How do you get trichomoniasis?

Medically reviewed by Neka Miller, PhD on January 21, 2021. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


Have you heard of “trichomoniasis” and want to learn more about this infection and how it can affect your health? If so, keep reading because here we’ll break down what trichomoniasis is, how you get trichomoniasis, possible signs and symptoms, and more.


Test for trichomoniasis from the convenience and privacy of home with the Everlywell at-home Trichomoniasis Test. The test is easy to take and the kit includes everything you need for collecting a sample at home and sending it to a lab for testing.


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What is trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis, a common (and curable) sexually transmitted infection (or STI), affects an estimated 3.7 million people in the United States—and it tends to be more common among women compared to men.

Trichomoniasis is caused by a microscopic, single-celled parasite. This tiny parasite, known as Trichomonas vaginalis, is also what gives the infection its name.

Unlike some STIs, most people with trichomoniasis (or “trich”) do not exhibit any noticeable symptoms and thus may not feel the need to take a trichomoniasis test to see whether they have it. About 70% of people who contract trichomoniasis do not show any signs of infection. Sometimes the symptoms are so mild that they are easy to ignore, or they can be mistaken for other conditions.

How do you get trichomoniasis?

As mentioned above, trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection, meaning that anyone who’s sexually active is at risk of getting it—particularly when having unprotected sexual contact with someone who has the infection.

The tiny parasite that causes trichomoniasis transmits easily via sexual fluids, including semen, pre-ejaculate, and vaginal fluid—so the parasite often passes through genital sex. However, it can also be transmitted through vulva-to-vulva contact, sharing sex toys, or touching your genitals or your partner’s genitals while you potentially have the parasite or infected fluids on your hands.

Although trichomoniasis can easily spread to the vagina, vulva, penis, or urethra, it’s less commonly transmitted to other body parts, like the mouth or anus.

You cannot contract trichomoniasis from casual contact, like sharing drinks, hugging, kissing, holding hands, or sitting on toilet seats.

Signs and symptoms

So what are the symptoms of trichomoniasis and how long is the incubation period (the length of time between the start of an infection and the presence of symptoms)?

The symptoms associated with vaginal trichomoniasis can include:

  • Genital inflammation, resulting in itchiness, irritation, and swelling in the vagina
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge that may smell and appear white, gray, green, or yellow (and sometimes bloody)
  • Pain or burning while urinating
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

Penile symptoms of trichomoniasis are rare but can include itching, irritation, and discomfort, as well as painful urination or a potential discharge.

If you’re experiencing symptoms such as these, taking an at-home trichomoniasis test is an easy way to check for a “trich” infection.

It’s important to note that the symptoms experienced by someone with trichomoniasis can resemble those of bacterial vaginosis (BV). But while the symptoms may share similarities, they occur for very different reasons. (Related: Trichomoniasis vs. BV (bacterial vaginosis))

Though trichomoniasis is usually asymptomatic, those who do show symptoms will usually experience them between 3 and 28 days after the initial infection from a sexual partner. While this sexually transmitted infection can affect anyone of any biological sex, vaginal symptoms are the most common.

Preventing and checking for trichomoniasis

As trichomoniasis is spread through semen, pre-ejaculate, and vaginal fluid, the best way to avoid it is to practice safe sex. Using a condom during anal and vaginal sex is an effective means of preventing a trichomoniasis infection and other STIs/STDs. It’s also important to avoid sharing sex toys, which can transmit a trichomoniasis infection to sexual partners.

If you suspect you have trichomoniasis (or a sex partner has tested positive for the infection), consider taking the at-home Trichomoniasis Test from Everlywell (or take a comprehensive at-home STD Test). This test is easy to use from the convenience of home and can accurately identify a trichomoniasis infection.

If positive results are detected with this test, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with our independent physician network and may receive treatment (typically oral antibiotics). To prevent spreading trichomoniasis to others, it’s important to inform your sex partner(s) so they can get tested and treated. Avoid having sex again until all your symptoms are gone and you’ve finished your own treatment. Once your infection has cleared up, make sure you continue to practice safe sex by using a condom to prevent reinfection.


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References

1. Neglected Parasitic Infections in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL (PDF). Accessed January 21, 2021.

2. Trichomoniasis - CDC Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed January 21, 2021.

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