choose the best doctor for your needs.
Where do you turn when you need advice on your sexual health? Do you know any other good websites that offer helpful information and support?