My first job out of grad school was at a university health center. In addition to restocking lube and dental dams, I also met with students. A lot of them were girls who came in complaining that sex hurt or that they had persistent yeast infections.
Sometimes, it turned out that what a girl assumed to be a yeast infection was actually an allergy to latex. Other times the uncomfortable sex was a reaction to spermicide.
Latex allergies aren’t that common. Only one to two percent of the population is affected. But if you are one of those people, then using condoms can be a drag. Luckily, there are two non-latex condom options: polyurethane and animal skin.
Animal skin condoms can prevent pregnancies but they don’t offer good protection from sexually transmitted infections. This is because, just like human skin, they are porous. Sperm can’t fit through these pores, but some infections can.
A better option than animal skin is the polyurethane condom. These come in male and female varieties and offer good protection from both pregnancy and infection. Polyurethane condoms may be a little harder to find, and they are generally more expensive than latex condoms. The upside? Well, being able to practice safer sex!
If you’ve never had a problem with, say, balloons or a hot water bottle, (which both tend to be made of latex) then the problem might be a reaction to spermicide.
Spermicide is a birth control cream that comes on some condoms. It is also used alone (bad idea), or with a diaphragm. One of the more common spermicides, Nonoxynol-9 is actually a detergent designed to kill sperm. The vagina is pretty delicate, so it’s not surprising that some don’t welcome the presence of a chemical.
Of course, plenty of gals DO have yeast infections or STDs. So if switching condoms or ditching spermicide isn’t fixing what ails you, it would definitely be wise to see a health care provider.