What is trichomoniasis?
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmissible infection (STI) caused by a tiny parasite. It can infect the vulva, vagina, penis and urethra (where urine comes out). It mostly affects people who have a vagina, who are older and/or living in regional and remote areas. It is less common in people who have a penis.
How do you get trichomoniasis?
Trichomoniasis is mainly passed on during unprotected sexual contact with someone who has trichomoniasis. Sexual contact may be genital skin-to-skin contact, vaginal sex, touching the genitals with fingers (if trichomoniasis on hand) or sharing sex toys. Trichomoniasis is usually not associated with anal or oral sex.
Trichomoniasis can affect anyone who is sexually active. It can be passed on whether your sexual partner/s are the same sex as you or a different sex.
How would I know if I have trichomoniasis?
Many people with trichomoniasis do not know because they do not have symptoms.
Some people may have symptoms such as:
- smelly, frothy or unusual discharge (fluid) from the vagina which may be white, grey, yellow, or green
- smelly or unusual discharge (fluid) from the penis
- abnormal or irregular bleeding from the vagina (especially after sex)
- difficulty or pain (discomfort, stinging or burning) during urination (peeing)
- frequent urge to urinate
- redness, itching and/or burning on the genital skin or in the vagina or penis
- pain during sex.
If you have symptoms, STI testing is the best way to know if you have trichomoniasis.
What does a test involve?
If you have a vagina, testing for trichomoniasis usually involves a doctor or nurse performing a vaginal examination and using a cotton swab to collect a sample from your vagina.
Sometimes you may be able to collect your own vaginal sample, using a cotton swab.
If you have a penis, you can usually choose to pee in a small jar. Sometimes you may need a cotton swab to collect a sample from your penis.
You may choose to test for other STIs or BBVs at the same time as testing for trichomoniasis.
Sexual Health Victoria (SHV) provides expert, confidential STI and BBV testing to Victorians. We also provide expert information, healthcare and support on a range of reproductive and sexual health matters. For more information on SHV clinical services, see our clinics or you can book an appointment online.
How is trichomoniasis treated?
Trichomoniasis is treated with a single dose of antibiotic tablets. Occasionally you may need a longer course of antibiotics. It is not recommended to drink alcohol within 24 hours after taking the antibiotic tablets to treat trichomoniasis.
If you have symptoms and your doctor or nurse thinks they are most likely to be caused by trichomoniasis, you may be offered treatment before your test results come back.
Where do I get treatment?
Your doctor or nurse will give you the antibiotics or a script which you can take to the pharmacy. You cannot buy medications to treat trichomoniasis over the counter without a script.
What if I do not get treated?
Trichomoniasis can cause health complications if not treated.
If you have a vagina or a penis, untreated trichomoniasis could lead to infertility (inability for you or your sexual partner/s to become pregnant).
If you do not get treated for trichomoniasis, you can pass the infection to your sexual partner/s — even if you do not have symptoms.
Having trichomoniasis can increase the risk of getting or spreading other sexually transmissible infections.
Will trichomoniasis come back?
Trichomoniasis is cured by effective treatment, but you do not develop any immunity. It is possible to get another trichomoniasis infection.
To avoid being reinfected with trichomoniasis it is recommended you avoid sexual contact or use barrier protection (external condoms, internal condoms or dental dams) for 7 days after you (and your current sexual partner/s) have finished treatment.
It is recommended you have a repeat trichomoniasis test 4 weeks after treatment if you still have symptoms.
Do I need to let my sexual partner/s know I have trichomoniasis?
If you have been diagnosed with trichomoniasis it is recommended you let your sexual partner/s know so they can make informed decisions about ways to lower the risk of passing it on and be tested and treated. If your sexual partner/s are not treated, you could end up with trichomoniasis again.
There are currently no guidelines recommending how far back to trace sexual partner/s to inform them you have been diagnosed with trichomoniasis. You could follow chlamydia guidelines that recommended you contact any sexual partner/s you have had in the last 6 months.
There are some great websites to support you informing your sexual partners via a phone call, text message, letter or email. There are ways of doing this either personally or anonymously.
- Let Them Know
- The Drama Downunder - for men who have sex with men
- Better to know – for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
Your doctor or nurse can assist with informing your current or previous sexual partner/s.
What should I do if a sexual partner of mine has been diagnosed with an STI?
You may be notified that a sexual partner has been diagnosed with an STI or a BBV. Notification may be in person or via a phone call, text message, letter or email. You may have an infection too and be unaware as you may not have symptoms. See your doctor or nurse to discuss ways to lower the chances of passing it on, get tested and treated.
Will trichomoniasis affect my pregnancy or breastfeeding?
If you are infected with an STI or BBV during pregnancy it can cause serious health complications for both you and your baby. Complications can include:
- Infection in the uterus (womb) after birth.
- Passing the infection to the baby (during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding) causing health conditions.
- Premature (early) birth.
If you are planning a pregnancy or already pregnant, it is recommended you and your sexual partner/s have STI and BBV screening tests, even if you have been tested in the past. You can speak to your doctor, nurse or midwife for more information.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding and considering treatment for an STI or BBV, ask your doctor, nurse or midwife about the possible effects of the treatment or medicine on your baby or breastfeeding. The antibiotic treatment for trichomoniasis is usually safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding, although may affect the taste of breastmilk.
How can I lower my risk of getting STIs and BBVs?
You can lower your risk of getting STIs and BBVs by using barrier protection (external condoms, internal condoms or dental dams) correctly during any type of sex (vaginal, anal or oral sex) and when sharing sex toys.
Barrier protection is not 100% effective at preventing STIs and BBVs.
You can also lower your risk of getting a BBV by:
- not sharing injecting equipment, razors, nail clippers
- only getting tattoos and piercing in regulated places
- talking to your doctor or nurse about HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) if you are at risk of HIV exposure.
You can also lower your risk of getting an STI or BBV by both you and your sexual partners having regular STI and BBV testing. To get an STI or BBV test at Sexual Health Victoria, see our clinics or you can book an appointment online.
Where to get more information and support
- Sexual Health Victoria
- Better Health Channel
- The Centre Clinic – a safe and friendly general practice, providing care for LGBTI community members as well as specialist medical care for people living with HIV, and expert sexual health screening and treatment.
- DirectLine 1800 888 236 – support for people affected by alcohol and other drugs including information on where to obtain new needles and syringes.
- Equinox – for transgender services
- Headspace – for young people
- Melbourne Sexual Health Centre – a specialist sexual health clinic.
- Minus 18 – for young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.
- Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health – for culturally and linguistically diverse women.
- PRONTO! – a peer-led service for men who have sex with men.
- Thorne Harbour Health (formerly Victorian AIDS Council)
- TouchBase – information, support and services for LGBTI people.
- A doctor or nurse.
- Your local community health service
If you are using the internet for information, only use reliable and reputable websites. Be aware of websites containing inaccurate and harmful information and imagery.