Menopause And STIs

More and more postmenopausal women in the UK are being diagnosed with STIs (sexually transmitted infections) also known as STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Of course, it's not just women who are affected. Reports indicate that middle aged and older men are also contracting infections such as Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, genital warts and herpes in increasing numbers. But why is this happening?

Divorce, Bereavement, Liberation

More postmenopausal women than ever before are having sex, or contemplating having sex, with new partners. The divorce rate in Britain is somewhere around the 42% mark. When divorce occurs post menopause, a woman may be having sex with someone other than her ex-husband, perhaps for the first time ever. A more liberal attitude to sex in today's society also means that more people in their 50s, 60s and older, enjoy sex freely. Postmenopausal women whose husbands have died are also now far more likely to take a new sexual partner than they were in the past.

The problem is not that postmenopausal women and older men are having sex; it's that they're not having safe sex.

Safe Sex

If you have more than one sexual partner, or you're having sex with someone who has not been given the all-clear following STI testing, or if you yourself haven't been for STI testing, then you have to use a condom each and every time you have sex.

For many postmenopausal women, condoms may be a very unfamiliar or totally unknown form of contraception. Within marriage, many people prefer to use other contraceptive methods. Postmenopausal women may have stopped using contraception long before their marriages or relationships ended. So sometimes, older people don't realise that condoms are just as important for them as they are for young people.

Another reason for the lack of condom use among older people may be that safe sex adverts and campaigns are often specifically aimed at young people, whereas older people are ignored.

STI Symptoms

If you're reading this because you've been having sex with someone new and now you're experiencing some worrying symptoms, you need to get yourself to your local GUM clinic for testing. While this may cause you some embarrassment, it's worth it. If you can't face walking into the GUM clinic, then see your local GP and ask what you should do.

If you're experiencing any burning sensations when you urinate, any rashes or itching around the genitals, or any sores in that area, it's extremely important that you get medical treatment. Take heart - a lot of STIs can be cured by a simple course of antibiotics. If they are left to develop, however, getting rid of them can be a lot more difficult.

Prevention

The surest way to prevent the transmission of STIs during sex is to use condoms. Condoms are now sold for both men and women. If you have a new partner but you don't want to use condoms, go and get tested for STIs. If one or both of you needs treatment, you can cure whatever potential problem there may be. If you both get the all-clear right away, then you can dispense with the condoms immediately, as long as you plan to be monogamous.

Be aware that there are some STIs that are spread through skin to skin contact, so even using a condom doesn't always provide 100% protection. If you're having sex with new people after menopause, you should have a chat with your GP, and research the internet, to find more information about STIs and their prevention.

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