Ten Things to Tell Your Doctor When Going For Your Annual Exam

As a rule, STD testing isn't part of your annual physical exam. However, for many people, it should be. Therefore, it's important to talk to your doctor about your sexual health risk factors when going in for your annual exam. You may also want to specifically request STD testing.  Asking for testing is particularly important if you know you might be at risk for an infection, but some people also just like to make sure.

Things you should tell your doctor include:

How many sexual partners you've had over the last year, and their genders

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Doctors aren't always great about taking a sexual history from their patients. That's why it's good to be up front with your doctor about how many sexual partners you've had in the last year, and what their genders are. Sharing this information with your doctor will help them assess your risk for a variety of STDs.

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If you have a history of STD infection

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - APRIL 07: Signs at the Auckland Hospital and Starship Childrens Hospital, directing people to the STD clinic and Ronald MacDonald House.. Michael Bradley/Getty Images

It's important to disclose a history of STD infection to your doctor for several reasons. The first, and most important, is that if you have an incurable STD, you may be at greater risk for acquiring other STDs. However, a history of infection may also show that you are at greater risk of new infection -- either because of risky behaviors that you engage in or because you may be selecting partners from a higher-risk pool. STD prevalence isn't the same in all communities, and that affects individual risk.

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If you've had sex with someone you know has an STD

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If you've had sexual contact with someone that you know has, or had, an STD, your doctor will likely want to screen you for that infection. If you can, let your doctor know when they were diagnosed relative to the time that you had sex with them, and also the kinds of activities you engaged in. For example, if you performed unprotected oral sex on someone with active chlamydia, you might need a throat swab.

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If you have symptoms that might be related to an STD

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Herpes Cold Sore on Face. Todd Keith/E+?Getty Images

Not all STDs are easy to detect with a blood or urine test. Some are most easily diagnosed by their symptoms. Therefore, if you've had any strange bumps, itching, pain, or discharge, let your doctor know. It may change the way they test you by giving them clues about what to look for.

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If you (or your partner) have multiple sex partners

Groom with two brides on wedding cake.
Groom with two brides on wedding cake.. Peter Dazeley/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Knowing how many people you are sexually involved with, or whether one of your sexual partners is involved with other people, can help your doctor evaluate your STD risk. You should also discuss whether you have safer sex with some or all or your partners, or if you're fluid bonded to one or more of them.

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If you have receptive anal sex

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Receptive anal sex comes with its own particular risks. If you regularly have receptive anal sex, you may need to be tested for a variety of anal STDs - including HPV and gonorrhea. Do let your doctor know if you consistently use condoms or other barriers during anal sex, however, as doing so vastly reduces your chance of contracting an STD.

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If you perform oral sex on your partner

Throat examination
Throat examination. :webphotographeer/E+/Getty Images

Despite what former President Bill Clinton might think, oral sex is real sex and it does come with STD risks. If you perform unprotected oral sex on your partner, you may be at risk of oral HPV infection or oral infection with any of a number of other STDs - including gonorrhea and chlamydia. These risks are not necessarily high, but you should disclose them to your doctor, particularly if one or more of your partners has ever been diagnosed with an STD.

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If you are a man who has sex with men

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Those men who have sex with men who are not in mutually monogamous relationships are at increased risk of a number of STDs, including HIV and syphilis, for both biological and behavioral reasons. As such, STD screening recommendations for men who have sex with men are different than for other men. Testing is recommended more frequently, includes additional STDs, and is more likely to include rectal STD screens.

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If you are planning on getting pregnant

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A number of STDs can be particularly dangerous for a pregnant woman or her fetus. Therefore if you are pregnant, or planning on getting pregnant, it's a good idea to get tested for STDs. That way, you can get treated early, in order to reduce the risk of a potentially fatal neonatal infection. Similarly, if you are having sex with someone who is pregnant, it is a good idea to be aware of any STDs you have, in order to lower the chance of passing on an infection.

Fortunately, STD treatment during pregnancy is quite well understood. There are usually safe options that can reduce the likelihood of a fetal infection without putting the pregnancy at risk.

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Any other health or behavioral factors that could affect your STD risk

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There are a number of health behaviors that can affect your STD risk, like douching or injecting drugs. Similarly, having conditions or using medications, that affect your immune system can change your susceptibility to infection. Discussing these factors with your healthcare provider may help them assess your risk. It also provides an opportunity for you to learn new ways to manage your health.

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