A one-night stand can be loads of fun but it can also end in tears, especially in the cool, sober light of day when you realise you may have made a mistake. In any case, stay safe and minimise any health risks by following this 10 point check-list compiled by our panel of doctors at It's My Health.
1. Was it consensual?
It’s the day after the night before. You could be thinking ‘that was fun’ or maybe ‘that was the start of something special’, in which case just skip to the rest of this list. However if you feel you were assaulted, if you said no, if you were forced against your will – consider fronting up at a sexual assault centre (just ring your local hospital and they can direct you). They will take care of you medically, psychologically and legally – it’s all confidential and it doesn’t mean you have to take it any further but it will ensure you are safe, supported and will give you options. It is also the place to go if you suspect your drink was spiked (if there was a big gap in your memory or if you feel you went from in control to very drunk far too quickly). The service can do a blood test and check for alcohol and other drugs but this is very time-dependent so the sooner you go there the better.
2. Could you be pregnant?
This is a biggie. Did you use protection? Are you at risk? If there is a chance last night’s adventure might result in an unwanted pregnancy think about getting the so-called morning after pill. You DON’T need a script – just go to the chemist and you can buy it directly. The sooner you take it the more likely it is to work, but it can be effective up to five days after sex. It can save you an awful lot of angst further down the line.
3. Are you at risk of AIDS?
If you used protection your risk of getting AIDS is pretty negligible. But if for any reason you think you might be at risk –for example if you find out he is HIV positive - hightail it to your local hospital. You may be eligible for HIV prophylaxis – medication that helps prevent you catching the disease. This course of drugs is not something to be undertaken lightly but worth asking about early if you need it. In terms of testing to see whether you caught HIV, if you go to a doctor they will generally give you a blood test then and there to check you weren’t HIV positive already, but then you need to wait three months before checking whether you caught the virus.
4. What about hepatitis B?
Hopefully you have already had the course of three injections that would render you immune from catching this particularly nasty viral illness that can become chronic. If you haven’t, or if you are unsure, check with your GP as soon as possible. Getting that first injection within a day or two after possible exposure may help prevent contracting the disease. People also worry about catching hepatitis C, however while this disease is highly contagious it is almost always transmitted by blood so less of a risk with sex.
5. Checking for chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhoea?
While syphilis and gonorrhoea are very uncommon these days (thank goodness), chlamydia infections are on the rise. Testing for them can be tricky as you can get false negatives and false positives. It is generally recommended that you get tested 2-3 weeks after exposure to see whether you caught these sexually transmitted infections. In general these tests are performed on urine samples. Don’t wait for symptoms before you get tested as these diseases can be silent especially in women and can lead to major complications such as infertility. If you used condoms your risk of contracting these particular diseases is very small.
6. What about herpes?
Herpes is a pain in more ways than one. You really have to wait for symptoms before you can check if you have it – a swab taken of the fluid in the blisters is then sent for testing. Blood tests are tricky as you may have antibodies to herpes but may never have had symptoms. Also you can catch herpes in your nether regions following oral sex from someone with a cold sore or about to get a cold sore. It’s a very unfair disease and one without a cure. The good news is that symptomatic herpes can be treated(so that episode settles down – you still carry the herpes virus) and flare-ups can be prevented by taking a daily tablet. Not ideal but it’s something. See your doctor if you have any symptoms (usually these will occur in the first couple of weeks after exposure but this can vary).
7. Any other nasties?
Genital warts, pubic lice or crabs – yep, it’s a jungle out there. If you had the Gardasil injection before you started having sex (aka when you were a virgin) you are generally protected against genital warts. If not you could have caught them (less likely if you used condoms) but you may not find out for years. If genital warts do appear they can be treated but that would be because they were uncomfortable or unsightly, the external warts are not precursors to cancer (that’s another strain of the wart virus also covered by the Gardasil injection).
Pubic lice are less common these days as society is becoming less and less hairy, but if you notice any creepy crawlies or you get very itchy down there see your doctor. Easily treated.
8. Passing on the problem?
Bad as it may be to catch something from a one-night stand, you’d feel twice as bad if you then passed it on to someone else. Until you can get tested and check that you are in the clear, make sure you use protection during any further encounters.
9. Don’t forget your normal medications
For most people a one-night stand has not been factored into their normal routine. Consequently, in such situations it is easy to forget your daily contraceptive pill, anti-epileptic treatment or asthma puffer. Try not to.
10. Keeping it together.
For some people one-night stands are simply pleasurable experiences of no consequence, but for others they represent regrettable lapses of judgement. If you are in the latter group don’t be too hard on yourself. Make sure you are medically safe (see the previous checklist). Be careful what you say/post on facebook or twitter. And, if you need it, good, qualified advice is always at hand, just ask.