Sex, Lies, and HPV

Written by yvonnethornton on December 3rd, 2012

All women have the right to keep their sex lives a secret and only share details with an intimate crowd of friends and partners. However, you might be surprised when your gynecologist asks for details about your first sexual experience. He or she might ask what age you had your first sexual partner and even what type of intercourse occurred. While you might be hesitant to share the details at first, it’s actually extremely important that you’re as honest as possible. Your gynecologist needs to know the details because recent studies have linked the age of your first intercourse with the likelihood that you’ll contract the human papillomavirus (HPV).  HPV has been found to be a precursor and is linked to cervical cancer.

In many cases, women who had sexual intercourse for the first time at a young age contracted HPV later in life. Even if you don’t have HPV now, your sexual history will help your gynecologist decide which types of infections and viruses to look out for.  Also, he or she may recommend being vaccinated against HPV with the Quadrivalent vaccine (Gardisil). The reasoning behind the connection between sexual history and HPV is partly because of sexual choices. There is a good chance that someone who had sex early on will have had more sexual partners than other adults, which will directly increase her likelihood of contracting HPV. Your gynecologist will also ask if you ever had any non-consensual sex, because the types of partners you’ve had and their health will also contribute to whether or not you’ll get HPV.

When your physician asks about your early sexual history, don’t worry about being judged. The best thing you can do for your own health is to be honest and share any detail you can remember. It might seem strange sharing such information with a stranger, but rest assured that she will keep the information confidential and within the walls of the office. If you’re concerned about your gynecologist’s honesty and you don’t trust that the information will remain private, it’s time to start looking for a new one. Your health is paramount, and you should feel comfortable sharing any information that will make for a more accurate diagnosis.

-Yvonne S. Thornton, M.D.,M.P.H.


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