You can catch an STD through vaginal, anal, and oral sex, regardless of what genitals you have and what genitals your partner has. We’re all prone to contracting STDs.
Having an STD isn’t fun, and admitting to a partner you have one can be a difficult experience. But there’s no reason at all to feel ashamed or embarrassed about having an STD or STI—the most important thing is that you don’t transmit it to other people.
That’s why it’s so important that you know if you have an STD.
Although some people may lie to you about their STD or STI status, most of the time, STDs are transmitted when the person who has one doesn’t realize they do.
So, even if someone tells you that they’re clean, it’s still a good idea to use protection, like a condom or dental dam (which is like a condom for oral sex). There’s no real way to know if the people you’ve had sex with are completely STD-free unless you’ve seen their test results.
1. You notice sores, bumps, or a rash on or around your vagina, thighs, or butt cheeks.
A bumpy crotch is one of the biggest red flags that you may have an STD. It’s not uncommon for STD symptoms to come and go over time, so if you notice unusual bumps or sores (that aren’t ingrown hairs from shaving), consider getting tested.
2. You experience itching, swelling, burning, or pain around your vulva, vagina, or anus.
Itching, burning, swelling, and pain in your genital area could accompany bumps or a rash, but these symptoms could also present on their own.
If you notice unusual itching, be sure to contact your doctor. Even if you don’t have an STD, you may have another medical condition that needs treatment. And no one should have to live with that kind of discomfort!
3. It burns when you pee.
In addition to itching burning sensations that come and go or just exist, you might also feel a burning sensation when you pee if you have an STD.
This is also a common symptom of a UTI (urinary tract infection), which is usually treated with antibiotics.
4. You start needing to pee more frequently.
Frequent urination is another common sign of an STD, and like burning, it’s also a common symptom when you’re suffering from a UTI.
Since your bladder is directly connected to your kidneys, it’s always a good idea to seek out professional medical advice whenever something strange is going on with your peeing habits.
5. You find unusual discharge coming from your vagina or on your underwear.
Vaginal discharge is totally normal, and it’s actually a great tool for knowing when something is off down there. So, try to get familiar with what your normal discharge looks like. For most healthy people, it is either clear, cream-colored, or white with a somewhat smooth texture to it.
If your discharge is thick, has a foul odor, or is strangely colored (like a deep yellow, brown, or green), it could be a sign of an STD or STI.
Keep in mind that vaginal discharge can also change if you’re having unprotected vaginal sex, particularly if your partner ejaculates semen inside you. This is because semen changes the pH of your vagina, hence the different smells and colors.
Vaginal discharge may also change if you’re spotting or in the days before and after your period.
Penises should never have any type of discharge—only milky white semen upon ejaculation or clear pre-cum during stimulation. If you have a partner with a penis, and they experience discharge, you should talk to your doctor about STD testing.
6. You experience unexplained flu-like symptoms such as fevers, body aches, and fatigue.
When we think of STD symptoms, we most often look to our genitals for signs. But unexplained flu-like symptoms (even without the presence of any of the symptoms discussed above) can be caused by an STD.
7. Any of the symptoms above come and go, and you can’t figure out why.
STD symptoms can come and go on their own, but that doesn’t mean the STD is gone. If you experience any of the symptoms above, consider getting tested.
There are several STDs that present little to no symptoms in the beginning.
8. You’re sexually active.
Having sex is nothing to be ashamed of. And having conversations about sex is what allows us to practice safe sex.
If you’re sexually active, you should get an STD test at least once a year. You should also consider getting tested for STDs every 3-6 months if:
• you don’t use a condom every time you have vaginal or anal sex
• you have sex with multiple partners (even if it’s just 2-3 in one year)
• you share IV needles
Any activity where blood or sexual fluids are passed from one person to another can transmit an STD or STI.
9. You haven’t been tested recently.
If you haven’t done an STD test in the past 12 months, it’s time to schedule a visit. Most of the time, your primary care doctor should be able to issue STD tests.
You can also receive STD testing at your OBGYN, and some clinics offer free STD testing.
Remember, some STDs present little to no symptoms at all. Sometimes, there’s no way to tell if you have an STD other than a test.