Things to Tell Your Healthcare Provider When Going for Your Annual Exam

A lot of people assume that STD testing is part of their annual physical exam. Unfortunately, that's rarely the case. Regular STD screening isn't always a part of medical care. However, for many people, it should be. That is why it's important to talk to your healthcare provider 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. Even if that's not the case for you, some people also just like to make sure.


How Many Sexual Partners You've Had Over the Last Year, and Their Genders

Doctor talking to patient.

Cultura RM / Zero Creatives / Collection Mix: Subjects / Getty Images

Healthcare providers aren't always great about taking a sexual history from their patients. That's why it's good to be up front with your healthcare provider about how many sexual partners you've had in the last year, and what their genders are. Sharing this information with your practitioner will help them assess your risk for a variety of STDs. If you don't feel comfortable talking about your partners' genders, you can also just talk about the types of sexual encounters you have had. It's less important for practitioners to know the genders of your partners than what types of activities you've engaged in — and whether you regularly used barriers


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 healthcare provider 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. This may be 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.


If You've Had Sex With Someone You Know Has an STD

Couple on bed

Noviembre Anita Vela / Moment / Getty Images

If you've had sexual contact with someone that you know has, or had, an STD, tell your healthcare provider. It's probably going to be a good idea for you to be screened for that infection. If you can, let your practitioner know when they were diagnosed relative to the time that you had sex with them. Also tell your healthcare provider what 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.


If You Have Symptoms That Might Be Related to an STD

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 healthcare provider know. It may change the way they test you by giving them clues about what to look for.


If You (or Your Partner) Have Multiple Sex Partners

Threesome couple

Vladimir Vladimirov / 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 healthcare provider 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.


If You Have Receptive Anal Sex

Two men in their kitchen

Tetra Images / Getty Images

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 healthcare provider know if you consistently use condoms or other barriers during anal sex. Doing so vastly reduces your chance of contracting an STD.


If You Perform Oral Sex on Your Partner

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. STDs that can be spread through oral sex include HPV infection and a number of other STDs — including gonorrhea and chlamydia. These risks are not necessarily high. Still, you should disclose them to your healthcare provider, particularly if one or more of your partners has ever been diagnosed with an STD.


If You Are a Man Who Has Sex With Men

Gay couple

Adolescent Content / Brittany Bravo / Getty Images

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. This is true 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. Recommended testing also includes additional STDs and is more likely to include rectal STD screens.


If You Are Planning on Getting Pregnant

Handle pregnancy with care

Steven Errico / Getty Images

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. That way you can do what is necessary 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.


Any Other Health or Behavioral Factors That Could Affect Your STD Risk

Woman with Doctor in HOspital

Terry Vine / Blend Images / Getty Images

There are a number of health behaviors that can affect your STD risk. These include 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.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Elizabeth Boskey, PhD
Elizabeth Boskey, PhD, MPH, CHES, is a social worker, adjunct lecturer, and expert writer in the field of sexually transmitted diseases.