Find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions I get. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Don’t hesitate to click Ask A Question at the top of the page!
Q: What is sex?
A: Believe it or not, this is a pretty typical question. Even researchers have realized lately that when you ask people about sex, you have to be pretty specific because as it turns out, “sex” means different things to different people. When I talk about sex, I’m normally talking about oral sex, anal sex, or vaginal-penile sex. I usually indicate which one. But for your general life purposes, make sure you talk about this with your partner! It’s so easy to get confused and miscommunicate what you expect when you say “let’s have sex.”
Q: What is the difference between STDs?
A: STDs (sexually transmitted diseases, or STI, sexually transmitted infections) are typically either viral or bacterial (some are parasitic as well). This should take you back to basic biology class. Viral infections are ones that are transmitted from person to person, usually through fluids or skin-to-skin contact, and typically are not cleared by the human body naturally. They tend to hang around for a LONG LONG time. That doesn’t mean they all have horrible symptoms, as some can flare up and come and go. But they definitely don’t have short lives. Bacterial infections, on the other hand, usually are treated with antibiotics and can be cleared quickly if the right treatment is followed quickly and as prescribed. Some viral and bacterial (and parasitic) infections have the same symptoms, so it’s important to get checked so that you get the correct treatment.
Q: When I go to my doctor for an annual checkup, do they automatically check for STDs?
A: NO! This is so important to remember. Especially for women, when you visit your gynecologist, they may be taking a pap smear, but that doesn’t mean they’re doing STD testing on you. Pap smears will show if you have abnormalities in the cervical cells, which typically means an HPV infection. But if you want additional testing, YOU MUST ASK FOR IT! Many insurance plans now cover chlamydia and gonorrhea testing, so make sure you check your benefits. Also, if cost is a concern, Planned Parenthoods offer STD testing on a sliding scale. Check out http://getstdtested.com to order an at-home testing kit or to find the nearest STD testing site near you.
Q: If a girl is taking the pill and she has sex in the morning before she takes her pill, what is the chance of her getting pregnant?
A: If a woman is using the birth control pill correctly and consistently (eg: taking the pill at the same time everyday, following the instructions perfectly) only about 1 in 1000 are expected to become pregnant. Keep in mind that other medications, repeated vomiting, and severe diarrhea can decrease the absorption of the hormones in pills making it important to avoid intercourse or use condoms as a back-up method. The time of day the woman has sexual intercourse will not affect the effectiveness of the pill.* However, if you are on the mini-pill (which you would know if you were), the time of day MUST be the same!
Q: Is an IUD dangerous to a woman’s uterus or other parts of her body?
A: I’ve written about IUDs a ton on the blog, but here’s another answer. An IUD is an effective and long acting (up to 5 years) form of birth control. Like all birth control methods, there are risks associated with IUD. Some women have the following side effects from the copper type of IUD: cramps and increased menstrual bleeding and cramping. Some women experience the following side effects with the hormone type of IUD: irregular bleeding or spotting, headache, breast tenderness, acne, weight changes, or mood changes. With both types of IUDs, there is a small risk of the IUD puncturing or perforating through the uterus. As well, IUDs do not provide any protection against STI. If a woman contracts STI, she will be at a greater risk of having a serious pelvic infection.* IUDs ARE THE MOST EFFECTIVE FORM OF BIRTH CONTROL AVAILABLE, other than abstinence and sterility.
Q: Is there anything else I can use for birth control besides the pill?
A: There a variety of birth control methods including barrier methods (e.g. male and female condoms), hormonal methods (e.g. pill, patch, IUD, shot, and ring), and non-hormonal methods (e.g. IUD, Fertility Awareness). Click here for a more detailed listing of the different types of birth control and how they work. It is important to talk to your family doctor or visit a sexual and reproductive health clinic in your area about finding a birth control method that works best for you.
Q: How old must you be to get a yeast infection and does puberty affect this?
A: Yeast infections affect nearly 3 out of 4 women at least once in a lifetime. This includes women of all ages from childhood (very rare) to beyond menopause. However, it’s during the childbearing years that women are most susceptible because changes in hormone levels during a woman’s menstrual cycle can contribute towards the development of a yeast infection.Yeast infections are caused by an imbalance in the vagina’s natural pH and you can get continuous yeast infections through sex if it’s not treated.
Other factors that can cause a yeast infection are: antibiotics, pregnancy, birth control pills, diabetes, using vaginal deodorants, perfumed soaps, bubble baths, douching and wearing tight clothing. Symptoms of a yeast infection include: mild to intense vaginal itching, lumpy white vaginal discharge, vaginal soreness, irritation or burning and redness around the vagina.
Yeast infections can be treated with over the counter anti-fungal preparations and also prescription oral medication. It’s important to see your doctor for first time diagnosis of a yeast infection before self medicating.*
Q: Do you think abortion can affect your emotions for the rest of your life?
A: The decision to have an abortion is made because a woman feels that at that time in her life, it is the right thing to do. At another time in her life, decisions may be different. Some women feel sad or emotional for a few days or weeks after an abortion, but in general they feel relief. Serious, long-term emotional issues are uncommon after abortion. Emotional issues are more likely if: abortion is against your religious or moral beliefs, the pregnancy was wanted but the health of the woman or fetus were at risk; having an abortion was related to disturbing life events or serious relationship problems; or a woman has existing emotional issues. Making any difficult life decision can bring up both positive and negative feelings. It is important to allow yourself to express your feelings, even the negative ones. It might be helpful to talk to a trusted friend or adult about what is going on or to seek non-judgmental counseling for extra support around your decision.*
Q: How likely is it for me to get pregnant if I have oral sex (his penis touching my mouth) and he only pre-cums?
A: Oral sex is when a person stimulates their partner’s genitals with their lips, mouth or tongue. A woman cannot get pregnant if she gives or receives oral sex. However, it is important to remember that sexually transmitted infections (STI) can be spread through oral sex. When a man receives oral sex, it is recommended he wear a condom to help protect his partner from STI.
When a woman receives oral sex, it is recommended that an oral dam (a small rubber sheet placed over the woman’s genital area) be used to help protect her partner from STI. Oral dams can be purchased at a drugstore or you can make your own by cutting open a condom. Click here for an oral dam demo video.
If your partner’s penis touched your vagina there is small chance of pregnancy because sperm may be present in pre-ejaculate (pre-cum) fluid. If you are going to continue to be sexually active you might want to think about a reliable form of birth control to prevent pregnancy, STI and HIV.*
Q: If a girl hasn’t experienced orgasm yet, and feels something is wrong with her, what should she do and should she worry?
A: It is important to know that the orgasmic response is not as “automatic” in women as it is in men. Many women feel like there is something wrong with them because they do not have orgasm with intercourse. It is important to realize that for many women, intercourse does not provide the stimulation needed for an orgasm. Reading about sexual stimulation and becoming more comfortable with your body, can assist a woman to have orgasm.*
Q: Is it okay to have one breast larger than the other?
A: Some girls have one breast that is a bit larger than the other because it is growing a little bit quicker. It usually isn’t very noticeable. Often a girl’s breasts will even out by the time puberty is over. Sometimes they don’t. Either way is normal.*
Q: What do you do when your partner asks you to do something which you are not familiar with (including sex), and you are not sure how to do it?
A: First of all, it is important for you to look at your personal values and decide what’s best for you based upon them. If your partner is asking you to do something that does not coincide with your values, you always have the right to say ‘no’. Sexually healthy relationships are respectful, honest, fair, and responsible. This means that partners will not pressure one another to compromise their values. As well, communication about thoughts and feelings are open and honest. Finally, when a relationship is healthy, both people decide how they will take responsibility for the relationship and for the outcomes of the sexual decisions they make. If you are having a difficult time deciding whether you want to be sexually active or not, talk to someone you trust.*