Pap tests and HPV facts
A pap test is when a doctor or nurse takes a sample of cells from the cervix during a pelvic exam. This is to check for changes to the cells that could lead to cancer of the cervix. Cervical cancer can be treated very effectively if it is detected early, which is why every woman should get regular pap testing.
Strictly speaking, a “pap” test is only to check for cancer, not STI’s. If you want STI tests at the same time, you should ask for them specifically. Similarly, if you get tested at an STI clinic, they may or may not do the pap test for cancer at that time – you should ask if you need one done.
The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is one of the major causes of cervical cancer. It is a very common sexually transmitted infection, spread by skin-to-skin contact. Almost everyone who has had sex has probably been exposed to one form or another of HPV.
Some strains of HPV just cause genital warts, which are odd-looking but not otherwise dangerous. There are other strains of HPV that do not cause any visible signs or symptoms, but can lead to cervical cancer. Every female who is sexually active should have yearly paps because there’s no other way to detect cervical cancer early.
There is now a vaccine against HPV. The vaccine prevents the two strains that cause most genital warts, and the two strains that cause most cervical cancer. It is being offered free to very young women before they are sexually active. You can buy it for $466 for the three dose series.
Vaginosis and Yeast Infections
Yeast infections and Vaginosis are both caused by an imbalance of the normal microbes in your vagina. They are not usually sexually transmitted but can be annoying. Some women mistake STI symptoms for a yeast infection. If you have symptoms, get tested.
Working While Pregnant
The best thing you can do for your unborn child is get regular prenatal care and eat well. Even if you are using drugs, it is really important to get connected to a clinic.
The reason why prenatal care is important is if there is an emergency, staff at the hospital need to know how far along you are (based on past ultrasound results) and if any other issues have been identified by a doctor or midwife.
When doing sex work, risk to an unborn child would be from the mother contracting a sexually transmitted infection, as a number of infections can pass from the mother to the baby.
Some STI’s can affect the development of the baby while it is in the mother, while others can affect the baby during the process of giving birth.
Hepatitis B is an infection that passes easily from mother to child.
Getting chlamydia or gonorrhea on the cervix can affect the baby while giving birth by possibly causing blindness if the baby got it and was not treated. They can also cause premature birth or premature rupture of the membranes for the mother.
Syphilis is one that can kill the child if left untreated. This is one of the STI’s that can affect the development of the baby. You can get syphilis from giving BJ’s.
Trichomoniasis and bacterial vaginosis can also be related to premature rupture of the membranes.
HIV is another infection that can be passed to the child before or during delivery. If the healthcare team knows beforehand they can really reduce the chances of this happening.
Herpes: The biggest concern is possible transmission of herpes to the baby. This is called neonatal herpes.
If a person already has genital herpes (type 1 or type 2) there would be a low chance of passing it to the baby. If you are having an outbreak at the time of delivery, your doctor will likely decide to do a C-section.
The biggest risk would be if you had a primary (for the first time) genital herpes outbreak (type 1 or type 2) in your last trimester (last 3 months). If this happens there is 30-50% chance herpes will be passed to the baby.
Reducing Risks While Pregnant
You can reduce your risk of contracting an STI by having different types of sex with a condom, like oral (CBJ), hand job, tit fucking (Russian).
Get tested regularly. If you are working, you need to test more often than other women – try every three months.
Avoid contact to the vagina as much as possible (with mouth and genitals).
It may be worthwhile getting a blood test for herpes to see if you are at risk. This test may not be available everywhere yet.
Find a good doctor or midwife you can be honest with so they can give the appropriate care. If you live in BC and need help finding a health person, contact the BC Centre for Disease Control STI/HIV Outreach Program.
Treat Your Vagina Well
Wear cotton underwear. Spend some time everyday with no underwear on (like when you sleep). Avoid douching. Avoid any perfumed product or soap on your genitals. Wash with warm water. Wear breathable (cotton) panties and pants (avoid PVC, polyester, etc.). Use water-based lube if you need it so you don’t irritate the sensitive skin inside your vagina. Wash hands, body parts, and sex toys before inserting them in the vagina. Bathe in Epson salts rather than scented or perfumed bubble bath. Don’t use flavoured condoms/ lubes for intercourse – the sugar feeds yeast in your vagina. Get tested.
Vagina Tips From Other Women in the Industry:
If your vagina is doing a lot of the work, you can start to hurt down there. To ease your discomfort:
- Take hot baths.
- Take a break from vaginal services (whether it’s sex work or Ping-Pong ball shooting).
- Eat yoghurt. If you don’t like yoghurt, there is probiotic milk available in many grocery stores or acidophilus capsules found in the vitamin department.
- Take cranberry pills or drink cranberry juice for urinary tract infections.
- Douche with plain yoghurt about once a month to restore your body’s natural ph balance.
Working During Menstruation
There are many ways to work during menstruation. For activities that do not involve intercourse, cut off the tampon string and push the tampon way up or use a feminine cup (www.keeper.com). If you are engaging in intercourse, there are several options:
- Have sex while using a sea sponge. Men don’t even notice.
- Work on light days using red coloured condoms and lower the lighting.
- Use birth control pills that you can take back-to-back to avoid a period. (May have light spotting.)
- Offer other sexual activities, such as oral, during your period.
- Use round, flat make-up sponges (at least two).
Exotic dancers should change their tampons immediately before each show, and refrain from wearing light-coloured costumes if there’s a possibility of leaking.
Drink lots of water. Take Ibuprofen for cramps and bloating. And don’t make any major decisions during this time. 😉