safe sex intimacy without intercourse

Featuring Deborah J. Herchelroath, DO, FACOOG

Safe sex can mean a number of different things to many different people. In the last blog, we discussed contraception and its importance in practicing safe sex. Even though intimacy without intercourse can prevent pregnancy, many people forget that it may not prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Intimacy without Intercourse

Intimacy is about closeness, about being together, and about creating and maintaining a relationship. It is an important part of any relationship, with or without sexual intercourse.

Couples are quite creative when it comes to having sex without penetration of the penis into the vagina. Oral sex has grown in popularity (or at least the media makes it seem that way).  It certainly takes away the risk of pregnancy, but it certainly DOES NOT take away the risk of STIs.

STIs can spread from the genital area to the mouth and from the mouth to the genital area. The most common STI transmitted via oral sex is herpes. Herpes can cause cold sores around the mouth or the genitals. HPV can also be caused by oral sex. HPV can be on the lips, gums, and in the throat (aside from the genitals).  It can cause oropharyngeal (head and neck) cancer. In fact, oropharyngeal cancer is expected to exceed cervical cancer (also caused by HPV) by the year 2020.

The od news is the HPV vaccine can help prevent the virus and therefore help prevent all cancers associated with HPV. HPV vaccines offer the best protection to girls and boys who receive all three vaccine doses and have time to develop an immune response before being sexually active with another person. Two of the HPV vaccines (Gardasil and Gardasil 9) also protect against genital warts in both females and males.

Safe sex is an important topic that requires much more time than one blog can give. Talk to your primary care provider or gynecologist about any questions you might have about sexual health. You can also read my other blogs on sexuality and healthy relationships, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), emotionally safe sex, and contraception.

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About UPMC Harrisburg

UPMC Harrisburg is a nationally recognized leader in providing high-quality, patient-centered health care services in south central PA. and surrounding rural communities. UPMC Harrisburg includes seven acute care hospitals and over 160 outpatient clinics and ancillary facilities serving Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry, York, Lancaster, Lebanon, Juniata, Franklin, Adams, and parts of Snyder counties. These locations care for more than 1.2 million area residents yearly, providing life-saving emergency care, essential primary care, and leading-edge diagnostic services. Its cardiovascular program is nationally recognized for its innovation and quality. It also leads the region with its cancer, neurology, transplant, obstetrics-gynecology, maternity care, and orthopaedic programs.

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