Myths about sexual health are common, so take a look at our mythbuster to make sure you can tell the fiction from the facts.

Condom myths

"I'm/my partner's too big for a condom"

A regular sized condom will fit most men but there are a range of sizes for you to try or you may be more comfortanle with a nonlatex condom or even a Femidom. Sometimes it doesn’t feel right if it hasn’t been put on right in the first place. If you want more information about putting a condom on properly click here.

“You can use cling-film, plastic bags, crisp packets or anything else instead of a condom”

Only a condom protects against STIs. Make sure that they have the European CE mark and BSI kite-mark on them, as this means that they've been tested to European safety standards.

Left: BSI kite-mark Right: European CE mark

“Condoms can be washed out and used again”

You can't use a condom more than once, even if you wash it out. If you've used a condom, throw it away and use a new one if you have sex again.

“I don’t use condoms because they are too expensive”

There are loads of places you can pick up condoms for free and if you’re under 25 you can sign up for a C-card. For more information click here.

Pregnancy myths

“It’s my first time, so I can’t get pregnant”

You can get pregnant any time you have sex so always be prepared.

“You can’t get pregnant if he pulls out before he comes”

Pulling out the penis won’t stop a woman from getting pregnant. Before a man ejaculates (comes), there's sperm in the pre-ejaculatory fluid (pre-come), which leaks out when he gets excited. It only takes one sperm to get a woman pregnant. Pre-come can contain sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so withdrawing the penis won't prevent you from getting an infection either. Always use a condom to protect yourself against STIs, and also use other contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

“You can’t get pregnant if you have sex while on your period”

You can get pregnant any time you have sex, even when you’re on your period.

“You can get pregnant from oral sex”

This isn’t true. A woman can’t get pregnant from oral sex even if she swallows after giving a blow job.

"If you have had unprotected sex you can only be given emergency contraception the morning after"

Although you should take the morning after pill as soon as possible, you can take it up to five days after, and sometimes even longer than that. If you need advice contact our clinic. For more information on emergency contraception click here.

STI myths

“I’m a woman that only has sex with other women so I can’t get STIs”

If a woman has an STI and has sex with another woman, the infection can be passed on through vaginal fluid (including fluid on shared sex toys), blood or close body contact. Always use condoms on shared sex toys, rinse after use, and consider using dams to cover the genitals during oral sex or if menstruating and living with a virus like HIV or Hepatitis B/C.

“I don’t have to use a condom/dental dam during oral or anal sex because they’re safer”

There is no such thing as “safer” sex without protection. STIs can be transmitted via any mucous membrane or cut that comes into contact with bodily fluids (that includes the mouth, anus and eyes).

“I’ve had unprotected sex, but everything looks/feels fine, so I don’t have an STI”

Anyone who has had unprotected sex should get tested for STIs. Many infections can lie dormant, so even if you are symptom-free, you could still pass it on to others or face more serious consequences later on.

“Once you’ve had an STI there’s no chance of getting it again”

You can get some STIs more than just once. Infection with Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, or trichomonas does not protect you from catching them again.

"You always have to be examined and have swabs taken to detect sexually transmitted infections"

If you just need a 'peace of mind check' then there may be no need to be examined. Men can provide a urine sample and women can do a self-taken vaginal swab. If an examination is recommended this will be discussed with you in clinic.

"You can have a test done straight away to tell if you have an infection"

Sometimes we can see straight away that there is an infection present. Some infections however, can take two weeks or longer before they can be detected, so it may be advised that you repeat some tests to make sure that we do not miss anything.

"If someone is HIV positive they will definitely pass it on to me during sex"

If your partner is HIV positive and taking antiretroviral medication, they are unlikely to pass on HIV through sex. A study has shown that the likely chance of transmission via anal sex from someone on successful HIV treatment is under 1% and the likely chance of transmission via receptive anal sex with ejaculation from someone on successful HIV treatment is under 4%. However, you should still use a condom as an extra precaution and to protect against other STIs.

Other myths

“You have to pay for tests and treatment at the GUM clinic”

All tests and treatment provided in GUM clinics are free as long as they are part of our usual treatments list.

“Will my attendance at the GUM clinic show on my medical records?”

GUM clinics are fully confidential. They use unique codes to label specimens and case notes. They do not routinely inform your GP of your attendance unless you ask us to or you are referred by them and it’s helpful to let them know about your care with us, with your consent.Occasionally you may have an untreated infection or be in a situation which puts you or another person at serious risk of harm. Very rarely we may then need to share information to prevent serious harm, and only to those who need to know, and after letting you know first.