STDs & Women

What Causes STDs?

Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, are infectious diseases which are passed from person to person, usually through sexual activity including vaginal and/or anal intercourse, or oral sex.  They can also be passed by any contact involving the genitals of a person and the skin of another.  Pregnant women can pass an STD to their child, before, during or after delivery and birth.

Bacteria, viruses and parasites are the causes of the many different types of sexually transmitted diseases, some more common than others.  Women, young people and minorities are the groups most often infected with STDs, however anybody engaging in sexual activity can be at risk.  Factors that exacerbate the problems include having multiple sexual partners and unprotected sex.

Signs & Symptoms

There are some signs and symptoms which are commonly found in STD infections such as the appearance of a sore or raised bump in the genital area, genital discharge, burning or itching in the genitalia.  STDs often do not cause any of these symptoms, so people engaging in sexual activity are advised to be tested.  This is especially important for women since the fact that symptoms are often not present is most commonly noticed in women.  Early detection can prevent serious complications such as certain cancers, neurological problems, liver failure, infertility and even death.  STD infection can also increase the risk of HIV, the precursor to AIDS.  For pregnant women, testing is critical as the presence of untreated STDs in a pregnant woman put both the woman and the baby at risk of either serious damage or death.

According to the Center for Disease Control, sexually transmitted diseases affect women, infants, young people and minorities more than any other groups, with young people being the most affected.  The reason women are more vulnerable to infection than men is because the surface area which is exposed is larger in women.  The vagina serves as a type of reservoir which lengthens the time of contact with infectious fluids.  Tiny, micro-injuries, which can absorb these fluids into the blood, are more common in women than men as well.

Complications & PID

The complications caused by STDs tend to be more severe for women.  One very common complication resulting from sexually transmitted diseases in women is a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID.  The symptoms of PID can be chronic pelvic pain, infertility and ectopic pregnancy, a potentially deadly situation in which a fertilized egg develops outside the uterus, mainly in the fallopian tubes. 

Awareness, self-protection, and education are the first lines of defense for women when it comes to STDs.

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