Sexual Conditions

Should you use probiotics for your vagina?

Probiotics are being promoted as a way for women to improve vaginal health, but unlike with the gut and digestion, there is almost no evidence for any benefit.

Sexually transmitted infections are on the rise: Should you worry?

The number of sexually transmitted infections reported in the US reached an all-time high last year. Having an STI can raise a person’s risk of getting HIV or having infertility or pregnancy complications, but STIs are preventable and treatable. Knowing the facts about STIs and testing is the first step.

HPV and cancer: The underappreciated connection

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Human papilloma virus (HPV), a common viral infection, has been linked to cancer of the genitals, anus, mouth, and throat, as well as cervical cancer. Yet a survey of US adults found that many people are not aware of this connection.

PrEP prevents HIV — so why aren’t more people taking it?

PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a daily medication taken to prevent HIV infection. While multiple studies show PrEP is effective, relatively few of those who might benefit are taking it. Will a 10-year initiative to reduce rates of HIV and a new formulation of PrEP help?

Talking to your doctor about your LGBTQ+ sex life

Talking about sexuality with a doctor can be uncomfortable. If you identify as LGBTQ+, it’s important to find a doctor who is attuned to the specific needs of the LGBTQ+ community. This can make getting proper care easier.

Vulvar health: Navigating the nether regions

Huma Farid, MD

Contributor

Many women feel uncomfortable talking about health issues or concerns relating to the vulva or vagina. This brief primer on vulvar health can help.

Good news about the HPV vaccine

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

The administration of the HPV vaccine has significantly lowered rates of infection among the population it is intended to protect, as well as among those who have not been vaccinated.

Sexually transmitted infections on the rise

Monique Tello, MD, MPH

Contributing Editor

Rates of several common sexually transmitted infections have been rising during the past few years. Many people with an STI have no idea they have been infected, so testing is crucial. If someone doesn’t know that they are infected, they can’t get treated. If they don’t get treated and have unprotected sex they will pass these infections to others.

Genital herpes: The painful facts about a tricky virus

Monique Tello, MD, MPH

Contributing Editor

While most people know that genital herpes is transmitted through sexual contact, many people don’t realize that it’s possible to carry the virus and infect others without showing outward symptoms or even being aware that they have it. A person with confirmed genital herpes can take medication to help decrease the chances of spreading the virus. However, it’s no guarantee, so it’s best to have a frank conversation with a new sexual partner.

Women often fear sex after a heart attack

A heart attack can be a frightening wake-up call with long-lasting aftereffects. It’s no surprise that women often tread gently after having a heart attack—and many don’t tread back into the bedroom for sex. Up to 60% of women are less sexually active after a heart attack, often due to worries that sex could trigger a repeat heart attack. A new study suggests that although women believe sex is important for resuming a sense of normalcy and intimacy with their partners, many are fearful that it would be too much for their hearts to take. Reassurance from a doctor is sometimes all that’s needed to ease those fears. How does a woman know if she’s physically ready for sex after a heart attack? It’s safe to have sex if you can work up a light sweat without triggering symptoms like chest pain or shortness of breath.