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Getting Tested for STDs

If you and your partner are planning to have sex, or if you’ve already had it, it’s important to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). These infections spread from person to person during vaginal, oral, or anal sex; using fingers ("fingering"); or by other sexual contact.

What kinds of STD tests you get depends on what symptoms you have (if any), and your medical and sexual history. In general, you’ll first talk with the doctor before the testing is done.

What Will I Talk About With the Doctor?

Doctors will ask about your general health and sexual experience; for example, if you’ve had any STDs before and how many partners you’ve had. They'll also ask about any symptoms (like sores, discharge, or pain). But STDs don’t always cause any symptoms so people can have one and not know it.

What Kind of STD Exam Will I Need?

The doctor will examine your genitals (the sexual or reproductive organs on the outside of the body). For females who have symptoms of STDs, this might include a pelvic exam. Those who don’t have symptoms and are just getting screened for STDs as part of a routine checkup probably won't need a pelvic exam.

Based on what doctors learn from the talk and exam, they may take one or more of these samples:

  • a blood sample (from either a blood draw or a finger prick)
  • a urine (pee) sample
  • a swab of the inside of the mouth
  • a swab from the cervix in females
  • a swab of any discharge or sores

When Will I Get the STD Test Results?

Sometimes the sample can be tested in the doctor’s office. Other times, the sample is sent to a lab and the results come back later. It depends on the office and the type of STD the doctor tested for.

What Else Should I Know?

If you're not comfortable going to your doctor for STD testing, visit a health clinic instead. And if you need some support, ask a parent, another trusted adult, or a friend to go with you. You also can find support and more information online at Planned Parenthood.

Reviewed by: Lonna P. Gordon, MD
Date Reviewed: Jan 1, 2024

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