At-home STI test kits were first introduced in the UK in 2014. At the time, doctors and nurses were concerned about people not doing the test correctly. But since then, at-home sexual health screening has become more and more common. Between 2019 and 2020 it was reported that 300,000 at-home STI screenings were done, accessed through phone calls and online consultations. One of the biggest benefits of at-home STI screening is that they help to break down the stigmas around sexual health. Lots of people avoid in-person appointments because they’re worried that they may bump into someone they know, about the questions they might be asked or what the nurse may think of them. Lots of people also don’t want to disclose personal details about their sexual history or partner(s).
We’ve expanded into sexual health support, alongside our other services
We’ve taken the leap and we’ll now be providing sexual health support here at Fertifa. We decided to do this for two reasons.
First, before any type of fertility treatment with us, patients must get a sexual health screening. We’ve already been providing our patients with STI testing kits, and so it made sense to have the resources in place to support and treat patients if any of those tests came back positive.
Secondly, like most things in our lives, the way we’re now looking at at-home healthcare has changed because of the pandemic. During the pandemic most sexual health clinics were closed, or only seeing people for urgent care and complex issues. We saw how lots of people were happy to use at-home health care, including STI screening tests. We wanted to provide STI testing kits to our patients, so they didn’t have to worry about a possible infection being left untreated.
At-home STI screening makes testing both convenient and discreet. People can fit it in with their busy work and home lives whilst avoiding potentially awkward conversations about why they have to leave the office for an hour or trying to find the time to go to an appointment.
We take a holistic approach to our patient support – and sexual health is an important part of it
Sexual health feeds into everything we do at Fertifa. It can affect anyone at all stages of life, and it’s an important thing to be aware of at any age. Everyday we’re looking after people who are sexually active, so sexual health is a crucial part of the support we provide.
We’ll be providing full support to people with infections, who are going through (or thinking about) fertility treatment
When looking after patients going through fertility treatment, it’s important to screen for and treat any type of infection before starting with the treatment itself. This can improve the chances of becoming pregnant and reduce risk of pregnancy complications. Untreated infections can get worse with fertility treatment or even with pregnancy. For example, during the embryo implantation treatment, an infection can potentially lead to pelvic inflammatory disease.
If someone is pregnant and has an infection like chlamydia, it could get passed on to the baby when it is born. It is important to treat these infections before becoming pregnant, so we don’t put the child at risk. Don’t forget, most infections that cannot be treated can still be managed, for example HIV and Hepatitis. People living with HIV who become pregnant, or who get the virus during pregnancy, can still live a normal life.
Infertility (in men and women) can often be due to an infection, such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, or syphilis. In men, infections can cause painful and swollen testicles, which may lead to low quality semen. In women STIs can cause scarring or inflammation in the uterus and fallopian tubes.
We’ll also be supporting patients who are going through menopause with their sexual health
Some menopausal or post-menopausal women may have symptoms of menopause that overlap with the symptoms of an infection.
For example, chlamydia can cause vaginal and bladder symptoms. These symptoms can include pain, itching of the vagina or discomfort during sex, frequent and burning urination (signs of recurrent urinary tract infections),all of which can be mistaken as symptoms of menopause.
As people reach an age where they’re no longer worried about pregnancy, they may start taking fewer precautions when having sex. Again, this can increase the chance of spreading infections.
Sexual health is important for everyone
And of course, sexual health is important for everyone to take care of – even if you’re not currently affected by fertility issues or menopause. 70-80% of people who have STIs are asymptomatic. If we’ve learnt anything from covid, it’s that even if you’re asymptomatic, if you’ve been at risk of exposure (and as a regular precaution) you should get tested.
Leaving an STI untreated can be life changing for your health. It can cause infertility, organ damage and even certain types of cancers.
We strongly encourage anyone who is sexually active to do screenings as often as is sensible, so if they are carrying an infection, it can get treated and to stop it spreading.
Sexual health is an important consideration for your workplace
Like any other service we provide at Fertifa, we are empowering people to educate themselves about sexual health and making it easy for them to access the support if they may need it. We want to remove the barriers around sex and reproductive health, so people are not scared to talk about it.
And remember – if you have a new partner, it’s wise for both people to do a screening test. If you or your partner have any symptoms, get tested.
If you are worried about your sexual health, here are some ways to get help: