How To Have Control Over Your Sexual Decisions

When making decisions around sex, it’s important that you feel that they are the right ones for you. Sex should be a positive and enjoyable experience because it involves your body and your emotions and if you make the wrong decisions around it, it can have a negative impact on your life and health. Here’s what you should know:

Substance and alcohol abuse

Alcohol and other substances can affect the decisions you make about sex. Research shows that when people are intoxicated, they make decisions around sex which they would not normally make if they were sober.

Staying safe

If you’re having a night out and think you might have sex with someone, it’s important to decide beforehand what you want to do. Once you have made that decision, you need to stick to it. If you think you might have unprotected sex once you have been drinking or taking drugs, consider not doing so. This will help you have power in your decision-making.

Negotiating safe sex

If you want to practise safe sex, here’s what you can do:

  • Make sure you have a supply of condoms always available. Condoms offer dual protection from unwanted pregnancy, HIV and other STIs.
  • Be clear that you want to use a condom and if your partner disagrees, you can decide not to have sex.

Remember, if you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Messagea Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).

Its not too late to start using condoms

While being in a committed relationship with someone can be really fulfilling, it’s important to still use condoms every time you have sex, even if you know each others HIV status. Have you and your partner stopped using protection? Here’s how to reintroduce condoms in your relationship.

Have an honest and open conversation with bae about your sex habits

While sex isn’t the only important thing in your relationship, it can have a huge impact on how happy you are with your partner. That’s why it’s so important that you and bae have a chat about your sex life.

Keep in mind that safe sex habits are negotiated between you and your partner. So, when you chat with bae about safe sex, be open to talk about your current sex habits. Discuss consent and sexual reproductive rights. Be free to talk about each other’s plans for the future and how condom-use during sex can help each of you to meet those plans. You can also encourage each other to get tested for STIs and HIV.

Educate yourself about condoms

Condoms don’t get the appreciation they deserve, in my opinion. Did you know that condoms are the only contraceptive method that protects you from sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), while preventing your chances of falling pregnant?

Condoms are also non-hormonal contraceptives, which means that you don’t have to worry about weight gain, mood swings, low energy levels or any other side effects for that matter. They’re also free, so you don’t have to spend any money to get them. If you or bae is allergic to latex condoms that’s no reason to stop either. You and your partner can go to the nearest health clinic and ask for non-latex condoms.

You can choose to use either male or female condoms. You and your partner can have a conversation about the kind of condom that best suits your lifestyle. Whichever condom you choose, remember that the responsibility to carry condoms doesn’t lie on you only. Both you and your partner are equally responsible for carrying condoms.

Where can you get condoms

You can get male and female condoms from your nearest health facility (clinic, hospital or your doctor). These condoms are free and come in a variety of flavours. You and bae could also buy your condoms at any supermarket, convenience store or pharmacy. Just remember to check for the expiration date and make sure that the condom isn’t damaged.

Keep in mind that a healthy relationship should allow both of you to make responsible decisions about your sex life. Using condoms is really the best way to enjoy a healthy lifestyle without having to worry about the risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection or falling pregnant.

If you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Messagea Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).

Allergic Reaction or STI?

Do you freak out anytime you notice an unusual bump, rash, or discomfort down there? It’s normal to automatically think you’ve contracted an STI. However, an STI and an allergic reaction can present similar symptoms, so it’s important to know the difference. Here’s more,

Similar symptoms presented in both STIs and allergic reactions

It’s important to remember that symptoms vary from person to person and range from mild to severe, and you could have symptoms of both at the same time.

  • Unusual discharge from the vagina, penis, or anus
  • Pain when peeing
  • Lumps or skin growths around the genitals
  • A rash
  • Itchy genitals
  • Blisters and sores around genitals
  • pain and discomfort in the lower abdominal area

An allergic reaction in your vagina or on your vulva shares a lot of symptoms with yeast or bacterial infections (itching, redness, irritation, and sometimes discharge). But unlike infections, with an allergy, the symptoms will show immediately after the point of contact.

While they can be annoying and uncomfortable, most skin allergies are not serious. They can be treated with over-the-counter allergy creams or a cool bath. However, it’s best to consult with your healthcare provider.

Here’s some allergens that can affect your vagina and vulva;

Sperm

You can actually be allergic to your partner’s sperm. This condition is called seminal plasma hypersensitivity. After exposure to ejaculation, you may have severe itching and swelling at the point of contact.

Latex condoms

Natural latex is made from the rubber tree, and it can contain certain proteins that might trigger your immune system, causing an allergic reaction. Symptoms include itching, rashes, or hives. Here are some alternative options.

Spermicide

Many condoms are pre-coated with spermicide, a chemical designed to kill sperm. If your allergic reaction is not triggered by sperm or the latex in the condom, you could be allergic to the spermicide coating on the condom. However, it’s important to always practice safe sex and your healthcare provider will be able to advise on options that are more suitable for you.

Fragrant feminine products

Your vagina does not need douches, intimate sprays, or vaginal wipes to be clean and healthy. These feminine hygiene products can throw off the balance of good and bad bacteria inside your vagina, potentially triggering an infection.

 STIs

Although some STIs have no signs or symptoms (asymptomatic) you can still pass the infection to your partner during unprotected sexual intercourse. It’s imperative to use protection during sex and visit your healthcare provider regularly for STI screening so you can identify, treat an infection and avoid spreading it.

If untreated, STIs can increase your risk of acquiring another STI such as HIV. This happens because an STI can stimulate an immune response in the genital area or cause sores, either of which might raise the risk of HIV transmission during unprotected sex.

If you experience symptoms that you are not familiar with and you don’t know what’s causing them, it’s best to see a healthcare provider to determine the cause to avoid self-diagnosis.

If you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send a Facebook message or a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).

 

Cuffing season? Tips to protect yourself

As the weather gets colder and the days get darker, people look for comfort in a lot of ways. Some of these ways include hooking-up, situationships or even regniting an old flame. This often leads to “baby making weather”. This can be risky, so here’s some tips to protect yourself.

What is ‘Cuffing’ season

Relationships in the winter are also known as cuffing season which begins as soon as it starts getting cold and lasts until it starts to get warm. This type of relationship can end badly when people are not on the same page. One person may be invested in the relationship more than the other. Be sure that both of you have the same intention around the relationship.

If they say they’re only looking for something temporary or don’t want to commit, don’t assume they’ll eventually change their mind. To avoid heartbreak avoid committing to this type of relationship if you’re looking for something more long-term.

Don’t rush into a relationship

Dating out of loneliness or boredom leads to unhealthy relationships. Remember you can always lean on friends and family, and do activities you enjoy to help with some of that loneliness and boredom during this winter season.

Invest in yourself

Use the winter season to invest in yourself by improving your skills, catching -up on some reading time, or doing the things you like doing to distract yourself from cuffing.

Practice safe sex

Talking about sex can be uncomfortable but getting on the same page is necessary to avoid confusing or stressful situations. Remember that all hook-ups should be safe and you should consider carrying your own condoms to avoid tricky situations in the heat of the moment. Using a condom can prevent unplanned pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), if used correctly.

With winter in full force, it doesn’t mean you should feel the pressure to be in a relationship and remember, just because you start a relationship during winter doesn’t mean it will last. Healthy and successful relationships are built on more than baby-making weather/cuffing. Be safe Chomas!

If you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send a Facebook message or a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).

 

Contraception Q&A: Part 2

You’ve probably read part one, and as promised, here’s part two of me answering some more common contraceptive questions I’ve received in my DMs and on AskChoma.

Question: What are the side effects of contraceptives?

Depending on which contraceptive method you’re on, you might experience similar or different side effects. The most common side effects associated with contraceptives are:

Weight gain

Headaches

Sore breasts

Irregular periods

Mood changes

Decreased sexual desire

Acne

Nausea

All these side effects depend on how your body reacts to the contraceptive and it’s not the same for everyone. If you do have side effects, they should go away on their own after a few months (usually three months). It’s advisable to visit your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

Question: Do I have to tell my parents about taking a contraceptive?

If you decide to tell your parents or guardian that you’re taking or considering being on a contraceptive, you’ll want to put some thought into how to tell them. They may assume you’re sexually active, which may result in them asking you questions that might make you feel uncomfortable. Their reaction might also make you re-consider, but remember to think about what is best for you, depending on your sexual status.

Although it may seem scary, an advantage of speaking to your parent/caregiver about such topics is that is creates open communication between you and them. This’ll enable you to feel more comfortable to discuss any matters openly in future, and create a more supportive environment at home.

If you’re 16 or older, you can usually be given the contraceptive (without parental consent) at your local clinic, depending on its safety for you. If you’re under the age of 16, the process will be slightly different. It’s best to get some guidance from an adult you trust or a healthcare provider before starting a contraceptive.

Question: What’s the morning after pill?

If you have sex without using any contraceptive, or the contraceptive method failed (eg. the condom broke during sex), you can use the morning after pill to prevent pregnancy. It should ONLY be used in an emergency and not for regular prevention. It’s most effective when taken as soon as possible after having unprotected sex.

Question: Where can I get the morning after pill?

You can get the morning after pill at any local pharmacy without a prescription. You can also get them at your local clinic for free.

Question: Is the morning after pill a termination (abortion) pill?

The morning after pill won’t work if you’re already pregnant, so it cannot terminate a pregnancy in any way. It’s also not a good idea to use this pill if you’re already pregnant.

Question: Can Coke and Disprin be used to terminate a pregnancy?

Coke and Disprin does NOT work in terminating a pregnancy, but instead pose a health risk the same goes for other dangerous DIY contraceptive methods. Don’t compromise your health, rather go to your nearest clinic or pharmacy if you need emergency contraceptives.

If you have more questions about contraceptives, or need help accessing contraceptives, feel free to send me a DM. It’s advisable to always check in with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

If you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Messagea Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).

Talking to your partner about contraception

Contraceptives aren’t just a woman’s responsibility. Men benefit from the use of contraceptives in many ways, including being able to decide when to have children as well as protecting themselves and their partners from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Talking to your partner about contraception is the best way to make mutual decisions that’ll protect and benefit both of you.

Importance of using contraceptives

When one partner leaves the decision about contraception up to just their partner, they not only create an unfair burden for that partner, but also lose their own ability to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. By failing to take responsibility for contraception, too many couples become parents before they’re capable or willing.

Talk about contraceptive options

The first step is to discuss the different contraceptive options with your partner. Although condoms can protect against STIs and unplanned pregnancy, there’s a chance they could break. This is why it’s advisable to talk to your partner about the dual protection method.

It’s important to talk about how comfortable each partner is with using long term or short term contraceptive methods, including the side effects. Both partners are responsible for their health, and you should never feel pressured to be on hormonal contraceptives just because your partner refuses to take responsibility.

Sharing decisions

Having a conversation with your partner about contraceptives is a good way to see how interested they are in participating in the process, which can also be an opportunity to assess if they’re a good choice as a sexual partner. By sharing decisions and being on the same page about birth control, you and your partner can both be protected.

Both partners are responsible

Our culture and media rarely address male responsibility in the prevention of STIs and unplanned pregnancies. The societal messages about contraception often ignore the impact that unprotected sex can have on men, so it’s important to involve your partner in these conversations.

Most partners should want what’s best for you as well as for themselves, so you shouldn’t accept excuses when talking to your partner about contraceptive options. If your partner isn’t willing to listen to your needs, it may be a good time to re-evaluate the relationship.

Remember, if you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send a Facebook message or a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).

Signs of infertility in men and women

Infertility is a diagnosed condition, meaning you can’t get pregnant after having unprotected, regular sex for six months to one year, depending on your age. Often, women are blamed for infertility, but did you know that both men and women can be the cause of it? Here’s more.

Infertility in men

Testosterone levels

Testosterone is a key hormone for male fertility- if the testicles don’t produce enough of this hormone, it can lead to infertility.

Erectile dysfunction

This is when a man has difficulty getting or maintaining a firm enough erection to have sexual intercourse. If this becomes a regular occurrence, it may interfere with trying to conceive.

Obesity

Obesity is often linked with infertility because it can increase the risk for other conditions that may impact a man’s fertility, such as sperm quality and sexual dysfunction.

Infertility in women

Pain during sex

Pain during sex can be a sign of an underlying health problem, which can influence a woman’s fertility. The health-related issues which can cause this can include infections, endometriosis, and fibroids. You should visit your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you’re experiencing pain during sexual intercourse.

Irregular periods

Irregular periods can be a sign that you’re not regularly ovulating, which can contribute to infertility. Irregular ovulation can be due to many issues, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), obesity, being underweight, and thyroid issues.

Hormonal changes

Hormonal changes can sometimes go unnoticed. Fluctuations in hormonal levels can cause:

Unexplained weight gain

Severe acne

Cold feet and hands

Reduced sex drive or loss of sexual desire

Nipple discharge

Facial hair in females

Thinning hair on the top of the head

Other health related conditions (cysts, menopause, cancer, obesity, STIs, chronic stress)

Substance abuse 

If you’re experiencing signs of infertility and you’ve been trying to conceive for more than a year, consider going to your nearest clinic with your partner and speak to a healthcare provider. It’s important for both partners to be examined by the healthcare provider because infertility affects both men and women.

If you’ve been diagnosed with infertility, know that you’re not alone and there is help for you if you’re going through this challenging time. It’s important to be aware that there is treatment for infertility, and many other options you can explore if you’re unable to conceive naturally.

Remember, if you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send a Facebook message or a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).

6 common questions about menstruation: Q&A

It’s normal to have questions about your menstrual cycle. Truth is, most of us still don’t fully understand what’s happening to our bodies during that time of the month. Here are 6 common questions I receive often about menstruation.

Question 1: Why do I feel pain when I’m on my period?

Period pains are normal, and most women experience them. They are muscle cramps that mostly occur in the abdomen area, and they can sometimes spread to your back. The pain usually occurs a few days before you get your period and during your period.

Some pain, cramping, and discomfort during your period is normal. However, excessive pain that causes you to miss work or school is not, and you should consider seeing your healthcare provider if you experience excessive pain.

Here are some tips to relieve the pain during your period.

Question 2: Will I fall pregnant if I have sex on my period?

Yes, it’s possible to fall pregnant if you have unprotected sex on your period.  Every time you engage in unprotected sex, you increase your chances of falling pregnant. Irregular periods are common, which can make it hard to track your menstrual cycle. To fully protect yourself from unplanned pregnancy, consider dual protection method

Question 3: Why is my period blood dark, red and sometimes pink?

Blood color during menstruation varies from almost black or brown to shades of red and pink, and that is totally normal. See your healthcare provider if your period blood is accompanied by large clots, severe cramping, and excessively prolonged periods.

Question 4: I’ve missed my period, am I pregnant? 

Missed or late periods happen for many reasons other than pregnancy, Choma. You can read my article on other possible reasons for missing your period. If you’ve engaged in unprotected sex latelym it would be wise to take a pregnancy test.

Question 5: I can go 2 months without seeing my period, is that normal?

There are many causes of irregular periods, ranging from stress to more serious underlying medical conditions. Change of lifestyle, birth control, fibroids, endometriosis, cysts etc. can all contribute to irregular periods.   

If you’ve missed 3 or more periods in a row, and you’re not pregnant, you should visit your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Question 6: Why am I seeing blood clots during my period?

It’s normal to pass some small, yet visible, blood clots during menstruation. Blood can be mixed with mucus and look like a clot. However, if you see a clot the size of a quarter or larger, that is not normal, and you should see your healthcare provider because this could be a sign of a serious health condition.

It’s important to keep track of your menstrual cycle by checking if your menstrual cycle presents any out of the ordinary symptoms. If you have any other questions, you can ask me or visit your healthcare provider.

Remember, if you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send a Facebook message or a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).

HPV vaccination: Why you should get it by Dr T

HPV (Human Papillomavirus) infection is one of the most contracted sexually transmitted illnesses (STIs). Though HPV is usually harmless and can go away by itself, certain types can lead to cancer or genital warts. When we get vaccinated for HPV, our bodies respond by creating antibodies that’ll fight the virus if we get infected.

Before I begin, it’s important to note that HPV vaccination doesn’t protect against other STIs such as HIV, chlamydia, etc. The vaccine isn’t a contraceptive either- if a person doesn’t want to fall pregnant, they’ll need to use a contraceptive and condoms to practise safer sex.

HPV can cause skin warts

HPV is known for causing skin or mucous membrane growths called warts. Although our body’s immune system can defeat an HPV infection before it creates warts, when they do appear, they can vary in appearance depending on which type of HPV you have. The most common type is genital warts which appear mostly on the vulva, but can also occur near the anus, cervix, in the vagina, penis or scrotum. They can appear as flat lesions, or small cauliflower-like bumps. Genital warts rarely cause discomfort or pain, though they may itch or feel tender.

HPV can cause cancer

There are more than 100 types of HPV . Some types of HPV infection can lead to certain types of cancer. Cervical cancer is the most common, but HPV can also cause cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, or the throat. HPV is thought to be responsible for more than 90% of anal and cervical cancers, about 70% of vaginal and vulvar cancers, and 60% of penile cancers. 

Infertility

HPV can increase the risk of developing cancerous cells in your cervix, which could affect your fertility and pregnancy journey.

Symptoms aren’t always visible

The tricky thing about HPV is that it doesn’t always have signs or symptoms, so you could easily have the virus and not know it. Early cervical cancer also doesn’t show any symptoms so it’s important to go for regular screening tests to detect any changes in the cervix that might lead to cancer.

A pap smear is the key recommended screening test to detect cervical cancer and I recommend that girls go for their first pap smear as young as possible.

Prevention is key – get vaccinated

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine HPV vaccination for girls and boys aged 11 and 12, although it can be given as early as age 9. It’s ideal for girls and boys to receive the vaccine before they have sexual contact and are exposed to HPV. Response to the vaccine is better the younger you are, and before infection. Once someone is infected with HPV, the vaccine might not be as effective or might not work at all.

In South Africa, the Department of Health routinely vaccinates young girls in schools from Grade 4, or from the ages of 9. It’s important to understand why girls receive the vaccine at schools, and to encourage your parents and other girls to receive the vaccine when called upon to do so.

The recommendation is that all 11 and 12-year-olds receive two doses of HPV vaccine at least six months apart.

Younger adolescents ages 9 and 10 and teens ages 13 and 14 also are able to receive vaccination on the updated two-dose schedule.

Teens and young adults who begin the vaccine series later, at ages 15 through 26, should continue to receive three doses of the vaccine. 

Side effects of HPV vaccination

The side effects are usually mild. The most common side effects of HPV vaccines include soreness, swelling or redness at the injection site.

Getting vaccinated against HPV infection is your best protection from cervical cancer.  Vaccines can help protect against the strains of HPV most likely to cause genital warts or cervical cancer.

Remember, if you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send a Facebook message or a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng (MBChB) is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, a medical doctor at DISA Clinic in Johannesburg, with a focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as a senior lecturer and a broadcaster.

UTI or STI? Know the difference

Did you know that Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) share symptoms similar to Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), and are misdiagnosed more often than you may think? Here’s how to tell if it’s a UTI or STI and what’s the difference 

What is Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of your urinary system, which includes your kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra. It’s very common in women and there are many causes of UTIs, which you can read about. Symptoms include:

More frequent peeing than usual

Odourless vaginal discharge

Burning sensation while peeing

Cloudy urine, although infection is still possible if urine is clear

Blood in your pee

Slight pain in the lower abdomen or pelvic area

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, I advise you to visit your healthcare provider. UTIs are easily treatable with prescribed antibiotics.

Protecting yourself from a UTI

Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself from UTIs:

Wipe from front to back after going to the toilet

Pee immediately after having sex

Drink plenty of water so that fluid is always moving through your system

What are Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)?

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are infections generally transmitted through unprotected sexual contact with an infected partner. There many types of STI, with common symptoms such as:

Pain during intercourse

Lumps in the groin

Itchiness

Abnormal discharge from your vagina or penis

Genital blisters or rash

Heavier, more painful periods or bleeding outside your normal periods

STIs may require different treatments depending on the infection. If you’re experiencing STI symptoms, visit your nearest clinic as soon as possible for an STI screening.

You can protect yourself from STIs by always using a condom whenever you engage in sexual intercourse and going for regular STI screening. If possible, I encourage you to screen with your partner.

UTIs and STIs have many of the same symptoms and sex can be involved in getting either. This is why it’s important to know the difference and see a healthcare provider if you’re not sure.

Remember, if you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send a Facebook message or a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).