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Sexual Health

sexual health

Love, affection and sexual intimacy all play a role in healthy relationships and contribute to our sense of well-being.


Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis and is the most commonly diagnosed sexually transmitted infection (STI) in New Zealand. It affects both men and women. Most people that have chlamydia don't show any symptoms - but they can still infect other people. Chlamydia can be easily treated with antibiotics. Left untreated, chlamydia can cause infertility.

Usually, chlamydia has no symptoms. Most people are not aware that they have the infection - especially women.

If you do get chlamydia symptoms, they may begin in as little as 5 to 10 days after you got the infection.

When women have chlamydia symptoms, they may experience:

  • abdominal pain
  • abnormal vaginal discharge
  • bleeding between menstrual periods
  • low-grade fever
  • painful intercourse
  • pain or a burning feeling while urinating
  • swelling inside the vagina or around the anus
  • the urge to urinate more than usual
  • vaginal bleeding after intercourse
  • a yellowish discharge from the cervix that may have a strong smell.

When men have symptoms, they may experience:

  • pain or a burning feeling while urinating
  • pus or watery or milky discharge from the penis
  • swollen or tender testicles
  • swelling around the anus.

How is chlamydia spread?

Chlamydia is spread by vaginal and anal intercourse. Rarely, it is spread during oral sex or by touching your eye with your hand. It can also spread from a woman to her fetus during birth. Chlamydia is not passed through casual contact.

If you are sexually active, it is important to have regular STI checks. If you think you may have been exposed to chlamydia, see your doctor for an additional STI check.

Do sexual partners need treatment?

If you have had sex without a condom with your sexual partner(s) it is very likely they are infected with chlamydia. This means it is important they have a sexual health check-up and be treated for chlamydia regardless of symptoms or test results.

Why is treatment of chlamydia important?

Because chlamydia has few or no symptoms, it can sometimes go untreated for a long time. If chlamydia is not treated, it can become a serious threat to your health. Chlamydia may cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). If PID is not treated, it may affect a woman's ability to get pregnant. Testing and treatment for chlamydia significantly reduces the risk for PID.

In men, if chlamydia is not treated, it can result in a condition called epididymitis. If epididymitis is not treated, it can lead to sterility. Rarely, it leads to a condition called reactive arthritis. Reactive arthritis causes a variety of conditions, including swelling and pain in the joints that can be disabling.

To prevent these kinds of complications, it is important to get tested any time you notice chlamydia symptoms or when you think you may have been exposed to chlamydia.


Chlamydia can be passed from mother to baby during birth. The baby may subsequently develop eye and/or ear infections, or pneumonia.

How can I prevent getting chlamydia?

Anyone who is sexually active can catch chlamydia. You're most at risk if you have a new sexual partner or don't use a barrier method of contraception, such as a condom, when having sex.

There is a lot you can do to prevent getting chlamydia:

Abstain from vaginal and anal intercourse and oral sex.

  • If you choose to have vaginal or anal intercourse, use female or latex condoms every time.
  • Giving or getting chlamydia during oral sex is rare, but you can further reduce your risk by using condoms or latex or plastic barriers.


Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria called neisseria gonorrhoeae which is very common in people younger than 25 years. It affects both men and women and is easily treated with antibiotics.

Gonorrhoea is spread through skin contact during sex.

As well as genital gonorrhoea, you can also get gonorrhoea of the throat and anus by having anal and oral sex with someone who has the infection.

One simple way to protect yourself from gonorrhoea is by using a condom when engaging in sexual intercourse.

Some people with gonorrhoea do not experience any symptoms and men have symptoms more often than women. The symptoms below are the most common.


  • Discoloured/unusual discharge from vagina
  • Tummy pain
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Pain when peeing
  • Discharge or bleeding from the anus.


  • White, green, or yellow discharge from the end of the penis
  • Irritation of the inside of the penis
  • Sore testicles
  • Pain when peeing
  • Discharge or bleeding from the anus.

Gonorrhoea is treatable. You will need to take a course of antibiotics, which you must complete.

You need to wait seven days after finishing your course of antibiotics before having sex.

If you don't get treated, gonorrhoea can cause serious and permanent health problems in both men and women, including:

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Risk of ectopic pregnancy due to scarring on the fallopian tubes
  • Infertility (being unable to get pregnant)
  • Sterility in men

For more information and advice about treatment you can visit a sexual health clinic, family planning centre, school nurse or your doctor.

Do sexual partners need treatment?

If you have had sex without a condom with your sexual partner(s) it is very likely they are infected with gonorrhoea. It is important they have a sexual health check and treatment for gonorrhoea, even if they have no symptoms and even if they have a negative gonorrhoea test.

If you are diagnosed with gonorrhoea, it is important to tell anyone you have had sex with within the last 2 months to get tested and treated.