Dating in Midlife: The Importance of STI Screening
If you’re sexually active, it’s important to have STI screening. Check out this comprehensive study on sexually transmitted infections.
Every year in the United States, more than 20 million new sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are reported, half of which occur in young people between the ages of 15 and 24. Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also show that one out every 208 people in America has chlamydia, equating to more than 1.5 million people.
These statistics show just how frighteningly common STIs are and indicate a degree of naivety about sex, especially amongst midlife daters. A one-night stand may be spontaneous, but it could easily lead to undesirable long-lasting consequences. Likewise, if you or your partner in a relationship don’t fully know each other’s sexual history before engaging in intercourse, there could be some horrific news to be broken in the future.
The Importance of STI Screening
If there is a silver lining to STIs, it’s that they can be overcome if detected at a sufficiently early stage so that they aren’t given time to develop. It’s most unlikely that you’ll notice an STI yourself, so it is essential that you go for a full screening. This is the one way through which you’ll realize whether you have been infected. If the test is negative, you will be relieved of any fears that you may have had an infection. If an STI is spotted, it could be early enough so that you’ll arrange treatment for it before it is given a chance to develop into something which prompts health complications such as infertility, swollen joints and inflammation of the heart, brain or spinal cord.
Who should go for STI screening?
The answer is quite straightforward – everyone. Even if you have never had sex in your life, you may have had an STI transferred to you. All it takes is simple skin-on-skin contact from a person who has been infected, so an innocuous hug or handshake could be sufficient to transmit an STI. If you’ve been infected without knowing it, it’s unbelievably easy to then pass that infection on to someone else without ever intending to do so. That’s another reason why you should never leave yourself in any doubt about the potential presence of an STI. If you know you’re clear, at least you won’t have to worry about passing an infection on, although the danger of having one transmitted to you remains if the other person is not so vigilant about their sexual health.
The Most Critical Reasons for STI Screening
- You have, at any point in your life, had unprotected sex. It shouldn’t happen but it does.
- A condom you were using came off or broke during sex.
- You or your partner has been in a sexual relationship with other people prior to the establishment of your current sexual relationship.
- You or your partner has shared injecting equipment.
- You are about to begin a new sexual relationship.
- You have any doubts, no matter how minor or distant, that you may have been infected at some stage.
Incubation Period for STIs
The periods of incubation for STIs will vary depending on the specific infection. If you go for screening during the period of incubation, you should get screened again after the incubation period ends so that you will have fully confirmed reports which eliminate any trace of doubt about the presence of an STI. Incubation periods for the most common STIs are:
- 1-5 days for chlamydia
- 2-6 days for gonorrhea
- 9-11 days for HIV
- 2-7 weeks for hepatitis A
- 3-6 weeks for syphilis
- 4-6 weeks for oral or genital herpes
- 6 weeks for hepatitis B
- 8-9 weeks for hepatitis C
The STI screening process doesn’t have to be so daunting or uncomfortable
You will need to submit some details about your sexual history, but this is purely for informational purposes so that the most accurate test results can be established. The doctor or nurse may need to take swabs from your reproductive area, mouth or any ulcers or open sores, although there is a good chance that this won’t be necessitated.
You should be free to enjoy having sex with your long-term partner, especially if you intend to start a family, so getting screened and receiving the all-clear will allow you to do so. You and your partner must be honest with each other about your histories of intercourse, particularly if you’re starting out on a sexual relationship together. Once this has been fully disclosed, then it’s a case of being sensible during sex and not taking any needless risks which could have damaging, lasting consequences.
Life will present enough burdens without you creating your own, so get screened for potential STIs as soon as you can and you’ll either be able to put any such worries to rest or act quickly enough to stop an infection from ruining your life.
This article was written by Maria O’Driscoll from Union Quay Medical Centre in Cork, Ireland, where she works as the company’s Practice Manager. She regularly writes about health-related topics such as sexual health and she is a strong advocate of STI screening and the practice of safe sex.