Dental Dams

Dental Dams

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. And of those women who had an STI, one in four had only had sex with women in the previous five years. 

"Women can catch STIs such as herpes , genital warts and chlamydia when exchanging bodily fluids," says Hunt. 

"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. 

Tips for safer sex between women 

  •    If you're using sex toys, use a new condom for each partner or between penetration of different orifices. Sex toys should be washed with soap and water between sessions. Find out more about cleaning sex toys .

  •    Avoid oral sex if either of you has any cuts or sores in the mouth or on the lips, or use a dental dam. A dental dam is a latex or polyurethane (very thin, soft plastic) square, of about 15cm by 15cm, which you can use to cover the anus or female genitals during oral sex. It acts as a barrier to help prevent sexually transmitted infections passing from one person to another.

  •    Some infections can be transmitted by hands, fingers and mutual vulval rubbing. Wash your hands before and after sex.
  •    Wear latex gloves and use plenty of water-based lubricant for vaginal and anal fisting. 

Tips for bisexual women on safer sex with men 

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 may be at risk of unintended pregnancy, emergency contraception (the "morning after" pill or an IUD) is available from pharmacies, your GP, hospital, family planning clinics and some sexual health clinics. 

Vaginal health 

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. 

Read about how to keep your vagina clean . 

After going to the toilet, always wipe from front to back (from vagina to anus). 

Read more about vagina health .

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