Before you begin forming intimate relationships at university, make sure that you are both physically and emotionally ready for this step. Many students make the mistake of thinking that because they are living on their own they are necessarily ready for a variety of intimate relationships. Other students make the mistake of looking to intimate relationships to take away their homesickness and prove that they are loved. If you are thinking of engaging in intimate relationships for any reason other than genuine affection then hold it right there. Don’t take another step until you know exactly why you are making these choices and how to protect yourself from a broken heart and a whole lot more!
Consider Your Emotional HealthForming an intimate relationship with someone lays you bare in the most literal sense (no pun intended). Before you become intimate ask yourself:
- Do I truly like this person?
- Do I truly trust this person?
- How would I feel if we were to break up soon?
- How would I feel if I heard gossip about myself and this relationship?
- Is this a relationship, or is this something more casual?
- What do I expect from this person, and what will be expected of me?
- Do I know how to protect myself/ourselves from STIs and unplanned pregnancy?
Sexually Transmitted InfectionsSexually transmitted infections are more commonly referred to as STIs. You may have heard these called STDs, or sexually transmitted diseases, but while the name has changed the pain remains the same. STIs come from a variety of sources and may be bacterial (caused by bacteria), viral (caused by a virus) or parasitic (caused by a parasite). STIs that commonly affect students include:
- Chlamydia (bacterial)
- Genital Warts (viral)
- Gonorrhea (bacterial)
- Hepatitis B & C (viral)
- Herpes (viral)
- HIV & AIDS (viral)
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (bacterial)
- Syphilis (bacterial)
- Trichomonas (parasitic)
- Vaginitis (bacterial)
Preventing Sexually Transmitted InfectionsThe only 100% safe way to prevent an STI is to refrain from sexual intercourse though there are a variety of safer sex methods that limit contact with bodily fluids. These options include:
- Engaging in lower risk behaviours such as:
- Using a condom during vaginal, anal and oral sex.
- Using a dental dam during oral sex.
- Using a female condom during vaginal sex.
- Using spermicide.
- Using a condom or female condom with spermicide.
- Avoiding contact with any warts, sores or discharges.
Dealing With an Unplanned PregnancySometimes even the best laid plans go awry and this is often the case with unplanned pregnancies. Women using contraceptive pills, patches and implants, and even backing them up by using condoms or spermicides, can still get pregnant. If you and your partner find yourselves with an unplanned pregnancy on your hands remember that you have many options. For more information on your choices, contact:
- Your university health centre or clinic.
- A local NHS walk-in centre.
- Sexwise helpline (0800 28 29 30).
- Brook (www.brook.org.uk).
- Family Planning Association (www.fpa.org.uk).
- Education for Choice (www.efc.org.uk).
- British Association for Adoption & Fostering (www.baaf.org.uk).