How STIs Affect Women Differently to Men

How STIs Affect Women Differently to Men

Rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have risen in Australia across the past few decades and are particularly troubling for women between the ages of 15-44, who bear the long-term consequences of STIs like infertility, ectopic pregnancies and chronic pelvic pain.

Research has shown that women have a higher biological risk of contracting STIs than men do. Early testing and treatment are essential for reducing the long-term issues associated with undiagnosed STIs. If you believe that you may have contracted an STI, make sure you organise an online STD test as soon as possible!

Here are some of the ways that STIs affect women differently:

Symptoms can be confusing

Women with an STI are more likely than men to be asymptomatic – meaning they do not display any symptoms. They are also more likely to confuse symptoms of an STI for another condition. For instance, they may think that burning or itching is a sign of a yeast infection when it may be a sign of chlamydia.

Women also tend not to notice symptoms as easily as men do. This is because conditions like herpes, which can cause ulcers in the vagina, are not always easily visible like they are when they affect the penis. While herpes cannot be cured, the symptoms can be managed with effective medications and topical creams.

Female anatomy increases risk

The female anatomy puts women at a higher risk of contracting STIs. This is because the vaginal lining is thinner than the skin of the penis, making it easier for bacteria to penetrate it. The vagina also provides an effective environment for bacteria to grow in, making it easier to contract herpes or display signs of genital warts.

Unique health complications

Untreated STIs can lead to serious complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to infertility and ectopic pregnancy. STIs can also be passed onto babies during pregnancy and childbirth, which can lead to low birth weight, blindness, brain damage, deafness and stillbirth. If gonorrhoea is left untreated for several years, PID can occur, as well as meningitis. Thankfully, gonorrhoea can be completely cured with effective antibiotics.

HPV risk

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is considered to be the most common STI in females and is the main cause of cervical cancer. It is important that women get a pap test and an HPV test around every 3-5 years (depending on their age) to check for HPV and cervical cancer.


The lack of obvious STI symptoms in women means that women are at a greater risk of developing serious long-term side effects. It is important that sexually active men and women get tested for STIs regularly.

If you would like more information about how STIs might affect you, request a consult with one of our online doctors today.