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Sexual health

Sexual health is an important part of physical and mental health, of emotional and social well-being. It's important to take care of your sexual health and, if you have children, evidence shows that it's good to talk about sex and relationships.

Taking care of your sexual health

Both men and women need to look after their sexual health and take time to understand the issues that surround contraception and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

For instance there are some STIs, like chlamydia, that you could be carrying without having any symptoms. This infection can affect fertility, so it's important to make use of sexual health information, advice and services.

More information on chlamydia can be found in the following leaflet:

You can talk to your doctor or nurse at your GP surgery or family planning clinic. Surgeries often hold family planning sessions or clinics for young people - both are aimed at creating an atmosphere where people can talk openly about sex and relationship issues.

The FPA (NI) (Family Planning Association) provides a confidential local rate telephone (0845 122 8687) from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, Monday to Friday, offering information and advice on a a range of sexual health issues.

Further information can be found at:

Talking about sex with your children

It's important that parents and carers have the skills and knowledge to talk to their children as good parent/ child communication about sexual health issues can help delay first sexual experience and limit poor sexual health outcomes.

The best way to start talking about sex is to:

  • start when your child is small, encouraging them to ask questions - and answer them simply
  • make talking about sex a part of everyday life, not just a one-off chat, and keep the conversation going as they get older
  • try to introduce the topic before your child reaches puberty - waiting until then can make it awkward
  • ask your child what they think about different situations to find out how much they know already - you can then give them answers and advice that they can understand
  • use everyday media to start conversations (soaps, adverts, TV programmes, magazines) - as it is sometimes easier to start by talking about other people
  • use books, leaflets and websites (including those listed on this page) if you need information or ideas on how to start talking
  • recognise that, as your child grows, they need privacy and may not always want to talk to you
  • talk about the importance of considering the feelings of others in relationships, not just the biology
  • try to be open-minded and keep talking, even if you are shocked by your teenager's attitudes and values
  • talk to other parents about how they answer difficult questions and discuss difficult issues
  • Talking to your child about sex and teenage pregnancy (parents section)  

Information and support for parents

There are resources, leaflets and advice available if you need help in talking to your child about sex, you could contact:

Cara-friend is a voluntary organisation providing befriending, information and support services to lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Northern Ireland.

The organisation also provides services to the families, including a peer support group for parents.

The Rainbow Project works to improve the physical, mental and emotional health of gay, bisexual and non-hetrosexual men in Northern Ireland. They offer free, confidential sexual health testing and support clinics and have a counselling service. The Project also runs a support group for gay and bisexual men living with HIV.

Information and support for young people

The FPA (NI) (Family Planning Association) provides a confidential local rate telephone (0845 122 8687) from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, Monday to Friday, offering information and advice on a range of sexual health issues.

More useful links