19 April 2023

Women and STIs: Understanding the Symptoms, Contributing Factors, and How to Protect Yourself

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a growing concern in Singapore. Women, in particular, are at increased risk of contracting STIs due to biological and social factors.

Thus, it is essential for women to understand the risks associated with STIs and take actions to protect themselves. Learn about the common STIs in Singapore, the factors that increase the risk, and what steps you can take to protect yourself from contracting this kind of infection.

Common STIs in Singapore and their Symptoms

A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is only considered a disease when it causes symptoms. Think of an infection as the first step towards disease. Since most of the common STIs are often asymptomatic, experts suggest “STI” be used instead of “STD”.

Nevertheless, it would be best to be aware of the common STI/STD symptoms, as these infections and diseases can have serious consequences for women’s productive health. Since not all STIs develop into STDs, we shall settle on using STIs to refer to both infection and disease.

Here are some of the most prevalent STIs in women and their symptoms:

  • Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that can cause vaginal discharge, pain during sex, and a burning sensation during urination. However, many women may have no symptoms at all.

  • Gonorrhoea

Gonorrhoea is another bacterial infection that can cause similar symptoms to chlamydia, including painful urination and vaginal discharge. It may also cause abdominal pain, bleeding between periods, and painful bowel movements.

  • Genital herpes

Genital herpes is a viral infection that can cause painful sores or blisters on/around the genital area, buttocks, or thighs. Women may also experience flu-like symptoms, such as fever and swollen glands.

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is also a viral infection that may cause genital warts, abnormal cervical cell changes, or cervical cancer. However, most women with HPV have no symptoms.

  • Syphilis

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that can cause sores or ulcers on the genitals, anus, or mouth. It may also cause flu-like symptoms (e.g., fever and swollen glands) and rash on the hands or feet.

  • Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that may cause flu-like illness with jaundice, sometimes with no noticeable symptoms at all.

  • HIV

HIV is another viral infection that may initially cause no symptoms. People who are recently infected may sometimes experience flu-like symptoms, such as fever, rash, swollen neck, and armpit glands. These symptoms may progress to diarrhoea, weight loss, night sweats, and oral thrush. Other skin infections may appear before a more serious disease like AIDS begins.

It is crucial to seek medical attention if you experience any of these STI symptoms, as early diagnosis and treatment can prevent long-term complications.

Potential Long-term Consequences of Untreated STIs

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can have serious long-term consequences for women’s health if left untreated. Here are some long-term consequences that you need to be aware of:

  1. Untreated chlamydia or gonorrhoea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, a serious infection of the reproductive organs, causing chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy.
  2. Certain types of HPV can cause cervical cell changes that may progress to cervical cancer if left untreated. Regular cervical cancer screening is essential for early detection and treatment.
  3. STIs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea, can cause scarring and damage to the fallopian tubes, making it difficult to conceive a child.
  4. Untreated herpes can cause chronic pain and discomfort, especially during outbreaks.
  5. Syphilis can cause serious neurological damage, such as paralysis, blindness, and dementia if left untreated.

Factors that Increase the Risk of Contracting STIs

Here are some factors that increase the risk of contracting STIs:

  1. Multiple sexual partners, especially if one or more of the partners have unprotected sex or engage in high-risk sexual behaviours
  2. Unprotected sex, as bodily fluids can easily pass between partners
  3. Age, particularly those under the age of 25, due to biological and social factors (e.g., the cervix of younger women is not fully developed, making it easier for STIs to spread)
  4. Substance use, particularly alcohol and drugs, as they increase the risk of engaging in risky sexual behaviours
  5. Immunodeficiency, as those with HIV/AIDS or on immunosuppressive medications are more vulnerable to contracting STIs

Protect Yourself Against STIs

Prevention is the key when it comes to reducing the risk of sexually transmitted infections. Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself against STIs:

  1. Limit the number of sexual partners
  2. Practise safe sex
  3. Avoid high-risk sexual behaviours
  4. Get vaccinated (HPV and Hepatitis B)
  5. Get regular STD testing

STI Testing and Treatment in Singapore

Getting tested for sexually transmitted infections is a significant step towards protecting your sexual health. Both testing and treatment are available at polyclinics and hospitals in Singapore, as well as private clinics and non-governmental organisations.

STI/STD testing

  • Typically involves a physical exam, a review of symptoms, and a laboratory test to check for the presence of an STI

STI/STD treatment

  • Typically involves a course of antibiotics or antiviral medications, depending on the type of STI
  • Completing the full course of treatment is important to ensure that the infection is fully cleared


  • STI testing and treatment are confidential, and medical professionals are required to adhere to strict privacy laws, meaning your STI status will not be shared with anyone else without your permission


Being informed about the risks of sexually transmitted infections and taking proactive steps to protect your sexual health is essential for all women in Singapore. You can make informed decisions about your sexual health by having enough knowledge about understanding these risks.

If you are concerned about your sexual health or have been exposed to someone with an STI, it is crucial to seek medical attention immediately, preferably a women’s clinic in Singapore. Don’t let STIs compromise your sexual health. Take charge of your well-being by arranging a visit to a recommended women’s clinic today.