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Sexual Health Week


This week is Sexual Health Week which aims to raise awareness of sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) and emergency contraception. 

There were around 450,000 cases of STI’s in England last year and within the last decade, there has been a big increase in diagnoses of STI’s particularly amongst young people aged between 16 and 24.

Emergency contraception is designed for use when people have had unprotected sex, or sex without contraception. It can also be used when you think your contraception may not have worked.

Cathy McInnes, sexual health specialist nurse at Heartlands Hospital, says: “The sooner women use emergency contraception after unprotected sex, the better chance it will have of preventing pregnancy. Emergency contraception is available from your local GP surgery or sexual health clinic.  It’s important to remember that emergency contraception may help prevent an unplanned pregnancy but it doesn’t protect you against infections.

“There are two methods of emergency contraception. The emergency pill, called Levonelle, can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex.  It is 95 percent effective at 24 hours and up to 58 percent effective at 72 hours. EllaOne, known as the ‘morning after pill’, can be taken up to 120 hours after unprotected sex.

“Secondly, a copper coil (IUD – intrauterine device) can be inserted into a woman up to 120 hours after unprotected sex.  It is almost 100 percent effective.”

STI’s are passed from one person to another through unprotected sex. Chlamydia, gonorrhoea and genital warts are some of the most common STI’s.

If you think you may have an STI, it is vital you see your GP or visit your local sexual health clinic to get tested as soon as possible to ensure any infections are treated imminently. Long term health problems can occur if infections are left untreated and some infections cause few or no symptoms.

Men and women can experience different symptoms. Some common signs and symptoms to look out for are as follows:


  • Bleeding between periods or after sex.
  • Lower abdominal pain.
  • Pain or burning sensation during urination or sex.
  • Yellow or green discharge from vagina.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Bumps, blisters or warts on vagina or anus.


  • Sores, blisters or scratches on the penis, genital area or around the back passage.
  • Have a burning feeling when passing urine.
  • Lump in testicles.
  • Pain in testicles.
  • Swelling or redness near the penis.

Cathy adds: “STI’s are preventable and using condoms can be effective in minimising the chances of getting an infection. Always avoid having sex with anyone who has discharge, genital sores or any other symptoms. Also do not drink excessive amounts of alcohol as being under the influence of alcohol can mean you are more likely to take sexual risks.”

Our Trust provides a confidential, walk-in and appointment service for people who have or think they may have STI’s. For advice on how to prevent STI’s, call our sexual health services team on 0121 424 8984. You can also visit

Sexual Health Week takes places between 15 and 21 September.

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