STD Home > Causes of Trichomoniasis

Penis-to-vagina intercourse or vulva-to-vulva contact with an infected sex partner are the main ways of spreading trichomoniasis. The parasite responsible for causing the disease can also be spread through contact with damp objects (like swimming suits or towels) that have it on them. However, this is one of the more uncommon causes of the infection.

What Causes Trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis is caused by a single-celled protozoan parasite, Trichomonas vaginalis. The vagina is the most common site of infection in women, and the urethra (urine canal) is the most common site of infection in men.
The parasite is sexually transmitted through penis-to-vagina intercourse or vulva-to-vulva (the genital area outside the vagina) contact with an infected partner. Women can acquire the disease from infected men or women, but men usually contract it only from infected women.

Preventing Trichomoniasis Transmission

There are a few things you can do to protect yourself from trichomoniasis:
  • Don't have sex. The best way to prevent trichomoniasis -- or any sexually transmitted disease (STD) -- is to practice abstinence by not having vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
  • Be faithful. Another way to reduce your chances of getting infected is to only have sex with one partner who has been tested for trichomoniasis and is not infected. Be faithful to each other, meaning that you only have sex with each other and no one else.
  • Use condoms. Protect yourself with a condom every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Condoms should be used for any type of sex with every partner. For vaginal sex, use a latex male condom or a female polyurethane condom. For anal sex, use a latex male condom. For oral sex, use a dental dam. A dental dam is a rubbery material that can be placed over the anus or the vagina before sexual contact.
  • Don't share swimsuits or towels. The trichomoniasis parasite can live outside the body for up to 45 minutes and can be contracted through contact with damp or moist objects that have the parasite on them.
  • Know that some methods of birth control, like birth control pills, shots, implants, or diaphragms, will not protect you from STDs. If you use one of these methods, be sure to also use a latex condom or dental dam (for oral sex) correctly every time you have sex.
  • Talk with your sex partner(s) about STDs and using condoms. It's up to you to make sure you are protected. Remember, it's your body!
  • Talk frankly with your doctor or nurse and your sex partner(s) about any STDs either partner currently has or had in the past. Try not to be embarrassed. Having this conversation could save your life.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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