Jan 2009

Gay Girls Health

There’s loads of sexual health info out there for gay men, straight men and straight women, but sometimes it seems that gay and bi women are left out the loop (arrrh!). But not to worry help is at hand!

There are all sorts of misconceptions around gay women’s sexual health; We’ve heard people say “I can’t get HIV I’m a lesbian” and “I don’t need a smear I’ve never had sex with a man”… if only that were true!

So here’s some information & useful tips for all you fab gay gals/women out there!

What makes a healthy vagina?

Contrary to popular belief you don’t need to clean inside the vagina (douching), in fact it will do more harm than good. The vagina can in fact cleverly clean itself! Soaps, fragrances and bubble baths can kill off your ‘good bacteria,’ which could cause itchiness, soreness or an offensive (fishy) smelling discharge.

It is normal to have discharge from the vagina; it is the vagina’s way of cleaning itself. Everyone’s discharge is different; some women have very little, other’s have a lot more. Your discharge can change throughout your menstrual cycle; but if you get an abnormal change it could indicate infection and you would need to get it checked out!

TIP: to re-condition your vagina try using a cheap emulsifying ointment to clean the outside (not inside!) of your vagina.

Cervical smears

It is a myth that gay woman don’t need a smear! Gay women who are, or have been, sexually active (even if they have never had sex with a man) are at risk of developing abnormal cervical changes, which can lead to cervical cancer. The virus that causes these changes is passed on through skin-to-skin contact, and it lives in both men and women. Therefore, you should have regular smears (usually 3 yearly from age 25).
Smears are looking for pre-cancerous changes; therefore, regular smears could potentially save your life!

Smear tests can feel uncomfortable but they should not be painful.

TIP: the trick is to try and relax as much as possible – the more relaxed you are the more comfortable it will be.

Should you have any concerns about smear test, what happens etc the staff at Over the Rainbow would be very happy to go through the procedure of show you what happens, JUST ASK!

Breast Care

Click for our Breast Cancer & Self-Examination Guide.


Unfortunately gay women CAN get STIs, even if they have never had sex with a man. Risks are lower, but there are still risks present. The risks vary depending on who you are having sex with and what type of sex you are having.

You can use flavoured dams (a latex/non latex square that covers the vulva or anus) to protect yourself from infections. Dams come in a variety of flavours including strawberry, chocolate and vanilla! Over the Rainbow stock free dams. Oral sex is particularly unsafe and should be avoided if you have any cuts/sores on your mouth or lips, and if the person receiving oral sex is on their period.

Be aware that STIs such as, Chlamydia, can be transmitted through mutual masturbation! Some people like to wear latex gloves or wash hands in between touching one and other.

Chlamydia is caused by bacteria and is sexually transmitted, for example, through vaginal, anal or oral sex, or through mutual masturbation and tribadism (rubbing vulvas together). Most women with Chlamydia won’t have any symptoms. If Chlamydia is left untreated possible consequences include long term pelvic pain and infertility. Chlamydia is treated easily with antibiotics (free from GUM clinics). If you are found to have Chlamydia it does not indicate infidelity as it can lie dormant for years!

Click here for our Chlamydia Guide.


Genital warts are usually sexually acquired through skin to skin contact, for example through rubbing vulvas together (tribadism). They are only treated from a cosmetic point of view, they do not harm you. There are different treatment options, for example freezing or a home-treatment. If you think you may have warts it is recommended you go to your local GUM clinic.

Click here for our Genital Warts Guide.


Your local GUM clinic can screen you for a range of STIs. Over the Rainbow presently can screen you for sexually transmitted infections at our new clinic held every weds. We are offering a full examination for STIs for all gay and bi women!

TIP: If you have a new partner it is a good idea for you both to get a sexual health check-up at your local GUM or at Over the Rainbow’s clinic. Remember it only takes one act of sex to pass on an infection.

Sex toys

If sharing sex toys use a new condom or clean the toy thoroughly, with soap and water, in between swapping. Also use a new condom if you’re having both vaginal and anal sex with a sex toy.

Vaginal Conditions

Thrush is an overgrowth of yeast. A lot of women have thrush and don’t have any symptoms. You only need to treat thrush if it’s causing you problems/symptoms. Thrush is the most common cause of itchiness and soreness.

There are many causes of thrush, including, bubble baths, tight clothing, antibiotics, thongs and wiping incorrectly after going to the toilet.

It is treated easily with antifungal medication, free in GUM clinics. If you have recurrent thrush speaks to your GP about having a longer course of treatment.

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is NOT a sexually transmitted infection; it is basically an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the vagina. Sometimes the cause is unknown; often it is caused by women washing/cleaning inside the vagina or in those who have frequent bubble baths. Gay and bi women are more likely to suffer with BV compared to straight woman comparatively speaking.

BV can be responsible for a bad smelling discharge. It sometimes causes excess discharge, or a change in discharge colour.

Usually BV is only treated if it is causing you symptoms. It is easily treated with antibiotics!

What Next?

Should you need any more information on any of the topics we have covered here or any others such as, Drugs and Alcohol, Smoking, Adoption please do not hesitate to contact the staff at Over the Rainbow.

For more information contact us: 07788 415522
or email: overtherainbow2@dchft.nhs.uk

Staff are present Tuesday - Friday, 10am to 5pm at Over The Rainbow, Bournemouth and at other venues throughout the county.

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