Exciting news. Our app has a new name – Healthily. Learn more
Women who have sex with other women can pass on or get STIs. Know how to protect yourself.
Lesbians and bisexual women are not immune from sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and it's important not to be complacent about getting tested for them, according to Ruth Hunt at the charity Stonewall.
Sometimes, lesbian and bisexual women are told they don't need to be tested for STIs. This is not the case.
A survey of lesbian and bisexual women by Stonewall revealed half of those who have been screened had an STI.
"Any one-on-one contact, such as oral sex or using the same hand when touching yourself and then your partner, can put you at risk. Two women that are both menstruating are at a higher risk, too."
If you have vaginal, anal or oral sex with a man, use a condom. When used correctly, condoms protect against unintended pregnancy and STIs. In addition to using condoms, find out about the form of contraception that suits you best.
If you think you could be at risk of unintended pregnancy, you have the option of using emergency contraception (the "morning after" pill or an IUD).
Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of yeast called candida. Symptoms may include vulval and vaginal itching, pain and soreness on penetration, burning when passing urine, and a thick, white discharge.
It's possible for women to transmit thrush during sex through touching and sharing sex toys. Thrush can be treated with medicated cream, pessaries and tablets, which can be bought from a chemist.
Go to your doctor if your symptoms persist. Read more about thrush .
This is caused by a virus, which can spread if you have vaginal, anal or oral sex, or share sex toys. It can also cause cold sores on the mouth and nose.
Symptoms include painful blisters and ulcers around the genital area, although some women may have no symptoms.
Antiviral tablets can help the healing process. Read more about genital herpes .
These are fleshy growths in the vulval and anal region. They may be itchy, but are usually painless.
They are caused by certain strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV), which are usually sexually acquired through skin contact, such as rubbing vulvas together.
Women with genital warts do not need more regular smear tests than those without them. There are a variety of treatment options, including freezing and medicated creams. Read more about genital warts .
Trichomoniasis can be passed between women during any sexual activity that involves the exchange of vaginal fluid.
Symptoms include a frothy discharge, discomfort when passing urine, vulval soreness, and sometimes an unpleasant vaginal odour. Some women don't have any symptoms. It is treated with antibiotics.
Read more about trichomoniasis .
These STIs are caused by bacteria, which can infect the cervix, rectum, throat and urethra. There may be a discharge, but usually there are no symptoms.
If the conditions are not treated, the bacteria may lead to an infection in the fallopian tubes and infertility.
Chlamydia and gonorrhoea can be passed between women through shared sex toys, hands, and by rubbing vulvas together. Treatment is with antibiotics.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that causes a painless ulcer, usually in the genital area. It will disappear on its own, but other symptoms may appear. These can include a rash on the body and swollen glands.
If it is not treated, syphilis can cause serious nerve and body organ damage later in life.
In its early stages, syphilis is extremely infectious and can be passed on by close skin contact during sex. Treatment is with antibiotic injections or tablets.
Read more about syphilis .
The vagina is self-cleansing, so there's no need to wash inside it (douching). Vaginal soreness and vulval irritation can be caused by overuse of perfumed soaps, bubble baths and shower gels.
After going to the toilet, always wipe from front to back (from vagina to anus).
Read about how to keep your vagina clean.
If you have any of the symptoms above or are worried you may have an STI, speak to your doctor or visit an STI clinic.
Getting tested regularly is a good idea to ensure you have a healthy sex life.
Read more about STIs.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.