In her first column as the Daily Star’s sexual health expert, Brigette Bard, CEO of BioSure UK and founder of Last Taboo, smashes myths and answers the questions you thought you’d be too embarrassed to ever ask…
1. Does shaving/waxing pubic hair make it cleaner down there?
No it doesn’t. Pubic hair acts as natural protector and gives a cushion against friction and provides a natural line of defence against bacteria, especially from things like herpes.
Shaving and waxing is a fashion choice – not more hygienic. It also carries increased likelihood from things like boils and skin infections by causing small breaks in the skin in a very sensitive area.
2. How many calories are in sperm and can it make you put on weight?
You’d have to eat a lot of sperm to put on weight. A teaspoon of sperm (about the usual amount for ejaculation) contains between 5 and 25 calories, depending on the amount of protein.
3. Is anal sex ‘dirty’? Can you get any disease from it?
Anal sex is not dirty. Some people worry they will get faeces (poo) on them, but faeces are held in your colon not your anus and only move down when you want to have a poo.
It can however carry a higher risk of contracting an STI, whether you’re a man or a woman, as the tissues there are pretty delicate and can be easily damaged.
There can also be a risk for a woman if you are going to have vaginal sex after anal sex, as there can be a transfer of bacteria.
It is a good idea to use a condom for the anal sex and throw it away or change it before vaginal sex as this will prevent any bacterial transfer.
4. Can you catch diseases from rimming?
Yes, you can catch diseases from rimming because however clean your bum hole is there is always going to be lots of bacteria because it is how your body works.
Bacteria such as e-coli and salmonella can be present and make you really ill if you ‘eat’ it and there is also risk of Hepatitis A.
Shigella (which causes very bad diarrhoea and cramps) is also on the increase, with the main cause being attributed to faecal/oral transmission.
There are things called dental dams, which are thin sheets of plastic or latex that are placed between the mouth and anus, that protect you from ingesting bacteria.
I have also heard of people using cling film, but a word of warning – sometimes this has tiny holes in it, which bacteria can get through, so use a double layer. Another tip – if you put some lube on the anus first it can hold the dam in place.
5. Is it normal to be sore after sex?
There are quite a few reasons you can be sore after sex, usually this is just down to friction and possibly bruising, especially if you’ve had a lot of sex in a short space of time.
It can be worth using lube for longer sessions. Thrush and cystitis (which is not an STI but can be spread through sex) are two of the most common infections that cause soreness after sex in women.
6. Is spotting normal or could it be a sign of something more serious?
Spotting (or bleeding in women between periods) is really common and usually nothing to be worried about.
It can be caused by hormonal changes, such as taking the pill. Spotting after sex is less common though and may be due to damage to the vaginal wall from friction (and possibly vaginal dryness).
If you bleed every time after vaginal sex that is more worrying and could be a sign of an STI (from lesions that bleed), or cervical or uterine cancer. If you have any concerns you should visit your GP or local sexual health clinic.
7. What should I do if I get a rash down there?
A rash can be caused by a number of different things, including shaving or waxing and even friction.
If you have any discharge, pain or burning, it is worth going to get checked and avoid any further sexual contact to prevent spreading any potential infection.
Herpes, syphilis and HPV can all cause rashes that itch but they generally look like blisters, sores and small growths, respectively.
Pubic lice (crabs) and scabies can also cause an itchy rash and it’s not uncommon to get itchy fungal infections in your nether regions. All of these things are treatable (not all are contagious) so it’s worth getting some advice if you’re worried.
8. Can you get mouth cancer from giving a woman oral sex?
HPV (human papiloma virus) is associated with cancers and it is possible to contract HPV from oral sex.
However it is really difficult to prove whether HPV can cause throat or mouth cancer – there are studies that suggest that giving oral sex to more than six women in a lifetime increase risk of oral cancers, but this is in no way comparable to the risks of smoking, drinking and stress.
9. What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer very often doesn’t have any symptoms until it is quite advanced, but the main one is usually abnormal bleeding (especially in post-menopausal women) and possibly a change in discharge where is becomes more watery and smelly.
HPV can be a precursor to cervical cancer and it is really important to know the symptoms (small growths around the genitals which can clump together to form cauliflower like clusters) Girls are now vaccinated in schools to prevent HPV infection.
10. Does having a smear test hurt? How do they do it and when should you have them done?
No, it doesn’t hurt and it’s a lot easier if you relax. It only takes about five minutes.
You lay on a bed, undressed from the waist down, put your feet together and relax your knees out to the side.
The doctor or nurse then inserts a speculum into your vagina, which holds the vaginal walls apart and they then take a sample with a swab or brush, from your cervix.
11. How often should you get a STI check?
It really depends. If you’re starting a new relationship with someone it is a good idea for you both to go and have an STI check to make sure you’re all clear – remember things like HIV, hepatitis B & C and syphilis can take up to three months to get an accurate test result.
If you’re single and sexually active, especially if you’re having sex unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners, I would advise you have a regular STI check – as often as every three months.
There are loads of options for taking STI tests though, and if you really are worried but don’t want to see a doctor or nurse, you can self-test yourself at home for HIV, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis and HIV.
You can get these via the NHS’s Freedoms Shop freedoms-shop.com/testing-kits/.