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It’s often said that the only foolproof way of avoiding an unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is sexual abstinence. But since lifelong abstinence isn’t always practical, and women have a high risk of being sexually assaulted at some point, it’s also important to know the basics of gynecology care. Every woman should build a relationship with a trusted gynecologist with whom they feel comfortable discussing sensitive issues.

A doctor listening to a woman about her issues

Is it possible for condoms to fail?

Aside from sexual abstinence, the barrier method is the only way to prevent both STDs and unintentional pregnancies. Even condoms can fail, unfortunately. Using condoms correctly (including during oral sex), and using only latex condoms will improve the effectiveness of the barrier method. Some individuals have latex allergies, and may choose lamb skin condoms instead. Know that this type does not protect against HIV infection. Additionally, follow these tips:

  • Never use expired condoms.
  • Avoid using condoms that were stored in a wallet, car, or in extreme temperatures.
  • Don’t use teeth or fingernails to rip open condom packaging.
  • Use a new condom for each vaginal, oral, and anal sex act.

Can I get vaccinated against STDs?

There are vaccines available to protect individuals from certain STDs . One of them, the HPV vaccine, can even protect women and men from cervical and oropharyngeal cancers caused by human papillomavirus. Vaccines are also available to prevent hepatitis A and B. Talk to your doctor if you’re unsure of whether you’ve received these vaccines. Remember that you’ll still have to use protection to prevent unintentional pregnancy and other STDs.

What are my options if I’m sexually assaulted?

Unfortunately, sexual assault and rape are far more common than many people realize. The best course of action is to call the police and get to an emergency room, where a doctor can do a rape kit in case you decide to press charges. However, many women choose not to report the assault right away. You should still see your gynecologist as soon as possible, even if you aren’t sure whether you want to get the police involved. Your gynecologist respects patient confidentiality, and can give you the morning after pill to protect you from pregnancy. The doctor can also test and treat you for STDs.

Bring your gynecology questions with you when you arrive for an appointment at Washington Surgi-Clinic. Our gynecologists in Washington, D.C. firmly believe in the importance of patient education and proactive self-advocacy . You can get in touch with a friendly staff member at (202) 659-9403.