Sexual Health: STD Testing

Why should I get tested? 

Getting tested is the only way for sexually active individuals to be 100% sure of their STD status and help prevent the spread of STDs. Relying on symptoms is not enough, as some patients may not present any STD symptoms or symptom onset may be delayed. Furthermore, STD symptoms can mirror other illnesses making them harder to diagnose unless they are being looked at specifically. If left untreated, STDs can have serious consequences for your health.

If I see my gynecologist, shouldn’t I be fine? 

STD checks may or may not be part of a routine well woman exam. Unless you have received this service from your doctor or clinic, you should get checked. This is especially the case for pregnant people, as many STDs can cause problems during pregnancy and/or be transmitted during delivery. 

How can I get checked today?

  1. Just let us know what test you would like. If you’re not sure, we can help you figure it out.
  2. Health information: while we may not need a complete history on your health, we may need some information in order to make sure we provide the best care possible. Before your visit, you may be asked to fill out a form regarding your information, and you may be asked more about your medical history during your visit. 
  3. Your test: based on your symptoms or preference, we will order tests for you. 

How much will my test cost? 

The Pharmacists Clinic offers a urine test for gonorrhea and chlamydia testing for $99 and a full STD panel (HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, and syphilis) for $199.

Other tests may be ordered and vary in cost. 

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

Let’s Talk About Plan B (and other forms of emergency contraception)

 

the-morning-after

Practicing safe sex is very important for many reasons. One reason we will focus on today is preventing unplanned pregnancies even after having unprotected sex. This is where emergency contraception (“EC”) enters the scene — it helps prevent pregnancy after the deed is done. Some people still call it the “morning after pill” but you have a bit more time than that to get your hands on it. Plan B is usually the first to come to mind we think of EC — but there are other options  and we will be discussing those as well!

When should you use emergency contraception?

If you had unprotected sex, EC can be used to prevent pregnancy. EC is most effective if taken right after unprotected sex occurs but can actually be used up to 5 days after (Side Note: as days go by, the effectiveness goes byebye).

Are there any side effects?

The side effects of Plan B are similar to other hormonal birth control and generally not an issue for most people. In case you do have any side effects, these are normal:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Fatigue or dizziness
  • Tender breasts
  • Abdominal pain or cramps

These side effects only last a couple days. Also, your menstrual cycle may become affected (light, heavy, early, or late). Do not worry if this occurs. However, if you have severe abdominal pain or do not get your next period, please visit your primary care physician or gynecologist.

Is Plan B FDA-approved?

Yes! It’s a very safe medication that has no contraindications or safety concerns.

Are there options other than Plan B?

Yes! Let’s dive right into this subject!

There are a few options available to you.  The first is the popular Plan B One-Step pill or one of its many generic forms (Take Action, Aftera, React, MyWay, etc).

The second is the Ella pill, which is less famous because it requires a prescription but works a bit better than Plan B.  You can only pick one of these two pills. Taking both is a recipe for failure since they basically cancel each other out, so please don’t try it.

Your third and most effective option is the copper IUD. If you’re interested in this one, check with your local clinics to see if you can get it quickly enough. It’s a good idea to take one of the pill options while you figure out the IUD.

How do EC pills work?

Little known fact, it can take up to 6 days for the sperm and egg to meet after having unprotected sex. This form of birth control causes the woman’s ovary to delay releasing the egg. Hence, there will be no egg for the sperm to meet! Sorry guys.

Now that we’ve discussed these options, you’re probably wondering how you can get a hold of them…

No matter how old you are or your gender, anyone can buy Plan B or one of its generic versions over-the-counter — that means no prescription needed — at your local pharmacy. However, everyone needs a prescription for Ella. A prescription for Plan B will probably help get your insurance to pay for it though.

You can meet with Dr. Sally at The Pharmacists Clinic and get a prescription for EC or other methods of birth control. Tip: Go in and get it before you need it. That way you can just grab it out of your medicine cabinet if the situation presents itself.

Remember, these are back up and there are more effective methods of birth control that can be used before you jump in between the sheets.


bianca-tranquil-round

About the Author:

Bianca S. Faridian is a third-year pharmacy student at the University of California San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Talking to Your Partner about Your Plans

When it comes to choosing the right birth control, it’s a decision that shouldn’t be left to just one partner in a relationship. Although many men might view the subject of contraception as a foreign matter, it is important that they too are educated and engaged on the options available to them and their partner.

Having this conversation BEFORE you and your partner start having sex is ideal. Not only can this discussion strengthen your relationship by opening lines of communication that might have not previously existed but it also helps build a sense of trust, allowing you to be more intimate with your partner. By sharing the responsibility of planning for safe sex, you and your partner would be setting your minds at ease over the thought of having an unplanned pregnancy or possibly getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Talking to Your Partner about Birth Control

So how do you even begin having this conversation with your partner? Here are some quick tips to help you get started.

Plan ahead.  Don’t wait to have this conversation at the last minute…in the heat of passion. Start the conversation outside the bedroom and choose a time that is good for both you and your partner. If you have trouble finding the perfect time to bring up the issue, maybe consider talking about a TV show, movie, or pop culture event as a conversation starter and then transition into the subject.

Stay calm. It’s natural to be a little nervous when discussing the subject with your partner, especially if it’s the first time you’re bringing it up. But remember the importance of this discussion. You might even feel better about your relationship, knowing that you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to your plans and birth control.

Educate yourself.  Before you start the conversation, read up on the birth control options that are out there and that may interest you. Or better yet, include your partner in this process. Ask them to accompany you to the doctor’s office, clinic or pharmacy so both of you can learn about birth control together and have your questions answered at the same time.

Rehearse.  Practice what you’re going to say in front of a mirror or with a close friend who can give you personal advice. Rehearsing beforehand allows you to go through the points you want to get across in preparation for the actual talk.

Be honest. Express your true feelings and be clear with your thoughts. If you are going to have this conversation, you might as well get all your worries or concerns off your chest. If you don’t feel comfortable expressing your opinions with your partner, that may be a sign that you’re not ready to become intimate physically either.

Listen.  After you had the chance to discuss your thoughts, allow your partner the opportunity to respond and express how they feel. Respect what they have to say and be open to their point of view.

Continue the conversation. Once you have discussed your plans and birth control with your partner once, that doesn’t mean it will be the last time. Be open to future discussions as your relationship evolves. Over time, you and your partner may desire different things out of your relationship so your method of birth control may also change.

For prompts that you could use to help you get the conversation started regarding birth control, pregnancies, or even STDs, check out the Get Talking interactive conversation starter.  The BeforePlay.org website has a lot of great information, memes, and videos about family planning and sexual health.


About the Author: Kevin Vu is a third-year pharmacy student at the University of California San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences.

References: Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) website.UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services website. (Photo credit: adulau via Flickr)

The Birds and the Bees

Image from Elizabeth Ashley Jerman via Flickr

Image from Elizabeth Ashley Jerman via Flickr

While parents may avoid having this talk, kids actually see their parents as go-to sources of information and support for these issues.  Don’t let gender, sex, and sexuality become off-limits topics in your home.

Research by Georgetown University found that knowledge gaps among very young adolescents (ages 10-14) may lead to poor sexual and reproductive health once they become adults.  The experts recommend investing in sexual and reproductive health programs and policies targeting these youngsters:

As younger adolescents experience rapid transitions to unfamiliar experiences and face life-changing situations such as leaving school, having sex, becoming parents or acquiring HIV, parents, teachers and concerned others have a narrow window of opportunity to facilitate their healthy transition into later adolescence and adulthood.

Check out these tips for talking to kids about sex from trusted sex educator and recent kid, Laci Green:

 


Reference: Igras SM, Macieira M, Murphy E, Lundgren R. Investing in very young adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health. Glob Public Health 2014;9:555-69. [link