Six things every woman who has sex with women needs to know

See our need-to-know health information for women who have sex with women below.

You still need to get a smear test

Many people still believe that women who have sex with women don’t need to attend cervical screening (a smear test) but this really isn’t true. The BBC reports that around half of all eligible lesbian and bisexual women have never had a smear test.

You should have a cervical screening every three years if you’re aged 25 to 49, every five years if you’re aged 50 to 64. For women over 65 - only those who haven't been screened since age 50 or those who have recently had abnormal tests. Even if you’ve only ever had sex with women, you can still develop abnormal cells which if left untreated can lead to cervical cancer. You can book a cervical screening appointment with your GP and you can request a female or male nurse/doctor male if you wish.

You can still get STIs

You can still get STIs from same-sex sexual activity. Oral sex and sharing sex toys are two of the more common ways women who have sex with women can get an STI, but some STIs can be passed on through intimate skin-on-skin contact and mutual masturbation too. You should get an STI test between each sexual partner, or once a year if you’re in a relationship.

How to protect yourself against STIs

If you're using sex toys, use a new condom for each of you and pop a new condom on when you use the sex toy in a different body opening (vagina, anus, mouth). Sex toys should be washed with soap and water between sessions.

Avoid oral sex if either of you has any cuts or sores in the mouth or on the lips, or use a dental dam (which you can get for free from our team!).You should also wash your hands before and after sex and wear latex gloves and use plenty of water-based lubricant for vaginal and anal fisting.

Know STI symptoms

Look out for things like lumps, bumps or blisters in the genital area or things as well as itching, unusual discharge and pain when urinating as these are all STI symptoms. If you have one or more of these symptoms, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have an STI as some things like Thrush and Bacterial Vaginosis can cause unusual discharge and itching. It’s worth visiting your GP or nearest sexual health clinic if you do have any of these symptoms though so they can help ease symptoms and treat any infections.

And don’t forget, some STIs are symptomless. Around 70% of women who have chlamydia don’t notice any symptoms, so it’s worth getting a check-up every time you change your sexual partner.

Mental health support is out there

Lesbian and bisexual women are at higher risk of depression and anxiety than their straight counterparts. Contributing factors include social alienation, discrimination, rejection by loved ones, abuse and violence.

If you think you might be depressed or have any concerns about your mental health, talk to your GP or contact Healthy Minds (for people over 18) or Young Minds (for children and young people). Don’t forget, you can always message us on our Gaylife Facebook page and we can advise you on local services which are available.

Know the signs of an unhealthy relationship

This doesn’t just apply to women who have sex with women, as domestic violence or abuse can affect anyone in an intimate relationship. However, warning signs specific to sexual minority women might include a partner who:

  • Threatens to "out" you by telling friends, loved ones, colleagues or community members your sexual orientation

  • Tells you that authorities won't help a sexual minority

  • Tells you that leaving the relationship means you're admitting that same-sex relationships are wrong

  • Tells you that domestic violence can't occur in same-sex relationships or that women can't be violent

If you’re worried your relationship may be unhealthy, Arch North Staffordshire offer support to the LGBT community for domestic abuse. You can find out more on the services Arch offer on their website here.

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