Choices for Wellbeing: Sexual Health

Our Choices for Wellbeing series of blogs will look at advice and information to support employees in their daily life.

There are many ways that businesses can offer help when it comes to health & wellbeing in the workplace. In this edition, we’ll look at sexual health.

The importance of sexual health

Sexual health means more than being free of sexually transmitted infections or avoiding an unwanted pregnancy.

It also means someone respecting their partners and taking responsibility for their own sexual health.

Some people have sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that cannot be cured (such as HIV, or herpes) or that they live with long-term (like hepatitis B or hepatitis C).

Individuals can still have healthy, happy sex lives and good sexual health if they are practising safe sex and ensuring that these infections have been diagnosed and are being treated.


Most forms of contraception are available for free on the NHS.

Each form of contraception will either try to keep the egg and sperm apart or stop the release of an egg (ovulation).

Which method works best will depend on a number of factors, including age, whether someone smokes, their medical and family history, and any medication they might be taking.

Here are some facts about the most popular forms of contraception.

Combined Pill

The combined oral contraceptive pill is usually just called “the pill”. It contains artificial versions of female hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which women produce naturally in their ovaries.

  • When taken correctly, the pill is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • Minor side effects include mood swings, nausea, breast tenderness and headaches.
  • Some medicines, such as antibiotics, may make the pill less effective.
  • It isn’t suitable for women over 35 who smoke or women with certain medical conditions.
  • The pill does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Male and Female Condoms

There are two types of condoms: male condoms, which are worn on the penis, and female condoms, which are worn inside the vagina.

If used correctly, male condoms are 98% effective and female condoms 95% effective.

  • Condoms are the only contraception that protects against pregnancy and STIs.
  • Water-based lubricant is safe to use with all condoms.
  • Don’t use condoms past their use-by date.
  • Always buy condoms that have the BSI kite mark and the CE mark on the packet.

Contraceptive Implants

The contraceptive implant is a small flexible tube about 40mm long that’s inserted under the skin of a lady’s upper arm. It’s inserted by a trained professional, such as a doctor, and lasts for three years.

  • If implanted correctly, it’s more than 99% effective.
  • Once the implant is in place, contraception won’t need to be considered for three years.
  • A common side effect of the implant is periods stopping.
  • Some medications can make the implant less effective.
  • If there are side effects, the implant can be taken out.
  • The implant does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Contraceptive Injections

Depending on the type, the injection can last for 8, 12 or 13 weeks. After the injection wears off, it can take up to a year for fertility to return to normal.

  • If used correctly, the contraceptive injection is more than 99% effective.
  • Depending on the type, it will last for eight, 12 or 13 weeks.
  • It’s not affected by any other medication.
  • Side effects can include weight gain, headaches, mood swings, breast tenderness and irregular bleeding.
  • The injection can’t be removed from the body.
  • It does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

IUS – Vaginal Coil

An IUS is a small, T-shaped plastic device that is inserted into your womb (uterus) by a specially trained doctor or nurse.

A long-acting reversible contraceptive method, it will work for three or five years, depending on the type.

  • An IUS is more than 99% effective.
  • The IUS can be fitted at any time during your monthly menstrual cycle.
  • It can be taken out at any time by a specially trained doctor or nurse.
  • Some women may experience mood swings, skin problems or breast tenderness.
  • The IUS does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), sometimes called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), are infections picked up and passed on during sex.

STIs can be caused by one of three things:


Infections caused by bacteria, such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis, are usually easily cured with antibiotics.


Viruses are harder to treat. With time, the body can get rid of some on its own.

Others can be vaccinated against, e.g. hepatitis A and B. However some, such as HIV, cannot be cured.


These cause two STIs: pubic lice and scabies.

Both can be caught without having sex; for example, from bedding and towels. But this isn’t common.

Symptoms of STIs

Some STIs can cause symptoms within a few days. Symptoms of others may not show for days, weeks or months.

Sometimes there are no obvious symptoms or they could be mistaken for something else.

Whether there are symptoms or not, a sexual health check-up will detect any infections.

Staying safe

To reduce the risk of STIs being passed on, people should:

  • Use condoms
  • Have fewer sexual partners
  • Get regular check-ups for STIs.

While they don’t take away all the risk, as they may not cover the part of the body where the STI is, male and female condoms are the only type of contraception that offers any protection against STIs.

Also, some STIs are spread during types of sex where people are not likely to use condoms, e.g. oral sex.

Check-ups will make sure any STIs are quickly diagnosed and treated. Most people get checked at a sexual health clinic, which is usually part of a hospital and is a free, confidential service.

It’s important to ensure that the occupational health services you offer staff cover all aspects of their physical and mental health.

If you’d like advice on how you can support staff in any way, whether in relation to sexual health or other areas of wellbing, contact the team at Fusion today.

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Categories: Choices for WellbeingEmployeesHealth & WellbeingOccupational Health

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