The Shock of an STD
Originally Published: April 10, 2009
Revised: August 29, 2012
My friends and I worry a lot about getting pregnant. We don’t worry as much about getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD). This may be because we think you can easily tell if someone has an STD just by looking at him or her. But when it comes to something like STDs, guesswork should not be involved. Recently, I learned this lesson the hard way, when I contracted chlamydia.
Last summer, I had unprotected sex with a boy, who looked totally innocent, like he’d never had sex and couldn’t possibly have an STD. I now know that looking innocent doesn’t mean anything when it comes to STDs; I took a big risk by having unprotected sex with him.
A month later, I got into a relationship with my current boyfriend. When he and I were having sex a few months ago, the condom broke. I asked him, “Do you trust yourself to pull out?” and he said yes. So, we decided not to use a condom. (We also found condoms uncomfortable because of a lack of lubrication. I later realized this is easily solved by using water-based lubricant, which you can buy at a drugstore.) My boyfriend said he’d never had unprotected sex with anyone else, so we never even talked about STDs. All we worried about was pregnancy. So, it was a shock when two weeks later I had extreme pain in my lower abdomen.
I went to my doctor’s office to get tested for STDs. A few months before, I’d been tested for HIV, and the test came back negative. So, I wasn’t worried about that, especially since my boyfriend hadn’t had unprotected sex with anyone else.
Getting tested involves a pretty straightforward examination. During my pelvic exam, the doctor did a Pap test to check my cervix for irregular cells and swabbed my cervix to check for chlamydia and gonorrhea. The test was quick and painless.
I worried for two days, until my doctor called to tell me I had chlamydia.
After the phone call, I was in tears. Maybe I was naive, but I really thought the pain meant I had a stomach flu. I guess I thought there was no way it could happen to me. I was so embarrassed that I now had to tell my boyfriend that I had an STD and that he probably did, too. Really, I wish I’d just used condoms. I went through so much pain, stress and fear, and for what? A couple minutes of “fun.”
Luckily, chlamydia is a curable STD and I got treated with medication. Many STDs are curable, but that is no reason to shrug them off. STDs are serious and can cause complications if left untreated. It’s not surprising that STDs do go untreated, since many people have no symptoms. Some potential complications of chlamydia, if it’s left untreated in women, are pelvic inflammatory disease, tubal pregnancies and infertility. And if chlamydia goes untreated in men, it can potentially lead to sterility (a permanent inability to cause a pregnancy).
I was lucky that I had symptoms and went to the doctor. If you’ve had unprotected sex, even for a moment, go to your doctor or local family planning clinic and get tested. Also, don’t just worry about pregnancy. As my story unfortunately shows, a lot more can come out of unprotected sex than a pregnancy. Remember that when you have unprotected sex with somebody, you’re not just sleeping with them, but also their previous partners.
Using condoms or other latex barriers, like a dental dam, during vaginal, oral or anal sex is the best way to protect yourself and your partner against those STDs, which are transferred through bodily fluids (blood, semen, pre-cum and vaginal secretions). Besides skipping a condom that time, my boyfriend and I also should have gotten tested before we decided to have sex; that’s the best way to know your status.
After all that’s happened, I am doing OK. I’m still a little shocked, but also feeling stronger and wiser. Now, my boyfriend and I never have sex without condoms. I don’t plan on having sex with anyone else again, unless we have both been tested for STDs. I encourage you to wait until you’re absolutely ready to have sex, and if you’re going to have sex, make sure you and your partner get tested first, and use that latex! Take it from me, it’s a lot easier to buy condoms and dental dams than to get an STD.
Find a clinic near you. Got a question about STDs? Call the American Social Health Association’s STI Resource Center Hotline at 1-919-361-8488, 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern time, Monday through Friday.
Photo by prusakolep/Flickr
Please login to comment on this story
STDs. Those initials are a little menacing. But the full phrase, “sexually transmitted diseases,” is worse. STDs are those things health teachers show detailed, terrifying pictures of. Sometimes you just hear about the horrifying symptoms that…
Read Story »
In the fall 2013 issue of Sex, Etc., I wrote about getting tested for a few out of the many sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) out there. It can be difficult to know which STDs to be tested for. To make […]
Read Story »
Though I’ve never had an STD scare, I’ve always gotten tested before having sex with a new partner. The first time I was screened I was still in high school and living at home with my religious parents who I […]
Read Story »