What is trichomoniasis?
- Trichomoniasis (trich) is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a parasite that can only be seen with a microscope.
- It can affect the vagina*, urethra (pee hole), cervix (the opening to the uterus), or under the foreskin of an uncircumcised (uncut) penis*.
How do you get trichomoniasis?
- Trich is found in certain bodily fluids of someone who has trich: semen (cum), pre-cum, vaginal fluid and anal fluid.
- You can get trich from having unprotected vaginal sex with someone who already has it.
- You can get trich if you share sex toys with someone who already has it and you don’t disinfect the toys or put a new condom on them each time a new person uses the toys.
- A pregnant person with trich can sometimes pass it on to their baby during vaginal delivery.
- For more information on how STIs are passed on check out Transmitting STIs: An Unwelcome Gift .
How do you know if you have trichomoniasis?
- The only way to know you have trich is to get tested.
- Some people do not have any symptoms and may not know they have it. You can pass on trich even if you don’t have any symptoms.
- Most people with testicles** will not have symptoms. Most people with cervixes** do not have symptoms or the symptoms may be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection.
- Vaginal discharge that smells or looks different than normal for you
- Pain or bleeding during or after vaginal sex
- Painful or frequent urination (peeing)
- Redness or itchiness around the vulva (the area surrounding the entrance of the vagina)
- Mild discharge from the penis
- Painful urination
- Redness or irritation around the tip of the penis
Remember: The biggest symptom of any trichomoniasis infection is no symptoms at all.
How can you get tested for trichomoniasis?
- If you have a vagina, a clinician will do a vaginal exam and take a swab of your cervix.
- A Pap test is not a trichomoniasis test, although they are sometimes done at the same time.
- If you want to be tested for trich, ask specifically for a trichomoniasis test. Do not assume you will be tested for trichomoniasis, even if you ask to be tested “for everything” or “every STI”.
- Tests for people who have a penis are not always available. However, if your partner(s) is diagnosed with trich, you will be given treatment to take as well.
- A pregnant person can pass trich on to their baby during vaginal delivery. If you are pregnant and have not been tested for trichomoniasis, talk to your prenatal care provider.
- For more information on testing for STIs, check out The Real Facts About STI Testing .
What if you get trichomoniasis?
- Trichomoniasis can be cured with medication. You should take all of your medication, even if your symptoms go away before you are finished taking it.
- Your sexual partner(s) should also get treated. If they don’t, they can give trich to you again.
- To make sure you don’t give trichomoniasis to your sexual partner(s), wait for 7 days after your medication is finished to have sex again.
- It is important to treat trich. If left untreated, trich can lead to serious health problems. In people with ovaries, there is an increased risk of: cervical neoplasia (abnormal cells in the cervix); urinary tract infections (UTIs); infertility; and getting HIV if you have unprotected sex with someone who has HIV.
- In people with testicles, untreated trich can reduce fertility and cause swelling in the reproductive tract.
- In someone who is pregnant, untreated trich may lead to preterm delivery.
How can you lower your risk of getting trichomoniasis and/or passing it on to your partner(s)?
- Make informed decisions. Talk to your partner(s) about STIs and the use of safer sex tools.
- Use condoms on penises for vaginal sex.
- If you are sharing sex toys, be sure to disinfect them or put a new condom on them when a new person uses the toys.
- Get tested for trichomoniasis and other STIs when you or your partner has a new sexual partner. Or, if you have new partners often, get STI testing every 3-6 months. If you have symptoms of an STI, get tested right away.
- If you test positive for trichomoniasis, follow your clinician’s instructions for treatment and follow-up.
- For information on how to protect yourself and your partner, check out Protecting Yourself and Your Partners From STIs .