There are many things to fear this Halloween – these common sexual health concerns shouldn’t be on that list. Let us help put your mind at ease.
“My contraceptive injection has stopped my periods – I’m scared the blood is stuck inside me”
Let’s talk blood! Contraception can often affect your periods – they could be shorter, lighter, heavier, more regular, irregular, or even stop altogether. And although it doesn’t happen for everyone, it’s really common for people using the contraceptive injection to have no periods.
If you’re used to having a period every month, this can be strange at first. You might feel confused about what happens to the blood you’d normally lose as part of your period, or worry that it might get ‘stuck’ somewhere in your body.
But there’s no need to worry – it’s all to do with how the injection works to stop you getting pregnant. The progestogen hormone from the injection stops you ovulating (releasing an egg) every month. Usually, when you ovulate, your hormone levels rise and prompt your uterus (womb) to make a thick, blood-rich lining ready for a fertilised egg to implant in. If the egg isn’t fertilised, your hormone levels drop and the uterus lining is shed as a period.
But the injection stops you ovulating and your hormones don’t rise – so your uterus usually makes less of the lining, or stops making it completely. If your body doesn’t make the blood, then there’s nothing to come out as a period – and so periods become lighter or stop.
“I want to get an STI test but I’m scared it'll be painful”
There’s no need to fear STI tests. They can often be as quick and easy as giving a urine sample. Or they might involve a visual examination to look for signs of infection, having some blood taken, or using a swab on the genital area.
A swab looks a bit like a cotton bud, but is smaller and rounded. It sometimes has a small plastic loop on the end rather than a cotton tip. It’s wiped over the part of the body that could be infected and easily picks up samples of discharge or cells to be tested.
A swab only takes a few seconds and isn’t painful, though it may be uncomfortable for a moment. And if you’ve heard scary tales about umbrellas being inserted into the penis, we promise you this doesn’t happen!
“I want to get an implant but I’m scared to have something fitted in my arm”
A contraceptive implant is a small rod placed under the skin on your arm. This may sound a bit strange, but fitting it is quick and easy, and it’s one of the most effective methods at preventing pregnancy there is.
The implant is fitted by a trained doctor or nurse. Before the implant goes anywhere near your arm, they’ll give you a local anaesthetic injection to numb the part of your arm where it’s going to be inserted, so it won’t hurt. It only takes a few minutes to fit.
Your arm may get some bruising or feel tender for a day or two afterwards – the doctor or nurse will put a dressing on it for you.
You won’t be able to see the implant in your arm but you’ll be able to feel it so you know that it’s still in place.
“I’m scared to miss out the seven-day break on my pill even though I want to skip my period”
Never fear, it’s not a problem to start a new pack of pills straight away instead of having a break between packs. The monthly bleed you have when you’re on the combined pill (a pill with the hormones estrogen and progestogen) isn’t a true period – it’s actually called a withdrawal bleed and it happens due to not having any hormones from the pill during your pill-free week.
There’s no medical reason that you need to have this bleed every month and it’s fine to miss it out by running packs together.
Running packs together is also sometimes recommended to women who experience problem bleeding or headaches during their pill-free week.
It’s perfectly safe to do this and you can do it for up to three months in a row before having a break (known as tri-cycling).
“I’m scared that I’m going to get an STI from a public toilet seat”
Public toilets can sometimes be pretty disgusting – we’ve seen a few that we’d run from screaming – but getting an STI from a toilet seat isn’t something to be concerned about. STIs are passed on through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex, by genital contact and through sharing sex toys.
Some STIs, such as pubic lice, can also be spread through skin-to-skin contact or sharing clothes, towels or bedding.
So while you should definitely wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet, don’t worry that you’re going to come away from the loo with an STI.