Christmas is just around the corner, and being such a busy time of year it’s easy to lose focus on your sexual health. From shopping for gifts, to planning Christmas lunch, to catching up with our loved ones and trying to tie all of our loose ends before the end of the year. Sound familiar to you? Over the holiday season our ‘to-do’ lists seem never-ending and we tend to put our health on the back burner until the New Year; well this year could be the time to change!
We’ve come up with our take of ‘The 10 Days of Christmas’ and created the ’10 Days of my Sexual Health’ as a guide to help you see how your sexual health is. What better way to start the New Year than knowing where your sexual health is at! We know how busy Christmas can be, so if you can’t fit all these checks in before Christmas, use them as a guide throughout the New Year!
Day 10: Check yo’ self!
Have a check over your body, does everything seem normal? Are there any lumps or bumps you haven’t noticed before? Do you have any unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or anus? If you’re worried about anything, make an appointment with your GP or come and visit us at SHQ. Remember that not all STIs have symptoms, so even if you don’t find any lumps, bumps or changes, it’s a good idea to get tested if you’ve ever had unprotected sex.
Day 9: Contraception
Make sure that your contraceptive will last over the holiday season (i.e. do you have enough pills?), as many places (including SHQ, GPs and chemists) may be closed over the Christmas period. Also take the time to reflect on the contraceptive method you’ve been using, and consider the benefits of your method compared to others that are available. You never know, you might change your contraceptive method for the New Year!
Day 8: When was your last Pap smear?
Did you know that even if you have had the HPV vaccine, you are still at risk of developing cervical cancer? If you are, or have ever been sexually active, regular pap smears are so important to maintain sexual health as they can detect early stages of cervical cancer.
Day 7: Want to talk?
Are you OK? Do you need to get something off your chest? Maybe talking with someone will make you feel refreshed for the New Year. Even if it’s something small, our counsellors at SHQ are specialised in the area of sexual well-being, so you can talk within a safe, confidential and relaxed environment.
Day 6: Breast Check
Feel your breasts! Even if you’re male, anyone can develop breast cancer, so it is important to perform regular self-checks of your breasts to notice any changes, lumps or hard areas. Head over to http://www.breastscreen.health.wa.gov.au/ for more information and to organise a breast screen from a health professional.
Day 5: Testicle check
Have a feel down stairs for any lumps, bumps, or changes you haven’t noticed throughout the year. If anything feels different, or you’re not sure, book an appointment to get it checked out. For more information head to http://www.andrologyaustralia.org/
Day 4: Do you have condoms?
Make sure you’ve got some condoms (and check the date to make sure they haven’t expired!) as people are more likely to use a condom during a sexual encounter if they have one ready!
Day 3: The condom broke… what now?
If the condom broke, or you forgot to use one over the holiday period, remember that emergency contraception (EC) is available at pharmacies as a back-up option. Make sure you are familiar with the trading hours of your local pharmacy over the holiday period as many are closed on public holidays.
Day 2: Confidence and consent
Practise having the confidence talking about sex with your partner/s. The more you talk, the more confident you will feel that you and your partner/s are on the same page with your sexual relationship. Make sure you have the confidence to say no when you don’t want to have sex. Consent is essential to sexual health, so if you are getting intimate with a partner, check-in to make sure you’re both having a good time.
Day 1: Enjoy sex!
Enjoying your sexual experiences forms a part of looking after your sexual health. Just because sex is safe, doesn’t mean it has to be less pleasurable. Many people ‘put up’ with things, like STI symptoms that are embarrassing, or painful sex, when help is available. Don’t be embarrassed, talk confidently with your partner/s about sex, and creatively introduce condoms into the bedroom – have fun with it and enjoy your Christmas!
If you do need any help over the holiday period, as many health organisations close over Christmas, head over to https://www.healthdirect.gov.au as they will be able to offer healthcare advice.