It's important to know how your body works, and be able to recognize when something isn't quite right. If something changes or doesn’t seem quite right, get checked by a qualified healthcare provider.
If you have any symptoms that you’re just not sure about, get evaluated. But you don’t have to have a symptom to get checked, though. All sexually active women under age 26 are recommended to be tested yearly for chlamydia. Older women with risk factors (new or several partners) should also be tested. If you have questions about testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), don’t be shy about talking to your healthcare provider (learn more how to do that here).
Also, ask about pelvic exams (see more below) and Pap tests. While not designed to detect STIs, these simple exams are an important part of a woman’s sexual and reproductive health. The American Cancer Society recommends women begin Pap testing within three years of first intercourse, or by age 21.
Heavy, prolonged periods or no periods at all
Either extreme can be a sign of trouble. The cause may be as simple as a hormone imbalance or as serious as a structural problem.
Get checked if:
Having cramps for a day or two of your period is normal, but if they’re severe enough to keep you from participating in your normal activities, it’s time to get checked.
This could be a sign of many things, such as endometriosis (tissue growing outside the uterus) for example, or other conditions. Get checked.
Toxic shock syndrome
This illness is caused by toxins, which create a bacterial infection. While linked with tampon use, it can also associated with the use of contraceptive sponge and diaphragm. If you have a high fever, diarrhea, vomiting or are in shock, get checked right away. Of course, the symptoms may not be related to toxic shock syndrome, but better to be safe than sorry.
If you are sexually active, you have to protect yourself from diseases and infections. Obviously, the best protection is abstinence, but if you are having sexual intercourse, use a condom every time.
Using a condom doesn’t mean you can forget about sexual health. You still need to be vigilant. Remember, many STIs do not produce symptoms.
However, if you notice any of the following:
Having a symptom doesn’t mean you have a disease. The symptoms (or lack of) are so many and varied, it’s hard to tell if, for example, bleeding between periods is simply the result of a normal, age-related hormone imbalance or a sexually transmitted infection. Get checked anyway.
Each year, one of every four sexually active teens will get an STD/STI. By age 25, half of all youth will have acquired one or more infections. If you have any symptoms that you’re just not sure about, get evaluated.
The whole exam is quick, painless and necessary.
Once a baseline has been established, any changes in your body will be noticeable and easier to diagnose. If an abnormality exists, it can be treated.
Bottom line? Pay attention to your body and how it works. Make sure a qualified healthcare provider is tracking your reproductive health. If something changes or doesn’t seem quite right, get checked.