Opinion Former Article

Marie Stopes: Summer Safe Sex Guide offers sensible sunbed reading

This summer, Marie Stopes International is encouraging men and women to pack the Back Pocket Travel Guide to Sexual Health around the World alongside their beach towels before jetting off on holiday.

The guide gives top tips on how to plan ahead for safer holiday sex, and provides an essential country by country guide to local sexual health services to assist holiday goers should a sexual slip-up occur.

"Even if a holiday romance is the last thing on your mind, having fun in the sun can cause some people to lose their inhibitions, so it is important to consider sexual health when planning for your trip," advises Janet Pearce, Nurse Supervisor, Marie Stopes International. "Just as we are told not to go in the sun without protection, the same should go for holiday sex."

Every Autumn Marie Stopes International sees men and women requesting testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, or women seeking pregnancy termination, as a result of unplanned holiday liaisons. It is hoped that the Back Pocket Travel Guide may help holiday goers to prevent this situation.

"Make sure you pack enough of your regular contraception alongside your sun cream," recommends Janet. "If your regular contraception is the contraceptive pill, remember that travelling between time zones may effect the time at which you must take it. Check with your family planning nurse or GP before travelling."

"In addition to your regular contraception, always carry condoms and if the situation arises insist on using them. Your bedmate may look tanned, gorgeous and healthy, but they could have a symptom-free sexually transmitted infection. Condoms are 98% effective in preventing sexually transmitted infections if used properly, but remember to keep them out of direct sunlight and away from sun creams and lotions as these can cause damage and make them ineffective. Also remember to check condoms for their expiry date and the CE safety mark or British Kite mark."

Despite best intentions to prepare for safe sex abroad, while on holiday the exotic settings, streaming sunshine & flowing alcoholic drinks can lead to a loss of judgement resulting in unprotected sex. In addition, holiday hangovers or illnesses causing vomiting or diarrhoea can affect the efficacy of some regular contraceptive methods, such as the contraceptive pill.

"In these situations, emergency contraception provides a vital role in the prevention of unintended pregnancy" says Janet. "Many countries offer emergency contraception, but travel constraints and language barriers may make it hard to obtain. Get emergency contraception from a Marie Stopes International centre or pharmacist before you go away, and remember to pack it".

As Janet concludes, consideration of sexual health should not stop once back home. "If you had unprotected sex abroad, a test for sexually transmitted infections is advisable, even if you don't have symptoms. If you are a woman returning to the UK within 5 days of having unprotected sex, consider having an intra-uterine device fitted as emergency contraception. If you think you might already be pregnant, bite the bullet and seek expert advice as soon as possible. The Marie Stopes International One Call line will offer you information and confidential support: 0845 300 8090."

The above information and quotes can be attributed to Janet Pearce, Nurse Supervisor, Marie Stopes International.

To request a copy of the Back Pocket Travel Guide to Sexual Health Around the World men and women can call 020 7034 2382.

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