Resources for Teens

 

While we encourage young people to visit myHealth clinics or attend education programs, we also know there are ways you can learn without leaving home. We encourage you to browse this section to find articles and tips. We also invite you to call us at 952.474.3251 or email us with your questions at info@myhealthmn.org.

For Teens

-MENTAL HEALTH
-STRESS  
-DEPRESSION
-ANXIETY
-DRUGS AND ALCOHOL
-EATING DISORDERS
 
-RELATIONSHIPS
-CYBERSAFETY
-Sex
-Abstinence
-BIRTH CONTROL
-STI'S 
-TESTING 
-PREGNANCY/ PARENTING
-LEGAL OPTIONS 
-FOR PREGNANT AND PARENTING TEENS
-LGBTQ
-CONFIDENTIALITY
 

Mental Health

If you’ve got a lot on your mind and want to talk to a professional, you can contact a Licensed Mental Health Professional at myHealth at 952.474.3251 ext.43.

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Stress

Stress is something we all experience at different points in our life. High stress levels can have both physical health and mental health consequences. How we deal with stress can impact our mood, our self-esteem, and even our general health.

Mental and physical symptoms of stress:

Some common causes of stress:

  • Lack of concentration
  • Sweating/jittery
  • Difficulty sleeping and/or bad dreams
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Stomachaches
  • Low motivation
  • Eating more/less
  • Racing heartbeat
  • School, homework, and tests
  • Friends
  • Families
  • Siblings
  • Divorce
  • Death
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Sports
  • Sickness
  • Money

Seeking help
Sometimes when a person experiences stress for a long period of time and they have difficulty coping, the stress can lead to more serious concerns. Because of this possibility, it is important for you to recognize the difference between “normal stress” and an issue that might be more serious.

If you experience the symptoms listed below, it may be helpful to consult with a counselor:

  • Anxiety, including insomnia, irritability, restlessness, inability to concentrate, nervousness, and fearfulness, that is uncomfortable and lasts more than a month.
  • Anxiety attacks with chest pain, discomfort, trembling, shaking, dizziness, nausea, fear of going crazy or losing control.
  • Feelings of depression, like sadness, hopelessness, crying spells, loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy, low self-esteem, or fatigue, that lasts for more than a couple weeks,

Local counseling services

Crisis hotlines

Web resources

Tips on how to manage stress:

  • Deep breathing: Take a deep breath from your diaphragm until you feel your lungs fill completely. Slowly release the air through pursed lips as if you are blowing out a straw.
  • 2 minute breathing: Inhale for 5 seconds and exhale for 5 seconds. Do this for 2 minutes until your heart beat slows down and your breathing becomes even and steady.
  • 5 minute vacation: Close your eyes and breathe deeply 3 times. Visualize a favorite vacation place, activity, or a place where you have experienced joy and comfort. What does it look like? What does it smell like? What does it sound like? What does it feel like? Use all your senses to imagine this special spot that’s refreshing and relaxing.
  • Music: Find a comfortable place at home and play soft, soothing, wordless music that is relaxing. Breathe to the rhythm of the music.
  • Journaling: Write down a list of worries, fears, pressures, and concerns that are crowding your mind. Writing down thoughts and concerns can help to clear your mind of worries and help you make sense of your stress.
  • Talk it out: Share your feelings and experiences with someone you trust (parents, teachers, counselors). You will find a release of negative energy by sharing your worries.
  • Peaceful focus: Focus on something pleasant and beautiful in your immediate environment (a blade of grass, a painting, a color). Concentrate on the beauty and the positive energy and breathe deeply. Allow the energy to flow through your body.
  • Limit your intake: Limit the amount of caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and sugar you ingest. Try to balance your nutrition.
  • Control your activity: Manage your time. Balance work, play, and school. Take time for yourself.
  • Exercise: Find approximately 30 minutes a day to take time for yourself and get some exercise. Exercise has been proven to help reduce the stress in our lives.
  • Seek professional help: Find resources in your area that can help you manage your stress.
  • Playing with pets: Animals can provide comforting attention that can alleviate stress.

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Depression

Research has found that pretty much everyone experiences depression at some point during their life. The technical definition of depression is that it involves feelings of sadness that do not always have a reasonable cause. It can be short-term and specific to a situation or it can last for a long time. Depression can be helped by counseling as well as medication.

Mental and physical symptoms:

Causes of depression:

  • Loss of interest in normal daily activities
  • Depressed mood: Feelings of sadness, loss of hope, and crying
  • Sleep too little or too much
  • Difficulty making decisions or concentrating
  • Getting in trouble
  • Low self-esteem
  • Changes in weight and appetite
  • Crabby
  • Self-injury (cutting)
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Problems with family or friends
  • Problems at school
  • Sadness and loneliness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Relationship problems or divorce
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Sickness

I’m depressed and seeking help
If you experience any combination of depression symptoms, it is best to seek mental health services. And if you have frequent thoughts about self-injury, death, or suicide please seek emergency healthcare. 

Local counseling services

Crisis hotlines

Web resources

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Anxiety

Anxiety is a state of worry, uncertainty, and fear resulting from the anticipation of a realistic or imagined threat, event, or situation. It can interfere with a person’s ability to function at school or work, and with friends and family. Anxiety can be helped with counseling and/or medication.

Mental and physical symptoms of anxiety:

Some causes of anxiety:

  • Worry
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Avoidance of others
  • Irritability
  • Confusion and dizziness
  • Fear that you are dying or going crazy
  • Nervousness and jumpiness
  • Headaches
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Cold and clammy hands or sweating
  • Stomach aches
  • Problems with friends
  • Problems at school
  • Family concerns
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Loneliness
  • Sickness or injury

Seeking help
If you experience any combination of the symptoms listed on our website, it is important to seek the guidance of a mental health professional. Since these symptoms can be caused by physical conditions, it is advised that you talk to a medical professional as well as a counselor.

Local counseling services
myHealth for Teens & Young Adults 952.474.3251 ext. 43
Teens Alone 952.988.8336
Relate Counseling Center 952.932.7277
Tubman 612.871.0118
NIP Counseling Center 612.374.4601

Crisis hotlines

Trevor Project 1.866.488.7386

National Suicide Prevention lifeline 1.800.273.8255

Web resources

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Drugs and Alcohol

Did you ever drink so much that you blacked out and didn't remember what happened the next day? Do you ever regret or question what you did after partying? Have you had any unwanted sexual contact or been assaulted when drunk or high? Alcohol and drugs can interfere with your judgment and lead to decisions about sex that you aren't comfortable with once you are sober. The results can be serious, such as unintended pregnancy, STI exposure, and rape.

Although we do not offer alcohol or drug treatment at myHealth, there are some things that we can do here to help. You can call us to set up a counseling appointment to talk with a professional and get any needed referrals.

Local counseling services

Web resources

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Eating Disorders

Eating disorders often begin in teenage years. The cause of eating disorders can be individual and/or influenced by peer pressure, media, and societal expectations. Both males and females can develop eating disorders.

Types of eating disorders:

  • Anorexia Nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder that involves self-starvation and excessive weight loss.
  • Bulimia Nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder that involves a cycle of binge eating (eating lots of food in a short period of time), feelings of regret, and then behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to undo or make up for the effects of binge eating.
  • Binge Eating Disorder is an eating disorder characterized by periods of extreme over-eating, but not followed by purging behaviors as in most cases of bulimia.

Struggling with ood and Seeking Help
Eating disorders are a big concern because they can be similar to an addiction and can be very dangerous to a person’s health and sometimes fatal. Eating disorders can be treated with both counseling and medical services for nutrition, as well as possible medication.

Local counseling services

Local eating disorder programs

Web resources

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Relationships

Healthy RELATIONSHIPS

Is my relationship healthy?
Here are a few signposts indicating your relationship is on track:

  • You can be yourself! You can both be different from one and other, yet respect those differences. You feel comfortable expressing yourself honestly.
  • You feel free to do your own thing. You can spend time with your friends and family. You continue with activities and interests that are important to you.
  • Your partner is truly there for you. They accept and respect your feelings, ideas, and opinions, even if they don’t always agree. They really listen when you speak.
  • You can safely disagree. You can take the time to come to an agreement and compromise when making decisions. If you have a disagreement, you talk openly with each other and prevent a buildup of anger and hostility.
  • Your partner is able to respect your boundaries. You feel comfortable enough to tell them when you need some time alone, that you don’t want to have sex, that you can’t make an immediate decision about something.
  • You have honesty and trust. You are truthful with one and other. You feel supported and cared for. You both take responsibility for your own behavior, instead of always blaming problems on others.
  • You enjoy being together! You have fun and take pleasure in each other’s company.

 
Indicators that you may be in an unhealthy relationship:

  • Your partner insults your looks, thoughts, or beliefs.
  • They try to keep you away from your friends, family, or other people you care about.
  • Your opinion is consistently ignored, with the other person always making decisions for the both of you.
  • You feel frightened and intimidated by your partner.
  • Your partner physically harms you in any way.
  • You are repeatedly pressured to do something sexual you do not feel comfortable with.
  • Your partner forces you to do anything you don’t want to do.
  • There is no communication, with your partner refusing to talk about important issues.

Tips for a healthy relationship
While the idea of “dating” might have been very common for your parents, or even your older siblings, today it seems like dating is out of style--young people are either “hooking up” or “together.”  We know that there are a whole range of experiences, and that every couple’s relationship is very different. What works for your friends might not work for you and vice-versa. We are not here to tell you who to go out with; however we have some suggestions to help ensure that you stay happier and healthier, and that your heart remains intact.

  • Look for a partner based on what’s inside, not what’s outside.  Maybe “hot,” “rich” and “popular” seem like desirable qualities for a boyfriend or girlfriend to have, but we’re betting that a partner who is funny, sweet, thoughtful, and a good listener would be way more fun to hang out with.
  • Being in a committed relationship with someone doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be in a forever relationship with them. It is natural that some couples will grow apart, and most people have several relationships in the course of a lifetime.  However, while you are with someone, be with only that person, and expect that person to only be with you. The more partners you have at the same time, the more likely you are to put both your health and your heart at risk.
  • Maintain your life outside of your relationship—friends, school, work, sports and other activities should not have to be dumped in order to be in a relationship with someone. When you both have your own interests and lives, you’ll have a richer, more exciting relationship when you are able to spend time together.
  • Make sure you are with a person for the right reasons—do you feel good about yourself after spending time with them? Are they supportive? Caring? Kind? It might seem that being with someone (even if you are not really into them) is preferable to being alone, but wouldn’t you rather be with someone special? It is totally okay to be single!


Are you already in a healthy relationship? Here are some tips to keep it going strong…

  • Communicate!  Open communication is the key ingredient to maintaining a healthy relationship.  It’s incredibly important for you and your partner to share thoughts and feelings about the relationship with one and other. If something is bothering you, don’t keep it bottled up. By honestly expressing your concerns, the relevant issue can be confronted and dealt with. Solid communication helps build mutual trust and heads off misunderstandings before they can seriously damage a relationship.
  • Maintain healthy independence. When two people care deeply about one another, it’s normal for them to want to spend as much time together as possible. But in order to create some space and inject your relationship with fresh perspectives, it’s a good idea to continue maintaining good connections with friends, family, or other individuals outside your relationship.
  • Everyone needs a little break, a chance to spend time away from one’s partner doing different things. And if and when any problems arise in a relationship, nothing is more valuable than a good support network that can provide valuable insights and assist in resolving conflict.
  • Negotiate and compromise. It’s important to keep a relationship fair and balanced. Both partners need to feel that their voices are heard and their needs are being met. If you want to go to a basketball game one night and your partner wants to see a movie, you could go to the game, but make sure you see a movie the next time you go out. Equality between partners plays a big role in keeping a relationship healthy.
  • Have fun! Yes, a good relationship is hard work, but it shouldn’t be all work. So be creative, try new things, and surprise each other. Keeping your relationship fresh and exciting (in healthy ways!) will help keep you both happy; and that’s one thing a healthy relationship should be.


Dating Do's and Don'ts

From asking someone out to actually going out, dating can be stressful. Sometimes it seems like you can’t find the right words, don’t do the right thing, or are just plain confused. Unfortunately, there are no magic answers to the whole dating thing, but there are a few tips we can recommend to help you navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of going out.

The Do's

  • Be respectful when asking someone out. Whether the answer is “yes” or “no”, it’s important to respect the other person’s feelings and behave in a responsible manner.
  • Make sure you have good hygiene: take a shower, brush your teeth, etc…
  • Come up with a specific plan for the date. Whether it’s something to do or a place to go, don’t just leave it up in the air.
  • Exchange contact information in case someone has to cancel or change the plan.

The Don’ts

  • Don’t be late; it’s disrespectful to not show up on time. Call or text if you can’t make it when you said you would.
  • It’s important not to expect something physical to happen right away. Whatever you might have heard about the other person, they may have very different ideas from you as to what pace they want to take things. Definitely don’t attempt to pressure someone to do anything they are not comfortable with.
  • If things don’t go as well as you’d hoped, avoid the urge to say negative things about the other person behind their back; you wouldn’t want them badmouthing you.
  • Getting too personal too fast can be a mistake. Definitely ask questions and try and get to know the person, but avoid overly sensitive subjects. Some people need time to get comfortable enough to share truly personal information about themselves. 

Dangerous Relationships

Dating violence myths and facts
Myth: Someone needs to be in control of the relationship. You have the right to abuse your partner if you are jealous or provoked in some way.
Fact: No one deserves to be abused. Jealousy is not an excuse for abusive behavior.

Myth: I was drunk and I didn't know what I was doing. Drinking is what makes me abuse.
Fact: Alcohol or chemical use does not cause someone to be abusive.

Myth: No one has the right to interfere in your relationship, even if one person is abusive. People should mind their own business.
Fact: Abuse should never be ignored! People who are abusive need to be held accountable for their behavior. The person being hurt has the right to be in a safe and respectful relationship.

Myth: It is okay for one person to make all of the decisions in a relationship.
Fact: In a healthy relationship, both people share in decision making and respect each other's thoughts and ideas.

Myth: Abuse won't happen to me!
Fact: Abuse knows no boundaries. It can happen to anyone no matter their sex, race, religion, economic status, or sexual orientation.

Myth: I love my partner. I'm the only one who can help them! I can make him/her change.
Fact: Being abusive is a choice. An abuser must acknowledge their choices and get help. You can't change someone else's behavior.

 Worried about a friend or family member
Are you concerned that a friend or family member is in an unhealthy or dangerous relationship? There are many reasons we might be concerned about the people in our lives and the relationship choices they make. If you are worried, there are some things you can do.

Here are a few tips on how to talk to someone you believe is in a harmful relationship:

  • Listen to the person in a non-judgmental way. This can be difficult but what they are saying is valuable. We recommend trying to be supportive without trying to step in and run their relationship.
  • The best way to get information about the relationship you are concerned about is to ask specific questions in a respectful manner.
  • There are no excuses for abuse. Abuse should never be ignored! People who are abusive need to be held accountable for their behavior. It is important to let the person being hurt know that they have the right to be in a safe and respectful relationship.
  • Offer to connect your friend or family member to valuable community resources. Let them know that it is important to find people that they trust to talk to about what is happening in their relationship.
  • Try to support your friend or family member to the best of your ability. It might seem like the person is taking forever to get out of the relationship, or isn’t saying or doing what you would do if you were in their situation, but try to be patient. It can be very difficult to safely move away from or exit the relationship.

Resources
If you feel that you or someone you know may be in an abusive relationship, there are places you can go for help. Telling someone about the abuse can be a very difficult thing to do. They care about you and want you to get the help you need. The following resources can make it easier for you.

Local resources for domestic abuse in Hennepin County

Local resources for domestic abuse in Carver and Scott County

Local sexual violence crisis centers in Hennepin County

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Cybersafety 101

Technology is such a big part of our lives now that it is hard to imagine what we did before facebook, cell phones, texting, and the internet. Many people even use technology to spice up their love lives, or to find that special someone.


Whether you have met someone on Facebook with a similar taste in music as yours, or you’ve been flirting with a friend via text, cyberdating can be both exciting and potentially dangerous. We want you to be safe, and we you to be smart about what you share online. Here are some tips to help you out!

Do...

  • Use those privacy settings! Maybe you don’t care if your friends or your partner have access to your cell phone number, but you might not want all 600 of your Facebook “friends” being able to call you 24/7!
  • Remember that there is no such thing as true privacy on the internet. Websites are archived and accessible even after you’ve deleted them, and colleges and companies are getting better at better at finding out all sorts of information about prospective students or employees—even the info you think you’ve hidden pretty well.
  • Keep tabs on what your friends are posting! They might post a perfectly innocent picture of you sleeping to their page, but if they jokingly title it “Passed out dead drunk from too much partying,” you might not be laughing. Those little “jokes” can have an impact on your future!

Don't...

  • Let the Internet do your dirty work for you. It might seem way easier to break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend by changing your relationship status to “single” without telling them, but no one wants to find out that they got dumped by hearing it from the entire school.
  • Be a cyberbully! The internet sometimes seems like a vast anonymous wasteland, where you can say anything, and no one cares. But if you use cyberspace to gossip, pick on other people, or start rumors about teachers, peers, friends or exes, you could get in big trouble. Those messages can be found, photographed, and printed out, and sometimes, you can be charged with a crime!
  • Alternately, if someone is bullying you online, keep evidence! Print off IM transcripts, take a photo of the screen, and write down the website address. The more information you have to share with teachers, family, or police, the better.
  • Send inappropriate pictures of yourself or your friends to other people, and don’t save photos if you receive them. You might think the photo of your friend in just her bra is hot, or the pic of all the guys mooning the camera is hilarious, but having those kinds of pictures on your phone can be considered child pornography, and could actually get you in huge trouble!

In addition, you might send a “sexy” photo of yourself to someone, thinking they’ll be the only person that sees it, but we all know that is not always the case. If you don’t want a picture of you in your underwear (or less!) ending up on the phones of everyone you know (and on the computers of people you don’t), then don’t take those photos in the first place!

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Sex

Thinking About Sex?
Choosing whether or not to have sex is a big decision. Not having sex is the only way to be 100% safe from STIs and an unwanted pregnancy. In addition, sex can complicate a person’s relationships and have a big emotional impact. Because of all this, it’s important to take the time and make sure a smart and healthy decision is made.

Even if none of these "Red Flags" applies to your relationship, that doesn’t necessarily mean you're ready for sex. If a person doesn’t feel ready, then they’re not ready. And even if a person has had sex in a previous relationship, it’s perfectly ok to not have sex in the relationship that person is currently in. This is a very personal choice, and one needs to make the healthiest decision possible after careful consideration

A couple is NOT ready to have sex if:

  • They are not in a committed relationship.

    Hooking up, friends with benefits, or sex outside of a solid committed relationship is more likely to lead to negative outcomes. The more people one has sex with, the more likely a person is to get an STI. When two people are not in a relationship, they’re a lot less likely to have the kind of good communication that’s critical to making sex as safe and healthy an experience as possible.

  • They can’t talk about their decision and what consequences might result.

    If you can’t talk about sex then you’re not ready to have it! Before having sex, it’s really important that a couple discuss things like condoms and birth control, not to mention testing for STIs. In addition, open communication about sex is necessary to make sure both partners are on the same page, feel comfortable, etc.

  • They are drunk or high.

    Drinking and using drugs affect a person’s ability to think clearly and make good decisions. Choosing to have sex while under the influence is a choice one may regret later. And a couple is a lot less likely to use protection if they’ve been drinking or doing drugs.

  • They are having sex for the wrong reasons.

    Having sex because a person is bored, feels they should be having sex, are being pressured, or in order to prove their love are all examples of having sex for the wrong reasons. Make sure that any decision to have sex is made for the best possible reasons!

  • They want different things to come from the experience.

    If one person just wants to hook-up and the other is interested in a serious relationship, those two people want different things out of sex. It’s important that both partners be on the same page.

  • They have no real feelings for each other.

    If two people don’t really care about each other, they are definitely not ready for sex.

  • They don’t respect one and other.

    If one or both people in a relationship lack respect for the other, sex is not going to improve the situation.

Abstinence

Not having sex is considered a “behavior method,” which means that it doesn’t require partners to buy anything or visit the doctor. To abstain means “to choose not to do something,” so to use this method, all a couple or a person has to do is choose not to have sex or wait to have sex until both partners are ready. When used correctly this method is 100% effective at preventing both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections!

What does it mean?
We believe that a couple is not engaging in sexual activity as long as they keep their pants on and zipped at the waist. This rules out vaginal, oral, and anal sex, and may also rule out activities such as mutual masturbation. Any activity that exchanges body fluids which may contain sexually transmitted infections or sperm is considered a sexual activity. We want to make sure that young people do everything they can to prevent an unplanned pregnancy or STI. So, in order to “use” this method of protection correctly, people need to avoid vaginal, oral, and anal intercourse.

What counts as sex?
That is really up to each individual person to determine. Some people believe that sexual activity is anything beyond holding hands and hugging, while other people believe that only certain kinds of penetration count as sex. These definitions are not right or wrong, they are personal opinions, but not every definition of abstinence is 100% effective.

If someone already had sex in a past relationship, can they still be abstinent?
Absolutely! Choosing when and if sex is right has nothing to do with whether a person has had sex before. In fact, most people are abstinent for most of the time every day! If and when to have sex is a choice that a person or couple can make at any time, for as long as they want. There is no “right” or “wrong” time to be abstinent, it is a personal decision.

Advantages of waiting/abstinence
Just like any other method of protection, one of the big benefits is that it can help prevent pregnancy. A unique thing about this method though, is that, other than condoms, it is the only method that also provides protection against sexually transmitted infections! Not having sex is also the only 100% effective form of birth control!
When a couple chooses not to have sex, they will not have to spend any money or buy any supplies. It can even improve a relationship—respect for one another may increase, and both partners may have less stress due to worrying about what would happen if an unplanned pregnancy were to occur. They may even build confidence in discussing future plans!

Any disadvantages?
No. Since it requires no medication, practicing abstinence will not have any medical side effects. However, it can be a difficult choice for people to make because it may seem to be a choice that other people are not making. A person who feels waiting is the right choice for them may feel isolated, as if they are the only person in their school, their grade, or among their group of friends who is interested in that choice. In reality, just as many teens are choosing to not have sex as to have it!

In Minnesota, by the time teens graduate high school, only about 50% of them have had sex, so even though people who choose not to have sex might be less vocal than those who do, an equal number of students in most schools are choosing to abstain from sex. One of the major reasons not having sex or waiting to have sex is difficult for people is because talking about it can be really tough!

How do I talk about waiting/abstinence with a partner?
Talking about sexual decisions and behaviors with a partner can often be very difficult, but it is an extremely important topic to discuss! Even couples who have been together for a long time often find having sex much easier to handle than talking about it. Communication and trust are cornerstones of a healthy relationship and being able to talk about sex, whether a couple is choosing to have it or not, can bring people closer together and actually strengthen the relationship!

All of us who work at myHealth know how difficult it can be to talk about sex with a partner, so here are some tips on how to make it a little easier!

  • Be honest! Both males and females can choose to wait until they are ready to have sex and they should feel comfortable talking to their partner about that decision. Some reasons people may choose to not have sex is to avoid a pregnancy or an STI; for religious, cultural or personal beliefs; or because they are not ready. In a healthy relationship both partners respect one another’s decisions. It is not okay for one partner to coerce or force the other into a sexual activity that he/she does not want.
  • Talk sooner rather than later. It is really hard to have a talk about abstinence (or any other form of protection) when hormones are raging during a make-out session! Try to talk with a partner before things get too hot and heavy. It is much easier to think with a clear head and stick with decisions when a couple has discussions in a neutral location at a non-romantic time.
  • Make sure both partners are aware that “love” and “sex” are not the same thing. A couple does not have to prove that they are in love by having sex. Many couples in deeply loving, committed relationships are not sexually active, but show their love in other ways.
  • Discuss how “safe sex” is not always safe. Here at myHealth, we believe that using condoms, dental dams, and other barrier methods are some of the best ways to be safe if a couple chooses to be sexually active, but we also know that even these methods are not 100% effective at preventing pregnancy or STIs—only not having sex can guarantee that. Using barriers is a great way to be “safer” during sex, but the safest sexual activity is no sexual activity at all.
  • Couples should talk about their goals and how entering into a sexual relationship might affect them. How might an unplanned pregnancy or an STI change them even more?
  • If couples choose to enter into a sexual relationship, they should make sure they are making this decision because they want to, not due to pressure from the media or their peers. It is also very important for them to discuss their pregnancy and STI prevention plans.
  • Whether couples are sexually active or not, they should plan other fun activities together. Couples can show each other their interests and discover new ones together!


Web resources

Birth Control

If a person chooses to be sexually active, there is no 100% effective method to prevent unwanted pregnancy other than not having sex. However, there are many very effective birth control options, including one that also offers protection against STIs. In addition, it’s important to know about certain methods that are not very useful.

How do I know what type of birth control is best for me?

Quick overview:
If you want a method that...

Is easy to use; requires no daily or pre-sex effort...


May protect you from some STIs...

  • Condoms
  • Choose to abstain (not have sex)


Is very private; no one will know you’re using it...


Is safe to use while breast feeding...


Is an over-the-counter product you can buy yourself...


Prevents pregnancy AFTER sex...

Birth Control Specifics

Mirena IUD

The Mirena® IUD is a small “T” shaped piece of flexible plastic. It is inserted by a health care provider (doctor or nurse practitioner) into the uterus. This is a quick and safe procedure with little discomfort. The IUD has a short, thin string that hangs down from the uterus into the top of the vagina. The string cannot be seen from the outside of the woman’s body.

How it Works
The Mirena® IUD is 99.9% effective for up to 5 years. It slowly releases small amounts of a progestin hormone, levonorgestrel (LNG), into the uterus. It mostly works by keeping the egg and sperm from meeting because it 1) prevents the release of an egg from the woman’s ovary and 2) thickens the cervical mucus which helps keep sperm from entering the uterus (so they can’t reach an egg). It also makes the lining of the uterus thin. The IUD does not protect against sexually transmitted infections.

Benefits

  • Long-term protection (lasts up to 5 years)
  • Effective - 99.9% effective at preventing pregnancy
  • Easy to use
  • Cost-effective - the most inexpensive long-term reversible method of contraception available
  • Less menstrual flow for most women while 20% of the women with the Mirena® IUD do not have a period after the first year
  • No estrogen is good news for women with high blood pressure, who smoke, or breastfeed


How to use the Mirena® IUD
1. Information about the Mirena® IUD and procedure is provided at an appointment.
2. Your provider needs to make sure you’re not pregnant at the time the IUD is placed. They will also check for gonorrhea and chlamydia during the procedure.
3. The IUD is placed by a doctor or nurse practitioner during a pelvic exam.
4. The provider will check the size of the uterus by doing a "bimanual exam." This requires the provider to insert 2 fingers into the vagina while placing the other hand on your abdomen.
5. A speculum is placed in the vagina to allow the provider to see the cervix.
6. The cervix is cleaned with a betadine solution (please tell your provider if you are allergic to iodine).
7. The length of the uterus is measured using an instrument gently and briefly placed into the uterus.
8. The IUD is placed inside through the cervix with a thin plastic inserter tube.
9. The strings are cut to a length of 1-1 ½ inch.
10. The speculum is removed.
11. Clients wait at the clinic for about 15 minutes after the procedure to make sure there’s no unnecessary discomfort or pain (some mild cramping is normal with the insertion of an IUD)
12. IUD removal occurs 5 years after insertion, or earlier, if the woman wants it removed sooner. Removal is simply done during a pelvic exam. A woman may get pregnant after removal.


Tips for success
The Mirena® IUD is effective immediately if it’s inserted during the first 5 days of a woman's period. If it’s inserted at any other point during her cycle, she needs to use another form of birth control, such as a condom, if she has vaginal sex in the first seven days after insertion. (Regardless of the kind of IUD used, some women choose to use a back-up method for the first few months in case the IUD accidentally comes out without being noticed.)


Condoms are highly recommended to decrease the likelihood of an STI. It is important to not have intercourse or use tampons for 48 hours following insertion to prevent infection. The woman should check for the IUD string after each period to make sure it is still in place, and she should come back for a follow-up appointment within 3 months (and preferably 1 month) to check string placement and then at her yearly exam.

Possible side effects
Cramps are a possibility during and shortly after insertion. This may last only 10-15 minutes or up to 1 week while the body gets used to the progestin hormone. A woman’s period will probably change. There may be irregular but light bleeding or spotting, especially the first 6 months and possibly ongoing while the body gets used to the progestin hormone.


If pregnancy occurs (less than 1% of users), the IUD must be removed as soon as possible.


Serious side effects
Perforation (or puncture) of the uterus during insertion is rare (.01%). Call if you have increasing abdominal discomfort or strings are longer or shorter than usual. Call if there is ongoing low back or abdominal pain, particularly when associated with a fever or vaginal discharge. Also, the IUD can slip from its placement spot and fall out of the uterus (2-10%).

Call us at myHealth at 952.474.3251 if you have any questions about the IUD or any other topics that affect teens and young adults. We are here to help.

NuvaRing
NuvaRing is a small, flexible ring that you insert inside your vagina. You wear the NuvaRing for three weeks and then remove it for one week. You will usually get your period during this one week. NuvaRing contains two hormones called estrogen and progesterone (just like the birth control pill and patch). These hormones are like the ones that your body makes to control your period. They are absorbed into your blood through the skin in your vagina.

How it Works
It works by preventing the ovaries from releasing any eggs each month. If no egg is being released, you cannot get pregnant. It also makes the cervical mucous thicker, making it harder for sperm to travel through the uterus. If used correctly, NuvaRing is more than 99% effective in preventing a pregnancy. However, it will not provide any protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Only abstinence or condoms made from latex or polyurethane provide protection against STIs.

Benefits

  • Regular menstrual periods
  • Easy to use – there are NO pills or shots
  • Lower levels of hormones than some other birth control methods
  • Convenient– you don’t have to think about it much
  • Less bleeding and or cramping with your period

How to use NuvaRing
You insert NuvaRing in the vagina. You keep it in place for 3 weeks (21 days). Then you remove it for 1 week. During the one week break, you will usually have your period. Then insert a new ring for the next 3 weeks and the cycle continues.

When to start NuvaRing
Insert NuvaRing anytime during the first 5 days of your period. Insert it at the latest on DAY 5, even if you haven’t stopped bleeding yet. It will take 7 days for NuvaRing to start working. During this time you must either not have sex or use condoms to prevent a pregnancy. Each NuvaRing comes in a reclosable foil pouch. After you remove NuvaRing, keep the pouch for disposal.


To insert NuvaRing, follow these steps:

  • Wash and dry your hands. Remove the ring from the foil pouch (keep pouch).
  • Choose the position most comfortable for you. You may find it’s helpful to lay down, squat, or stand with one leg up while inserting NuvaRing.
  • Hold the NuvaRing between your thumb and index finger and press the two sides together.
  • Gently push the folded ring into your vagina. As long as the ring is inside the vagina it will work. The exact position of the NuvaRing is not important; however, the further it is pushed back, the less likely it is to slip out.
  • The NuvaRing should not feel uncomfortable once it is inserted. If it is, you should use your finger to gently push it further into the vagina. There is no danger of the NuvaRing being pushed too far up in the vagina, or getting lost.
  • Once it’s in, keep NuvaRing in place for 3 weeks. It is not recommended to remove it during sex.

How to remove NuvaRing:

  • Remove the NuvaRing 3 weeks after you put it in, on the same day of the week it was inserted, at about the same time. For example, if you put the ring in on Tuesday at 5pm, then the ring should be removed 3 weeks later on Tuesday at 5pm.
  • Remove NuvaRing by hooking your pointer finger around the rim and pulling out.
  • Put the used ring in the foil pouch and throw in trash. Do NOT flush down toilet.
  • Your period may begin within 1-3 days.

Inserting new NuvaRing
After 5-7 days with no ring in place (NO LONGER than 7 days) insert a new ring. You may not have finished bleeding when it is time to place the new ring.
YOU MUST INSERT THE NEW RING ON TIME, OR YOU MAY GET PREGNANT.

What if it slips out?
If it slips out and it’s been LESS THAN 3 HOURS, you should still be protected from pregnancy. Rinse the ring with cool – lukewarm water (not hot) and put it back in as soon as possible. If you lost the NuvaRing, put in a new one but keep on the same schedule as before. That means you would still remove it when you would have removed the ring you lost.

If the ring has been out of the vagina for MORE THAN 3 HOURS, you may not be protected from pregnancy. You must either not have sex or use condoms for the first 7 days after a newly placed NuvaRing is in place to be protected from a pregnancy. If the ring is out for more than 3 hours, or you wait longer than 7 days to insert a new ring, you should take a pregnancy test in 2 weeks.

Possible side effects
Many people have side effects during the first month or two of using NuvaRing. If you do, they usually wear off after the first couple months. This happens because your body is getting used to the hormones. Side effects may include:

  • Vaginal discomfort or infection
  • Heavier vaginal discharge
  • Headache
  • Weight gain
  • Feeling sick to your stomach
  • Breast tenderness
  • Irregular bleeding or spotting

Serious side effects
Serious side effects are very rare, but they can happen.
These may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain (severe), cough, shortness of breath
  • Headache (unusual or severe), dizziness, weakness, numbness
  • Eye problems (vision loss or blurring)
  • Severe pain in your legs

If you have one of these or any other serious health problem, you must tell your healthcare provider so they can help you decide if the NuvaRing is right for you. Remove the ring immediately and remember to use another form of birth control, or do not have sex, to prevent a pregnancy.
We recommend that you do NOT smoke cigarettes or tobacco while using NuvaRing. Smoking increases the chance for serious side effects.


Call us at myHealth at 952.474.3251 if you have any questions about the NuvaRing or any other topics that affect teens and adults. We are here to help.

Implanon/Nexplanon
Implanon/Nexplanon is a small, thin, flexible rod that is inserted under the skin of a woman’s upper arm. This insertion is done by a provider specifically trained in the procedure. Once inserted, it slowly releases a hormone called etonogestrel (a human-made hormone that is similar to the hormone progesterone, which is naturally produced by the female body) into the bloodstream. Implanon is effective in pregnancy prevention for up to 3 years after insertion.

How it works
Implanon/Nexplanon is 99.9% effective for up to 3 years. It works to prevent pregnancy in two ways. One is by preventing the ovaries from releasing any eggs each month. If no egg is being released, a woman cannot get pregnant. Implanon/Nexplanon also changes a woman’s cervical mucous and the lining of her uterus. These changes make it harder for sperm to travel and penetrate. However, it will not provide any protection from a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Only abstinence and condoms made from latex or polyurethane provide protection against STI’s.

Benefits

  • Easy to use – once inserted, no action is needed until removal
  • Long-term protection – lasts for up 3 years
  • Discreet – in most cases, the rod is not visible under the skin although insertion may leave a small scar
  • No estrogen – since estrogen methods are not safe for some people and should not be used while a woman is breastfeeding
  • Reversible – the rod can be removed at any time and once it is the medication will stop working

How to use Implanon/Nexplanon
Before Implanon/Nexplanon is inserted we strongly encourage women to have a separate clinic visit to review the risks and benefits of the procedure with their doctor or nurse practitioner. Implanon/Nexplanon is inserted underneath the skin of the woman’s upper arm. It takes less than 1 minute to insert. The healthcare provider will numb the woman’s skin and use a thin applicator to insert the rod. There will be a small puncture in the skin where it’s inserted. The puncture will be covered with a bandage and will heal in a few days. After the implant is in place it cannot be seen but both the woman and her health care provider should be able to feel it under her skin by pressing on the area. Implanon/Nexplanon becomes effective 7 days after insertion. Removal of Implanon/Nexplanon is a minor clinic procedure. It should be removed after 3 years but can be taken out earlier, at any time, if the woman wants it removed for any reason. After Implanon/Nexplanon has been removed the woman is no longer protected against pregnancy.

A woman should NOT use Implanon/Nexplanon if…

  • She is pregnant or could be pregnant
  • She has viral hepatitis, cirrhosis or liver tumors, or has had breast cancer
  • She has unexplained abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • She develops ischemic heart disease, stroke, or migraine headaches with an aura while using Implanon/Nexplanon
  • She has deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary edema

 

Possible side effects

  • Unpredictable periods – this may include irregular bleeding, heavy or long periods, periods that are lighter than normal or no period at all. This unpredictable bleeding can persist the entire time Implanon/Nexplanon is used for birth control.
  • Insertion complications – some women reported bruising, skin irritation, and pain with insertion. It is also possible that she may have a small scar at the insertion or removal site. Infection is possible but rare and ahs occurred in less than 1% of women who use Implanon/Nexplanon.
  • Possible weight gain – for most woman this was less than 5 pounds over 3 years.
  • Other side effects typical with many kinds of birth control – headaches, moodiness, nausea, abdominal pain, vaginal dryness, and loss of sexual desire. Some women report having a large number of these side effects for the first 3 weeks after insertion.

Call us at myHealth at 952.474.3251 if you have any questions about Implanon/Nexplanon or any other topics that affect teens and adults. We are here to help.
 
Condoms
A condom is a latex, polyurethane, or sheep-skin sheath which keeps sperm from being deposited in the vagina, mouth, or anus during sex. Condoms, when used properly, help reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancy and STI's.

Latex condoms
The most commonly used variety, latex condoms provide a barrier against bacteria or viruses that semen or vaginal fluids may carry. This reduces the chance of getting a sexually transmitted infection.

Polyurethane condoms
Polyurethane condoms are usually used by people who are allergic to latex. They act in much the same way as latex condoms to protect against sexually transmitted infections.

Sheepskin condoms
Sheepskin condoms will only block the passage of sperm, so they cannot be used to prevent sexually transmitted infections.

Facts about condoms

  • Condoms are the most effective non-prescription method of birth control. When used correctly every single time with intercourse, pregnancy is prevented as much as 97% of the time.
  • Besides not having sex, latex condoms are the best way to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
  • Store condoms at room temperature in a dark, dry place and use before the expiration date. Avoid storing them in a wallet or car.
  • Condoms are not reusable!
  • Be sure and use only one condom at a time; wearing two or three at once will actually increase the chances of condom breakage.
  • Condoms are easily available at myHealth, other clinics, drug stores, grocery stores, gas stations and vending machines.


How to use a condom

  1. It is very important to put on the condom before the erect penis goes inside a partner. Before ejaculation, there is a small amount of pre-ejaculate fluid (pre-cum) that comes out of the penis. It may contain sperm and any STI bacteria or virus, if an STI is present.
  2. Check the expiration date on the condom package. Hold the condom up to the light, if possible, to check for holes or tears.
  3. Do not open the package with your teeth or a sharp object.
  4. Pinch the condom tip to leave space for the semen and to prevent an air bubble, which may make it easier for the condom to break.
  5. Put the condom on the tip of the erect (hard) penis and hold it there while the other hand rolls it all the way down to the base of the penis.
  6. Condoms must be lubricated to prevent breakage. Most are sold pre-lubricated. If the condom is not pre-lubricated, use a water based lubricant (water, spermicide, KY jelly) vs. oil based (vaseline, lotion, oils) that weaken latex.
  7. After ejaculation, hold the condom on at the base of the penis and withdraw from the partner before the penis becomes soft and the condom might fall off. Take the condom off the penis away from the partner so there is no chance of spilling the semen.
  8. Tie a knot in the condom or wrap it in a tissue and throw it in the garbage.

 
The Birth Control Pill
Birth control pills, (oral contraceptives, “the pill”, OCs, BCPs) are one of the most popular and effective forms of birth control, used by more than 10 million American women. Birth control pills are taken once per day in order to prevent pregnancy.

How it works
It works by preventing the ovaries from releasing any eggs. If no egg is being released, no fertilization can take place. If used correctly, the Pill is more than 99% effective in preventing a pregnancy. However, the pill will not provide any protection from a sexually transmitted infection or disease.

Benefits

  • Help regulate your monthly period
  • Cause less bleeding and fewer cramps during periods
  • Reduce symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Decrease acne and facial hair
  • Help protect you from cancer of the ovaries and uterus
  • Provide some protection against pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a major cause of infertility among women.
  • Lower the risk of getting fibrocysts in your breasts (non-cancerous lumps) and ovarian cysts

How to use the pill

  1. Take the first pill on the Sunday after the start of your period. If your period starts on a Sunday, take the first pill that day. Otherwise, take it on the next Sunday. It doesn’t matter if you are still bleeding or if your period has ended. Take one pill at the same time each day. Taking a pill every 24 hours keeps the hormone levels steady. Try hard not to miss by more than an hour or two. Allow the hormones to start working in the body.While the pill starts to work, use another method of birth control, like abstinence or condoms, for the first 7 days of the first pill cycle.
  2. There are no days off — take a pill every day. When you finish a pack, the next day you will start a new pack.
  3. You should get your period during the last week of pills in each pill pack.
  4. There are certain medications that can make the pill less effective. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications. Certain antibiotics are an example — use another method of birth control, like condoms, during the time you are on them and for the rest of that pill pack.

What if I make a mistake?

  • If you miss a pill, take it as soon as you remember and use another method of birth control until you have taken 7 pills correctly. You can take two pills at the same time if you miss it by a whole day. If you are more than 6 hours late taking your pill, you can get pregnant.
  • If you miss two days, take two pills for two days in a row and use another method for the rest of the pill pack.
  • If you miss more than two days, stop the pills, use another method of birth control and restart a new pack of pills the first Sunday after your next period.
  • Make sure you don’t run out! One month before your prescription runs out, call the clinic to schedule an appointment for a yearly exam.

Possible side effects

  • Spotting or bleeding at some time other than the last week of the pack
  • Nausea
  • Mood swings
  • Breast tenderness
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Depression

These will most likely go away after 2 or 3 months of pill use. Keep taking your pill each day and it will be over 99% effective even if you do have one or more of these side effects. If you feel like the side effects are so bothersome that you want to quit taking the pill, be sure to call the clinic first! We can help you decide what to do.

Serious side effects
If you have one of these or any other serious health problems, you must tell your health care provider so they can help you decide if the pill is right for you.
Always pay attention to symptoms of serious side effects — see your provider right away if you have:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches: frequent or severe
  • Eyes: blurred or double vision
  • Swelling or pain in your legs

Call myHealth at 952.474.3251 if you have any questions about birth control pills or any other topics that affect teens and young adults. We are here to help.
 
Depo-Provera
Depo-Provera is an injection you get from your health care provider about every three months (84 days). When taken as scheduled it's more than 99% effective.

How it works
Depo-Provera uses a synthetic (manmade) version of the hormone progesterone to prevent pregnancy. Like other hormonal birth control methods, including the pill, Depo-Provera causes a resting state in your ovaries. Since your ovaries do not release an egg each month, you cannot get pregnant. Depo-Provera will not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Who can use Depo?
Most any woman who does not want to get pregnant for at least one year or more can use Depo-Provera. It is especially suited for women who: Do not want to think about birth control every day. Have trouble taking birth control pills at the correct time. Do not mind coming to the clinic 4 times a year.

Because Depo-Provera does not contain any estrogen, it is a better hormonal method for women who:

  • Smoke regularly
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have migraine headaches
  • Have trouble with estrogen side effects

However, there are some women who should not use Depo-Provera.

Tell your healthcare provider if you:

  • Think you might be pregnant
  • Have had any unusual vaginal bleeding

Have a personal history of:

  • Breast cancer
  • Stroke
  • Blood clots
  • Liver disease

Your healthcare provider will advise you whether Depo-Provera is a good choice for you.

Starting Depo-Provera
When starting on Depo-Provera, a back-up method of birth control should be used for the first seven days after the first injection. A pregnancy test will be done with the first injection.

What if I make a mistake?
If you do not get your shot on time, you could get pregnant. Using abstinence or another reliable birth control method is recommended when a shot is missed. Since it is never a good idea to receive Depo-Provera if a woman is already pregnant, she should come in and get a pregnancy test. If it is negative, we will give her a shot that day. She should come in and get another pregnancy test after two weeks.

Possible side effects

  • Irregular menstrual bleeding or spotting, usually for the first 3-6 months
  • No periods or bleeding at all — when your ovary does not release an egg, the lining of the uterus may not build up, so there is no blood to come out. Periods usually return within 6-18 months after you stop taking the injections
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Headaches

Call myHealth at 952.474.3251 if you have any questions about Depo or any other topics that affect teens and adults. We are here to help.
 
Emergency Contraception
Plan B® emergency contraceptive pills prevents pregnancy a couple different ways: it may prevent the egg from being released from the ovary; prevent the sperm from getting to the egg; or, make changes in the lining of the uterus so that a fertilized egg cannot implant and grow. ECP is not the abortion pill. If you are already pregnant, ECP won’t work. It will not change or harm a fertilized egg that has already implanted in the uterus.

Who can use ECP?
Any female who has had unprotected sex within the last 5 days and does not want to get pregnant can use the “morning after pill” or emergency contraception. When taken correctly there is virtually no risk of serious side effects.

You can use ECP if:

  • You had unprotected sex.
  • The condom you used broke or slipped off.
  • You have missed a pill, your patch fell off or you forgot to change your NuvaRing.
  • You are late for your Depo shot.

The sooner you take it, the better:

  • 95% effective taken within 24 hrs.
  • 85% effective between 24-48 hrs.
  • 58% effective between 48-72 hrs.

Possible side effects
A small number of women have nausea and vomiting. Taking ECP with food or milk helps. You can also take anti-nausea pills which you can buy at any drug or grocery store without a prescription. Less common symptoms include breast tenderness, bloating, spotting, headache and dizziness. Generally, these symptoms ease and disappear within a day or two.

What happens after I take ECP?
You should get a period within 1-3 weeks. It may be earlier or later, lighter, heavier or more spotty than normal. If you do not get a period in 3 weeks, or if you begin to have pregnancy symptoms such as tiredness, nausea or breast tenderness, return to the clinic for a pregnancy test. If you have unprotected sex AFTER taking ECP, you could get pregnant.

Remember: ECP is not as effective as a reliable birth control method. Abstinence is the most effective method to prevent pregnancy, followed by the IUD or Implanon, hormonal methods (pill, patch, ring, depo shot), and condoms. ECP also provides no protection against STI's.

Call myHealth at 952.474.3251 if you have any questions about ECP or any other topics that affect teens and adults. We are here to help.


Less Effective Methods

The withdrawal method
Also known as the “pull out method,” withdrawal is the removal of the penis from the vagina before (at least in theory!) ejaculation occurs.

The withdrawal method offers very limited protection against unwanted pregnancy: roughly 40-60%. While removing the penis before ejaculation occurs sounds effective, in practice it just doesn’t work very well. First, pre-ejaculatory fluid (pre-cum) is found on the head of an erect penis prior to ejaculation; this can contain sperm, not to mention STIs if a person is infected. In addition, it is far too easy to make a mistake and fail to withdraw in time, withdraw only partially, or allow semen to fall into the vaginal opening. Any of the previously mentioned scenarios can lead to a pregnancy. A person may believe they know when they are about to have an orgasm, but in reality, it generally happens too fast to do anything about it. At myHealth, we always say that the withdrawal method is better than nothing, but it is absolutely no substitute for the use of prescription birth control and condoms.

Chance method
The least effective of all methods, chance, is doing nothing to prevent an unwanted pregnancy and simply hoping for the best. Relying on chance is only 10% effective. What this means is that if 100 couples were having sex and using neither condoms nor birth control, at the end of a year 90 of those couples would either have had children or be expecting them.

Some examples of chance are: having unprotected sex and then peeing in the hopes that this will kill sperm, having sex in a certain position (unfortunately, pregnancy is equally possible regardless of position used), or having sex in a hot tub. Basically, if you don’t use any form of protection during sex, you are relying on chance to prevent pregnancy, and that’s a pretty risky thing to do.
 

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Sexually Transmitted Infections

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI's) are caused by having having sex with a current or previous sexual partner that has an STI.
Whatever the reason might be, if someone thinks there’s a chance they have an STI, the best thing to do is to get tested. A lot of people are scared or embarrassed and that’s completely normal, but it shouldn’t get in the way of good decision-making.

General Symptoms
The following are a list of symptoms which MAY indicate the presence of a sexually transmitted infection. It is important to speak with a health professional if any of these symptoms are present. Please note that even if you don’t have any of the following symptoms, that does not mean you are STI free for certain. Some STI's have no symptoms for a long period after infection.

  • Pain/burning with urination
  • Frequent urination
  • Unusual discharge from the penis or vagina
  • Pain and/or bleeding during sexual intercourse
  • Irregular bleeding (not during a woman’s period)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pain in the testicles
  • Sores or bumps on or near the genitals, anus, or throat
  • Itching of genitals
  • Fever and/or chills

STIs:

HIV
HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, attacks the body's defenses by damaging or destroying the cells of the immune system. HIV progresses over time, making the body less and less able to fight off infection and certain types of cancer. It finally causes AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, after an average of about 10 years in the body.
AIDS is the most advanced stage of the infection. Bacteria and viruses that a healthy body can fight off can cause life-threatening infections in people with AIDS.

There is no cure for HIV, but there are a variety of treatments and strategies that can help HIV positive people live much longer and healthier lives than ever before. One fifth of all U.S. AIDS cases are in people 20—29, which means they almost certainly caught HIV in their teen years.
Currently, black males (regardless of sexual orientation) are at the highest risk for contracting HIV, however, HIV cases are on the rise among all groups of young people.

How can I get HIV?
Most teens that were recently infected got the virus by having sex with an infected partner. Vaginal, oral, and anal sex can all spread HIV. About half of HIV positive teen females were infected by having sex with men, and about half of HIV positive teen males were infected by having sex with men. The rest were infected at birth, and a very small number by sharing needles. If you are infected with another STI, the chance of getting HIV from an HIV infected partner is many times greater because of an already weakened immune system and/or the presence of sores which allow the virus easier entry into the body.

HIV can be spread through 4 body fluids: blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk. It is NOT spread via saliva, urine, tears, or feces. Babies born to HIV positive mothers who are not being treated have a 1 in 3 or 4 chance of getting HIV before or during birth and through breast milk. However, HIV positive women who are receiving treatment greatly lower the risk of giving birth to a child with HIV—treatment is very important!

Tattoo and body piercing needles may be contaminated, unless they are disposable or sterilized. However, it is difficult to adequately sterilize them at home, so piercing or tattooing using sewing needles, safety pins, etc. is not recommended.

But can’t HIV also be spread by…?

  • HIV is not spread by biting insects like mosquitoes, lice, or bedbugs. 
  • Because of careful screening and heat treatments of all donated blood, the risk of getting HIV through a blood transfusion is extremely small. 
  • HIV is not spread through casual contact, i.e. sharing a glass of water or a piece of pizza, kissing, toilet seats, etc. even if the person you are sharing with is HIV positive!


What are the symptoms?
Most people have no clue that they have HIV until they get tested or start to get symptoms of AIDS. Some people do get a flu-like illness within a month or two of infection. These symptoms include: fever, headache, tiredness, and enlarged lymph glands. This is often mistaken for some other viral infection, and it goes away on its own. This is a time, however, when large amounts of the virus are present in the genital fluids and can be spread more easily.

The best way to tell if you have HIV infection is to come in and take a test. At myHealth, we recommend that sexually active young people come in for an STI test at least once a year, even if they have not switched partners or are not showing any symptoms. It is also a good idea to get tested again every time you switch partners. Since some people can take up to 6 months after infection before a test will show a positive result, and it will normally take at least 90 days from infection until an accurate test result can be achieved!
Most teens find it hard to believe that something like HIV infection could ever happen to them, but since young people are at a high risk of contracting HIV, it is important not to engage in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, delaying HIV testing, or refusing HIV treatment if the test is positive.

How do I prevent HIV?
Abstaining from both sexual activity and sharing needles is the best way to protect yourself from HIV. If you do decide to be sexually active, do it safely and responsibly. Have sex with only one partner who will only have sex with you, and always use a condom, dental dam, or other barrier method for protection from HIV and other STI's. If you use needles, they must always be new or sterilized.

Chlamydia
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that can infect both males and females. Chlamydia is the number one bacterial STI in the U.S. today, with 4 million new cases every year. In addition, the Twin Cities Metro Area has some of the highest rates of Chlamydia in the nation!

How could I get Chlamydia?
Unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex may spread the bacteria from the infected person to anyone he or she has sex with. The more partners a person has had, the more at-risk they are! The bacteria can live in the vagina, cervix, penis, or anus.


What are the symptoms?
Chlamydia is known as a "silent STI" because 75% of the women and 50% of the men with the infection have no symptoms—they don’t even know they have it! Others have mild symptoms that may be easy to ignore, or that seem to come and go.

If someone has symptoms, they may include:

  • Abnormal spotting or bleeding
  • Whitish discharge from the vagina or penis
  • Burning or itching around the opening of the penis
  • Pain or a bleeding with sex
  • Pain or a burning feeling while peeing
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Pain and/ or swelling in the testicles

How do I get tested?
Chlamydia is detected with a medical test. For males, we use a urine test. For females, a urine test can also be used or a sample of fluid can be taken during the pelvic exam. When you come into our clinic, we will give you lots of information, answer all your questions, and give you a complete exam that can detect Chlamydia and other problems you might have.

Will it go away?
It is curable; Chlamydia does not have to be a life-long affliction. Prescription antibiotics will kill the Chlamydia bacteria. Treatment that's not completed can spell serious problems down the line including:

  • Keeping males from fathering children
  • Keeping females from getting pregnant
  • Causing ectopic or tubal pregnancies—the egg is fertilized and begins to develop in the (very tiny) fallopian tubes, causing the tubes to swell until they burst
  • Lasting pain (for both males and females) that continues after the infection has been cured

During treatment, you must stop having sex until you're cured and the same goes for your partner. This will help keep you from getting re-infected or spreading the disease to someone else.

How do I prevent Chlamydia?
Not having sex is the best way to protect oneself from getting any sexually transmitted infection. If you do decide to have sex, plan your sexual relationships safely and responsibly. Have sex with only one partner who will only have sex with you, and always use a condom, dental dam, or other barrier method. If you think you may be infected, don't have sex at all until you are tested and get the results. Once you’ve become sexually active, it is a good idea to get tested once a year, even if you are not having any symptoms.

Gonorrhea
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that is spread by having vaginal, oral, or anal sex. It can infect the vagina, cervix, penis, anus, or throat.
If left untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body and cause worse infections. It can even cause scarring that can ruin someone’s chances of having children. Occasionally, gonorrhea that goes without treatment can even lead to death. About one million people in the U.S. contract gonorrhea every year.

How could I get Gonorrhea?
Gonorrheal bacteria live in body fluids, such as semen, vaginal discharge, or saliva. Vaginal, anal, and oral sex spread the fluids and the bacteria in them to your body. Unprotected sex increases a person’s risk of contracting gonorrhea, as does having multiple partners.

What are the symptoms?
Many men and women have NO symptoms until the infection gets more severe. If the gonorrhea infection is in the throat, there are hardly ever any symptoms.

Early symptoms may include:

Later symptoms may include:

  • A burning feeling while you pee

  • Peeing more often

  • Grey, yellow, green or white discharge from the vagina or penis

  • Fever

  • Cramping

  • Feeling sick to your stomach

  • Backache

  • Pain and/or bleeding with sex

  • Bleeding in-between periods

How do I get tested?
Gonorrhea is determined with a medical test in which a sample of fluid is taken from the penis, vagina, anus, or throat, and then sent to a lab for results. When you come into our clinic, we will give you lots of information, answer all your questions, and give you a complete exam that can detect gonorrhea and other problems you might have.

Will it go away?
Yes. Prescription antibiotics will kill the gonorrhea bacteria. If you are being treated for gonorrhea, you must stop having sex until you’re cured and the same goes for your partner. This will help keep you from getting re-infected or spreading the disease to someone else. Treatment that’s not completed can spell serious problems down the road, such as:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Pelvic infections
  • Internal scarring
  • Sterility in men and women
  • Tubal pregnancy
  • Painful joints


How do I prevent Gonorrhea?
Not having sex is the best way to protect yourself from any sexually transmitted infection. If you do decide to have sex, plan your sexual relationships safely and responsibly. Have sex with only one partner who will only have sex with you, and always use a condom, dental dam, or other barrier method. If you think you may be infected, don’t have sex at all until you are tested and get the results.

Herpes
Herpes is a common and usually mild infection caused by two similar viruses--herpes simplex type 1 and 2. Both are very contagious and cause similar symptoms. Genital herpes (type 2) is usually present on the vagina, penis, butt, or thighs. Oral herpes (type 1) is usually on the mouth or face. As many as 80% of all people with herpes do not know that they have it! They may spread the infection to others because a small amount of virus may be present even if there are no symptoms. This fact is probably why so many people have herpes - about 20- 25% of all Americans over age 12.

How could I get Herpes?

  • Direct skin-to-skin contact with a herpes sore
  • Kissing someone with a cold sore
  • It's most likely to spread from contact with a sore but could be spread even when a sore is not present
  • Having sex with someone with a genital herpes sore
  • Mouth to genital area contact or genital area to mouth contact during oral sex with an infected person
  • Touching any mucous membrane (such as the eye or mouth) or open area (like a cut, scrape or hangnail) to a herpes sore

What are the symptoms?

Each person's response to the virus is different. There may be no symptoms at first, but there may be symptoms with a later outbreak. The symptoms may range from minor irritation to severe pain. There may be future outbreaks of symptoms, called recurrences, or the symptoms may never return again. If there are recurrences they are usually much milder and shorter. Many people get an itchy or burning feeling a day or two before symptoms come back.

Symptoms that may be present include:

  • They are usually noticed between 2 days and 3 weeks after exposure. However, they can sometimes take weeks, months, or even years to show up!
  • Small blisters appear, and then burst, causing small open areas that usually heal within 3 weeks. They can include itching, burning, soreness, pain around the outbreak area and pain with urination.
  • Some people develop a low-grade fever, muscle aches and/or swollen lymph glands.

How do I get tested?
Come in and talk to a doctor or nurse as soon as you can! The health care provider will check a client for symptoms, looking for sores or blisters. A blood test may also be done.

Will it go away?
Yes and no. There is no treatment that can remove the virus from the body. However, it can be treated. There are several effective medications that can shorten or prevent the outbreak of symptoms. Maintain a healthy lifestyle can also help strengthen the immune system and prevent future outbreaks. Since the virus lives in the body permanently, there is always a chance that outbreaks can re-occur. Some people have them very infrequently and others, more often. For anyone that has type 1 herpes (cold sores) or type 2 herpes (genital herpes) it is important to talk with your doctor so they can help you manage your symptoms so they don’t drastically interfere with your life.

How do I prevent Herpes?
Avoid kissing, having sex, or touching if there are sores present. Plan your sexual relationships safely and responsibly, having sex with only one partner who will only have sex with you. Always use condoms, dental dams, or other barrier methods when engaging in sexual activity. If you have herpes, you are contagious from the moment there is any warning feeling so don't let anyone come into contact with you there until the outbreak has cleared up.
 
HPV/Genital Warts
HPV, or human papilloma virus, is the most common STI and is made up of over 100 types of viruses that can cause various things in the body, including warts. A person may not know right away—or ever—if they have been infected by HPV. Genital warts may not appear until weeks, months, or years after the time of infection, if at all. Certain types of HPV may cause cells on the cervix or in the anus to change and, in rare cases, develop into cancer if left untreated. About 40 million Americans have been diagnosed with HPV, with approximately 6.2 million new cases being diagnosed every year.

How could I get HPV?
HPV is usually spread by direct, skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, anal or oral sex with a partner who already has the virus. HPV is most likely to spread when skin is exposed to visible warts, but can still be spread when warts are not visible.

What are the symptoms?
HPV is the infection. The warts or skin cell changes that might show up are the symptoms. The types of HPV that cause visible warts on the genitals (vulva, vagina, penis, scrotum, or anus), or throat are different than warts on other body parts (like hands or feet). Warts that appear on the hands or feet are not caused by HPV, and are not spread through sexual activity. The warts themselves are painless, so it may be hard to know exactly when the infection began. Warts usually feel like smooth or rough bumps in or around the vulva, vagina, penis, scrotum, anus, or throat. People may have HPV and not have any warts that are visible to the naked eye. An abnormal Pap smear result may indicate HPV infection in women.

How do I get tested?
A health care provider can examine infected skin areas for signs of warts. Women can also have a Pap smear, a test that can find abnormal skin changes on the cervix. (Note: Many women have abnormal changes caused by HPV. Only a few of those changes may become cancer if untreated.) Remember, most of the 5000 deaths each year to cervical cancer in the U.S. could have been prevented by regular Pap testing. The same types of HPV linked to cervical cancer can also cause abnormal cell changes in the anus and the penis.

Will it go away?
Yes and no. HPV is a virus and there is no cure. The virus stays in the infected person's cells but may or may not cause symptoms. Warts may be present in some cases, but not always. Some people experience just one episode, and others several. The good news for most people is that with time, the immune system seems to gain some mastery over the virus, making recurrences less frequent and often eliminating them entirely within about two years. So, even though the virus will never entirely leave the body, the symptoms can be treated. If you think you have warts, get checked right away. Treatments are easiest when started early.

Treatment methods include:

  • Acid treatments
  • Freezing with liquid nitrogen
  • Laser removal for severe cases

How do I Prevent HPV?
Condoms, dental dams, and other barrier methods provide only limited protection, as the warts can be on skin near the genitals, which are not covered by a condom. The best way to prevent HPV infection is not to have sex. If you do decide to have sex, plan your sexual relationships carefully and responsibly. Have sex with only one person who will only have sex with you. At the very least, limit the number of sexual partners you have.

Hepatitis
Hepatitis is the name for a group of viruses that cause serious infections in the liver and can permanently damage or destroy liver cells. The most common forms of the virus are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.

What are the symptoms?
Sometimes, there are no visible or noticeable symptoms, but if a person is infected they can spread the infection to others even if they have no symptoms themselves. Since all the Hepatitis viruses affect the liver, the symptoms are similar.

They include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)
  • Darkening of the urine (pee)

Facts about Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is not as damaging to liver cells as the other known forms of Hepatitis, but it makes people very sick. The Hepatitis A virus lives in the intestines of an infected person. When a person passes stool (poop), the virus is in it and can be spread to another person if that person gets some of the infected stool into his or her own intestinal tract. This is called the fecal-oral route. Hepatitis A is easily preventable with good hand washing and good sanitation techniques. There is also a vaccine available that is highly recommended before travelling to under-developed countries.

Some examples of fecal-oral transmission include:

  • An infected person goes to the bathroom, does not wash his/her hands well enough and prepares food for others.
  • Drinking water that has been contaminated with sewer water, or was not properly treated with germ killing chemicals before drinking. This is a very common way to spread certain diseases in countries and areas with poor sanitation conditions.
  • Eating uncooked foods, such as fresh fruits, veggies, or ice cubes, which were irrigated or prepared with contaminated water.

Facts about Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B causes very serious illness and in a small number of people, it can cause death. It is usually spread when an infected person’s blood or body fluids are passed to another person during vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Sharing needles or other objects, like razors, toothbrushes, and hair removal equipment can put a person at-risk. People can have the virus for a long time before they realize it. This is why so many people get Hepatitis B—up to 300,000 people every year. Some people never get sick, yet they can spread the virus with every contact—these people are called chronic carriers. Some people who get sick never completely recover; their livers can fail to work properly. Between 4,000 and 6,000 people die every year in the U.S. from liver failure caused by Hepatitis. Hepatitis B can be prevented with a series of 3 vaccine injections. They are available here at myHealth as well as other clinics. For the past several years, the Hepatitis B vaccine has been included in the series of vaccines given to newborns.

Facts about Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is mostly spread through blood contact, like when sharing drug needles, tattoo and body piercing needles, or hair removal equipment. It can also be spread through sex.
Millions of people may be infected with Hepatitis C though blood and blood products. Hepatitis C was unknown for many years, and then thought to be relatively harmless because it seemed to produce no symptoms. Now, it is know that it remains in the body silently for many years, and then can cause very serious symptoms and severe liver disease.

How to get tested
Talk to your doctor! Hepatitis can be difficult to test for, but we do have a test available, so please ask if you are worried. In addition, please tell the doctor if you are having any of the symptoms listed above. Since hepatitis can be spread by blood, do not share needles for piercings, tattoos, steroids, or other drugs, and make sure you get piercings and tattoos done professionally. Hepatitis can also be spread via sex, so plan your sexual partners carefully. Only have sex with one person who is only having sex with you, and always use condoms, dental dams or other barrier methods during intercourse.
 
Trichomoniasis
Trichomoniasis (trick-oh-mon–EYE-ah-sis) is more commonly referred to as trich (pronounced trick) or trichomonas. Trichomoniasis is a condition caused by a protozoan — a microscopic, one-celled animal. It is a common cause of vaginal infections. Up to five million Americans develop trichomoniasis every year. It can weaken the immune system, making it easier to get other infections, like HIV.How could I get Trichomoniasis?
You get Trich by having sex, bathing, or sharing towels with an infected person.

What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may get worse after a period, and it can take from 3-28 days for symptoms to develop. Women may have no symptoms, but when they do, they may include:

  • Large amounts of greenish discharge with a foul odor
  • Itching in and around the vagina
  • Spotting (bleeding between periods)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Urinating more often than usual, often with pain and burning
  • Painful intercourse

Symptoms may get worse after a period, and it can take from 3-28 days for symptoms to develop. Men rarely have symptoms at all, but when they do, they may include:

  • Unusual discharge from the penis
  • Painful urination
  • Tingling inside the penis

How do I get tested?
Trichomoniasis is detected with a medical test. A sample of fluid is taken from the penis or vagina and viewed under a microscope. When you come in to our clinic, we will give you lots of information, answer all your questions, and give you a complete exam that can detect trichomoniasis and other problems you might be having.

Will it go away?
Yes. Prescription antibiotics will treat the infection. But you must always be sure to take them exactly as prescribed, because incomplete treatment can make any infection even worse. Douches will not kill trich and may cause someone to get treatment too late to keep the disease from spreading. During treatment you must stop having sex until you’re cured and the same goes for your partner. This will help keep you from getting re-infected or spreading the disease to someone else.

How do I prevent getting Trichomoniasis?
Not having sex is the best way to protect yourself from any sexually transmitted infection. If you do decide to have sex, plan your sexual relationships safely and responsibly. Have sex with only one partner who will only have sex with you, and always use a condom, dental dam, or other barrier method during intercourse. If you think you may be infected, don’t have sex at all until you are tested and get the results. And be sure whoever you have had sex with gets treated too. Condoms offer good protection against trich.

 
Molluscum
Molluscum is a viral infection which infects the skin. Hundreds of thousands of cases are diagnosed every year.

How could I get Molluscum?
Molluscum can be spread through unprotected vaginal, oral, and anal sex. However, Molluscum can be transmitted non-sexually as well. Skin-to-skin contact with an infected person can pass on the virus, as could sharing unwashed towels or bedding with someone who had Molluscum.

What are the symptoms?
The main symptom of Molluscum is the appearance of small round growths in the genital area or on the thighs. These growths usually first appear two to three months after infection.

How do I get tested?
A health care provider can diagnose Molluscum through an examination of the growths. In some cases, they may take a small scraping of a growth to look at under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis.

Will it go away?
Molluscum can be treated by removing the growths through methods such as freezing or acid treatments. In addition, there are certain medications which can be used. If Molluscum is left untreated it is possible for it to go away on its own, but this generally takes two years. And during that time the growths can spread to other parts of your body.

How do I prevent getting Molluscum?
Avoid physical contact with infected individuals and their belongings, especially clothes and bedding. Since sexual intercourse is a common way to become infected with Molluscum, not having sex is the best method of protection. If you do decide to have sex, plan your sexual relationships safely and responsibly. Use condoms and dental dams, but be aware that they offer only limited protection as the growths can be on skin near the genitals, but not covered by a condom. Have sex with only one partner who will only have sex with you.
 
Pubic Lice
Often called “crabs”, pubic lice are very tiny insects that can live in the pubic area. They become attached to the skin and the hair of that region.

How could I get Pubic Lice?
Public Lice can be spread through sexual intercourse. But unlike many STI's, they can also be spread without having sex. Close physical contact with an infected person can pass Pubic Lice from one person to another.

What are the symptoms?
Some people never experience symptoms. If you do have symptoms, the most common is intense itching in the genital area or the anus. Sometimes there can be a low fever and feelings of tiredness. In some cases the lice themselves can be seen, or their small egg sacs, in the pubic hair.

How do I get tested?
A health care provider can diagnose Pubic Lice through a physical examination. It is also sometimes possible to see the lice yourself. They are tiny and grey or black in color. Their eggs are white and are found in small clumps near the roots of pubic hair.

Will it go away?
Yes, Pubic Lice is curable. A variety of medications can be prescribed by your healthcare provider to treat the lice. It is also important to heavily wash all clothes, towels, and bedding that might have been exposed, as well as to vacuum your home.

How do I prevent getting Pubic Lice?
Avoiding sex and sexual contact is the best way to prevent getting Pubic Lice. Limiting the number of one’s sexual partners and avoiding any close contact with an infected person are also ways to reduce risk. Condoms do not offer protection against Pubic Lice.

Scabies
Scabies is an itchy rash caused by female mites which burrow into a person’s skin to lay their eggs. Scabies infestations can affect anyone regardless of sex, age, race, income, or hygiene habits.

How could I get Scabies?
Scabies can be spread through any kind of direct skin-to-skin contact, including sex. Towels, bedding, and clothes which have been in recent contact with an infected person could also spread the scabies mites to you. Until a person has been treated, they continue to be able to spread scabies.

How do I get tested?
The most noticeable symptom is intense itching, particularly at night. The areas of skin most affected by scabies includes the webs and sides of fingers, around the wrists, elbows and armpits, waist, thighs, genitals, nipples, breasts, and lower buttocks. Symptoms will generally appear within 2 to 6 weeks of infection in people who have not previously been exposed to Scabies. Those who have had Scabies in the past may show symptoms in just 1 to 4 days.

What are the symptoms?
Scabies must be diagnosed by a healthcare professional. They will be able to determine if you have Scabies by examining the rash and listening to your symptoms.

Will it go away?
It is curable, but you should never attempt to treat Scabies on your own. A health professional will prescribe a lotion which, if applied properly, can eliminate Scabies.

How do I prevent getting Scabies?
Avoid physical contact with infected individuals and their belongings, especially clothes and bedding. Although not always sexually transmitted, sex is a common way to catch Scabies. Not having sex is the best way to protect oneself from getting any sexually transmitted infection. If you do decide to have sex, plan your sexual relationships safely and responsibly. Have sex with only one partner who will only have sex with you. Condoms will not protect you from getting Scabies. If you think you have been infected, avoid physical contact with others until you have been treated. Do not share your personal items until they have been washed and vacuumed.

Syphilis
Syphilis is a bacterial infection which can be passed through sexual intercourse. It can infect the vagina, penis, urethra, anus, lips, and mouth. If left untreated, syphilis can be extremely serious.

How could I get Syphilis?
Syphilis is spread through direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, oral, or anal sex. The more partners a person has had, the more at-risk they are! It can also be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus.

What are the symptoms?
Sometimes Syphilis can have no symptoms or mild symptoms that are not easily noticeable. If someone does have symptoms, the primary one is the appearance of sores which can form on the genitals, mouth, breasts, or anus. Additional symptoms can include:

  • Rashes
  • Mild fever
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen glands
  • Hair loss
  • Headache
  • Muscle pains

How do I get tested?
A health care provider can diagnose Syphilis. If sores are present, they can be examined and tested. If there are no sores, a simple blood test can determine if a person has syphilis.

Will it go away?
Syphilis can be cured using prescription antibiotics, but it is most effectively treated in its early stages. If left untreated, serious complications can result including damage to the brain, heart, and nervous system, possibly leading to death.

How do I prevent getting Syphilis?
Not having sex is the best way to protect oneself from getting any sexually transmitted infection. If you do decide to have sex, plan your sexual relationships safely and responsibly. Have sex with only one partner who will only have sex with you, and always use a condom, dental dam, or other barrier method during intercourse. If you think you may have been infected, get tested as soon as possible and do not have sex until you receive your test results. It’s always better to be safe.

PID
PID stands for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, a serious infection of a woman's reproductive organs — the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. PID is usually a result of an untreated case of Gonorrhea or Chlamydia, although there are other, less common bacteria that can cause it too. More teens get PID than any other age group. 1 to 2 out of 10 women with PID will become sterile (unable to have children). Most tubal pregnancies are caused by PID scarring. PID can cause women to have pain in their lower abdomen for years after the infection is gone. Having PID once increases the risk of having it again because the body’s defenses are often damaged during the first infection.

How could I get PID?
The bacteria that cause PID usually live in the cervix, vagina, penis, and anus. You can get the bacteria that cause PID by having vaginal sex or anal sex with an infected person.

What are the symptoms?
The most common symptom of PID is a dull pain or tenderness in the lower abdomen. If no symptoms are present, PID can still cause serious, permanent damage. Many women have no symptoms or their symptoms are too mild to notice.Other possible symptoms include:

  • Bleeding between menstrual periods
  • Increased or changed vaginal discharge
  • Pain during sex
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fever and chills.

How do I get tested?
The infection can only be diagnosed through a pelvic exam and sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing. It is recommended, as with all sexual health problems, that you be as honest as possible with your healthcare provider about your sexual history, so that he/she may better diagnose the condition. You might feel embarrassed about past experiences or your number of partners, but we need to know them, not so we can judge you, but so we can be as thorough and as helpful as possible.

Will it go away?
If caught early enough, PID can be treated with antibiotics, bed rest, and refraining from sex. If left untreated, you may need to be put in the hospital and given antibiotics directly into the bloodstream. There may be internal scarring or abscesses (wounds) which will have to be surgically removed. Always be sure to take the antibiotics exactly as you are told, because incomplete treatment can make PID even worse. Symptoms may go away long before the bacteria are totally killed. And remember, you may not have symptoms that you can notice at all. Douches will not help and very likely will make the infection worse by helping to spread mare bacteria through the cervix and into the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Be sure anyone you have had sex with is tested and treated.

How do I prevent getting PID?
Not having sex is the best way to protect yourself from any sexually transmitted infection. If you do decide to have sex, plan your sexual relationships safely and responsibly. Have sex with only one partner who will only have sex with you. Always use a condom, dental dam or other barrier method during intercourse. Condoms provide good protection from getting PID.

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Testing

STI testing has become much easier in the past few years for both men and women. myHealth follows the latest guidelines recommended by medical associations.

Pap smears
Women should begin pap smears at age 21. This is a recent change in guidelines. Teenaged women do not get cervical cancer, so screening at an early age is no longer recommended. myHealth does pap smear screening for our clients 21 and older and we can also do pap follow-up exams if a client has an abnormal pap result.

STI screening
For women, if a client is having symptoms of a vaginal infection (discharge, odor, itching) the practitioner will collect a sample of the discharge from her cervix. This is a quick exam, usually taking less than 3 minutes. The sample is sent off to a lab to check for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. Practitioners can also help determine if the problem is a yeast infection or vaginal infection. Women who do not have symptoms of a vaginal infection can be tested for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea by giving a urine sample. Men can be tested for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea with a urine sample.

Women and men who have bumps, blisters, rashes, and sores will be examined by a practitioner. Sometimes a lab test will be done using a swab—this is quick and painless. Sometimes practitioners are able to tell what the bumps or rash is just by looking at it. myHealth does have ways to treat skin infections such as warts, herpes, ingrown hairs and irritated skin.

Testing positive for an STI

If a person finds out they have an STI, it’s very important that they talk with their sexual partner or partners and inform them of their test results. Obviously, this is not the kind of conversation that anyone wants to have. Nevertheless, it’s something that just has to be done. If one does not inform a sexual partner that one has an STI, that person will never know they need to get tested. Also, they could pass it on to other people. In short, they deserve to know the truth.

So how does a person tell their partner they have an STI?

If this is someone you’re in a relationship with or at least still in contact with, it’s important to tell them face to face; no emails, text messages, or even a phone call. It’s better to have the conversation in-person. Find a private place, shut off the cell phone, and make sure the two of you won’t be disturbed.

It’s important when telling one’s partner about the test results that a person remain calm. There’s no way to know how a partner will react to the news that they are at-risk for an STI. They could be angry, frightened, shocked, or all of the above. So it’s important to keep ones cool and not give in to the temptation to get angry or defensive. Just tell the person what the test results were, what the health care provider said, and that it’s important that they go get tested too.

They will probably have a lot of questions and a person should do their best to answer, but it’s not one’s job to be a doctor and know everything about STI's. The best thing that a person can do is contact a health care provider and arrange to come in for testing; the provider will also be able to answer difficult questions.

If a person’s most recent sexual partner or partners are not in contact anymore, they still need to be told about the STI test results. Try and find an email address and send them a message. Know where their house or apartment is? Then maybe do it the old fashioned way and write a letter. Note, one doesn’t have to write a novel, just the basic information about what the STI test results were and that the person might be at-risk and should get tested.

Once again, telling a partner that one has an STI can be stressful and scary, and doing so is a very brave and mature thing to do; something that takes real guts. By doing so you will be helping to protect their health and maybe the health of others as well. This is a chance to step forward and take responsibility. And remember, you’re not alone. Professionals at myHealth are willing to help advise and assist you every step of the way. 

Tips for Talking to Your Parents

It is often hard to have a conversation with your parent on any topic. Here are a few tips to help make starting a conversation easier.

  • Approach your parent at a good time. If your parent's are not in a particularly good mood or are real busy, find a better time You might even want to set up an “appointment.” But don’t blow it off.
  • Start with a general subject before getting more detailed. Instead of, “I want to learn more about sex,” you might say something like, “When do you think we could talk more about teens and sexuality?”
  • Use a TV show, a book, or an article as a starting point. You can even print a story from a web site and show it to your parent. Say something like, “I ran across this story and was wondering what you think about it.”
  • Listen. Your parent is more than likely to help you if you listen to what they have to say.
  • Do not yell or argue. You might disagree with your parent, but you should show respect for different opinions.
  • If your parent starts lecturing, remind him/her that you’re just asking questions. You want to be informed and you figure he/she is the best source of solid information. Hopefully, that’ll do the trick.

Good luck!

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Pregnant/Parenting

Pregnancy is a really big deal. Whether you plan for it or not, questions and concerns about the future and anxiety about what to do next can feel overwhelming. At myHealth, we support young people and the adults who care about them as they try to figure out how to deal with all the “what ifs” and “how tos” related to pregnancy.
 
Pregnant, now what?
There are so many things to consider when you’re pregnant. Congratulations if this is what you were hoping for at this time in your life! And if it wasn’t exactly planned, hang in there. There are lots of decisions to make, conversations to be had and stress to be dealt with. Here are some tips on the next steps to consider. First, take a DEEP BREATH and try to relax. Pregnancy is a big deal and there are lots of things to think about, but you don’t have to know what to do right away.

First Steps
1. Who’s your support person? It’s time to talk with a parent, trusted adult, friend, the father of the baby, or professional about the pregnancy. If this is an unplanned pregnancy, this may seem really hard to do. You might worry the concerned adults in your life will be really disappointed, or the father of the baby will freak out. Chances are, anyone close to you will be a little shocked with this information. But you need to start somewhere. You should not deal with this alone--you need some support.

Tip: How to tell someone “the news”: Find a time and place where you can talk privately with your support person. You can bring a friend or other adult along to sit beside you if you think that might make it easier. Start by saying you have something really important to say. Then, just tell him/her. Expect some shock. Take a deep breath. Remember, it took you a while to get used to this, too.

2. Make healthy choices. As you start to think about what to do next, now is the time to eat healthy foods and avoid chemicals (like tobacco, drugs, alcohol, or prescription medications unless approved by your health care provider). You could start taking a prenatal multivitamin (available at any pharmacy without a prescription- save the receipt because you might get reimbursed). Drink lots of water ~ 8-10 6 oz. glasses a day.

Tip: Eat mini-meals throughout the day (especially if you have an upset stomach- it actually makes it feel better). One meal might be wheat crackers with some meat and cheese, another might be yogurt with fruit and then the next may be salad or soup and a roll. Keep a water bottle filled up and with you all day to remind you to DRINK! If you squeeze some lemon in the water it can help reduce nausea.

Next Steps
There are some decisions to make. Not today or tomorrow, but sooner rather than later. You know yourself best. What are your values, beliefs, and life situation? Take time to learn about all the things that need to be considered when you’re pregnant. There are 3 legal options for pregnant women in MN.

Tip: Some things to consider (maybe even write down) as you think about this are:

  • How do you feel about being pregnant now? How do you think you would feel about being pregnant in the future?
  • Before you found out you that you were pregnant, what did you plan on doing next year? The year after that? In five years? Ten?
  • Have you ever had hopes and dreams for yourself? A vision of what you want your future to be? How does your pregnancy fit in with those?
  • What are your future goals and plans? Finish high school? College? Job training? Career? Travel?
  • Have you thought before about whether you want to be a parent or not?
  • What are your hopes and dreams for a child that you may give birth to?
  • How mature do you feel? Enough to be solely responsible for the health and well-being of a child? Do you think you are ready to be a parent or will the arrival of the child force you to be ready?

Talking to the father of the child
If you’re the pregnant woman, seriously consider telling the man who helped create this situation. You know your situation best, so if that’s not a safe thing to do, then don’t. The experience of an unplanned pregnancy can be overwhelming to the man who fathered the baby, too. He may feel shocked by the news. He may even question if he’s really the father.


He may not know how to talk about his feelings and concerns, or even feel like anyone cares about what he thinks. The man involved with the pregnancy should play an active and positive role in supporting you and in helping you to make the best decision for both of you. Be honest about how you feel. You have a lot to consider right now. If he is genuinely concerned about whether or not he is responsible for this pregnancy, he deserves more information.


Tip: If you are the father of the pregnancy, try to take some responsibility for the decision making process--get educated, talk to your support people, think about your personal situation, values, and beliefs. Ask yourself some of the questions listed above. Be honest and true to yourself.

Talking to your parents
Whether this was planned or not, your parent(s) would probably really like to know about a pregnancy. Consider telling him/her sooner than later. Just think, do you want your parent to find out from a friend’s parent, the grocery clerk, or yourself? Yeah, the reaction from a parent might feel awful at first, be prepared for that. Remember, it took you a while to get used to this information, too.

Tip: You know your family best, if it’s really unsafe for you to talk to a parent about this, either bring another adult or friends with you or discuss what to do next with a professional.

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MN’s 3 Legal Options

Adoption/Parenting/Abortion
If the pregnancy is unplanned, give yourself time to think, gather information, and reach out to the support people you trust who will help you to make the decision that’s best for you and your life. You now need to make one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your life. Legally, no one can force you to do anything. There are three legal options to choose from in the state of Minnesota.

Tips
When you have a lot to think about, sometimes it helps to find a quiet place to sit and write down or type the answers to all the big questions or concerns you have. Take a deep breath. Remember, you always have options. And you have the right to choose the one that is best for you. Consider some of these questions:

  • Are you doing what you really want or are you trying to please others?
  • What are your values and beliefs regarding all the options? Before and after the pregnancy?
  • Are you basing your decision on the hope that the baby will force the other parent to stay involved with you?
  • Do you expect this pregnancy to do something for you — to give you a future, to have someone to love you, to make you complete, to get you out of your parents’ house, to make you grown-up?
  • How will you handle a change of heart? What if you regret the decision you make? Do you know where to look for help with those feelings?
  • Who are the people in your life who can give you support, no matter what decision you make?

Take your time and make the best decision for you.

Adoption
Adoption is a parenting option where you decide to give your parenting rights to someone else. If you don’t want to end your pregnancy but feel you aren’t ready to be a parent, this is an option for you. In the U.S., there are many adults wanting to adopt babies.

How do adoption plans work?
1. The best way to learn more about adoption is to make an appointment with one of the social workers from an adoption agency (see list below). They typically will meet with you at home, school, or work, to describe how the process works. You don’t have to make a commitment right away; it’s just an information session. They’re really easy to talk to. They’ve met with lots of confused pregnant women and families who aren’t quite sure what to do next. They don’t pressure you.
2. The birth parent(s) typically get to select the adoptive family they want to place their baby with. The adoptive agency makes this a smooth process and assists with meeting each other, etc.
3. Adoption costs are typically covered by the adoptive family. In Minnesota, the adoptive family is required to pay for all legal fees or counseling you may need. You can also request that they pay for medical and other expenses. The adoption agency helps you with all of this.
4. Most birth parents maintain some level of connection with the adoptive family. This is called an open adoption. The birth parents make an agreement with the adoptive parents about how much, or little, contact they would like. This could be an annual letter with an updated photo of the child explaining what he/she likes to do, etc. Or it could involve occasional get-togethers with the child. Some adopted children talk about both of their “moms” or “dads” as they recognize the value of being loved by so many adults!

Tips: Call an adoption agency to learn more about this parenting choice. It helps to have lots of information as you decide what’s the best option for you.

For more information about adoption and adoption plans, click here

Resources: MN Twin Cities Adoption Agencies

Parenting
This is when a birth parent(s) chooses to provide emotional and financial support to the child for the next 18 years. Parenting can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. However, it is probably one of the most difficult jobs in the world. There are lots of responsibilities that come with raising a child. It takes a lot of determination. Birth parents need lots of support as they choose this journey.

Tips: Below are some questions to ask yourself as you consider the parenting option.

  • What are your future goals and plans? Do you want to finish high school? College? Start a career? Travel?
  • Do you have hopes and dreams for yourself? How does parenting fit in with them?
  • Before you found out you were pregnant, what did you plan on doing next year? The year after that?
  • Have you thought about whether you want to be a parent or not? If so, when?
  • How do you feel about being pregnant now? How do you think you would feel about being pregnant in the future?
  • How mature do you feel? Enough to be solely responsible for the health and well-being of a child?
  • Do you think you are ready to be a parent? If not, when might you be?
  • What are your hopes and dreams for your future child? Do these seem realistic in your current situation?
  • How will you pay for a baby’s food, equipment, medical and child care?

The other parent:

  • Who’s the other parent of the baby? Has your relationship changed since you got pregnant? In what ways? Can you depend on him/her for emotional support?
  • Does he/she show concern for you? Does he/she show interest in planning for your pregnancy or parenting? How do you feel about this?
  • Can you depend on him/her for financial support? Is he/she reliable?
  • Will he/she change his/her plans for school, sports, social life to help you and support you while you’re pregnant or parenting?
  • Is there potential to co-parent together? If not, is there someone else you can depend on to help you out?

You and your parent(s):

  • What is your relationship like with your parent(s)? How important to you are his/her feelings, opinions and beliefs regarding this decision?
  • How does he/she feel about your pregnancy? How about parenting?
  • What kind of support will he/she provide for you? Housing? Financial help? Child care? Anything?
  • If you want to live with him/her while you are pregnant or parenting, what does he/she think about that? What will be expected of you? What will the ground rules be?

Abortion
This is a safe and legal medical procedure that ends a pregnancy. There’s a lot to think about when you aren’t sure if you can continue this pregnancy, whether it’s due to a medical condition or your personal situation. As with all options, the pregnant woman is encouraged to discuss her personal beliefs, concerns, and questions with her support people as she makes a decision. myHealth offers pregnancy counseling about all options but does not provide abortion services.

What is an abortion?
This procedure is easiest and least expensive when done in the early weeks of pregnancy (by the 12th week of gestation). Few clinics provide abortion procedures in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy (13-24 weeks gestation). To learn more about the actual procedure, visit an abortion provider’s website or call for an explanation.

What is the cost?

Costs vary. Abortion costs range between $400 to over $1000 depending on how far along the pregnancy is. Financial assistance may be available. Just ask if you need help.

Resource: Birds and the Bees

What’s legal?
Different states in the U.S. have different laws. In Minnesota, adult women ages 18 and older may schedule an abortion without permission from anyone. If the pregnant woman is 17 or younger, both parents must be told if she intends to have an abortion. If she doesn’t think she can safely tell her parents, the young woman must get authorization from the juvenile court or a judge. The abortion agency may help set up this appointment. At myHealth, we always recommend young people talk to their parents, especially in regards to pregnancy if it's safe to do so.

Clinics in the Twin Cities:

Tips: Take time to learn more. Do not make a decision too fast- that’s when there might be regrets later. Your decision has to be based on your values, beliefs, and life situation. You know you best. No one can make you do anything.  You need to make the right decision for yourself.

For more resources and information, visit here.

Testing
Wondering if you are pregnant? The tricky thing is some pregnancy symptoms can be confused with stress or illness-related causes, so you never really know for sure unless you have a positive pregnancy test.

Common symptoms of an early pregnancy are (some women may have just one or all of these):

  • A missed period is the most obvious signal a woman may be pregnant, however, stress and illness can cause a late or skipped period, too. Some women complain of light “spotting”- this usually looks different than a typical period, though
  • Tiredness or fatigue is a common early pregnancy sign. Do you feel like taking a nap any time of day? That could be the increased hormones talking
  • Tender or swollen breasts are frequently noticed when bumped or running up stairs
  • An upset stomach. You could have nausea, be “burpy” or vomit any time of day
  • Increased urination. Do you have to go to the bathroom more than usual?
  • Mild cramps (similar to a period) or headaches may be noticed

Most of these symptoms go away after the body gets used to the pregnancy. However, you will probably be going to the bathroom a lot more than you ever did before.

Testing
These tests are very accurate when used correctly. You can also make an appointment to have a pregnancy test done at myHealth.

Tip: The best time to take a pregnancy test, whether it’s purchased at a store or done at a clinic, is 1-2 weeks after a missed period. The best time of day to take a test is first thing in the morning, when urine is more concentrated.

Not pregnant? Now what?
Depending on whether or not you want to be pregnant, this answer varies. If you would like to NOT be pregnant at this time, check out your options for effective birth control, including not having sex. If you would like to get pregnant, the best advice is to keep your body healthy and be encouraged by the statistics that show when a woman has unprotected sex, there’s a 90% chance of pregnancy within a year (that means it could be one to twelve months from now). Either way, call your clinic to discuss details further.

Tip: Be intentional about whether or not you’d like to be pregnant. Make a plan for your future.

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For Pregnant and Parenting teens

How can myHealth Help Pregnant and Parenting Families?
Staying healthy during a pregnancy and creating a parenting plan that works best for you, whether that means adoption or parenting, takes a lot of thought and determination. myHealth staff are here to help young women and their support people achieve their hopes and dreams.
If you are pregnant or parenting, myHealth public health nurses and nurse practitioners can help you:

  • Learn about what the “next steps” are for your personal situation;
  • Stay healthy throughout your pregnancy;
  • Plan for your future including, completing school, job training, etc.;
  • Learn about medical insurance and financial resources;
  • Find other services you might need, like prenatal or well-baby care, child care assistance, dental, mental health, crisis or chemical abuse counseling, etc.;
  • Prepare for labor & delivery;
  • Learn about taking care of baby’s and young children including breastfeeding, starting solids, sleeping, etc.; and
  • Be the best parent you can be.

BECOMING Public Health Nurses and Nurse Practitioners:

  • Have a lot of experience working with young people;
  • Listen;
  • Provide information and education in a non-judgmental and friendly way;
  • Will call and/or meet with you in your home, at school, the clinic, or some other convenient place;
  • Can assist you if you are pregnant, if you have an adoption plan or if you are parenting a young child;
  • Visit clients who live in Hennepin and Carver counties; and
  • Provide these services for FREE. This program is funded mostly by the MN Department of Health Positive Alternatives grant.

If you would like to speak with a myHealth Becoming staff person, call 952-474-3251 ext. 41

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LGBTQ

Web resource

Sexuality--It's such a BIG word, and it means so many things, but most of the time when we see it, all we see is SEX.
Sex is a part of sexuality, but so are gender, love, anatomy, relationships, attraction, and self-confidence. Sexuality is who we are, how we see ourselves, how others see us, and who we love.
Every person's sexuality is unique to them, and learning about what sexuality means to you will be a life long journey. Maybe right now you have some questions about what you are feeling and where you fit in. This is perfectly normal, and a part of everyone's "growing up" experience.
We are not claiming to be experts here--we know that we don't have all of the answers. Please consider this information a starting point on your path!
 
What is LGBTQ?
One of the pieces of sexuality that can be confusing for lots of people is who we are and who we are attracted to.
Biological Gender--the gender that is determined for a person based on their genitalia. This is sometimes called "assigned gender."
Gender Identity--the gender that a person feels "fits" them best. This may be the same as their biological gender, or may differ. Gender (being male or female, or masculine or feminine) is also constructed from personal, societal and cultural beliefs and expectations.
For example, we may assume that anyone who is male will automatically be masculine, while someone who is female will be automatically feminine. However, all people have both feminine and masculine components of gender identity.
Sexual Orientation--who a person is attracted to, such as the same, opposite, both or neither sex.
LGBTQIA--Commonly known as "the alphabet soup," this acronym refers to people who's gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation differ from heterosexual norms. It may also be shortened to LGBT, LGBTQ or GLBT, and some people group every letter under the heading "gay."

Let's go through each letter and break them down.

  • L--Lesbian: a female who is attracted to other females.
  • G--Gay: a male who is attracted to other males. However, the word "gay" is sometimes used as an overarching term to describe a variety of people who fall under the LGBTQ umbrella.
  • B--Bisexual: a person who is attracted to both sexes.
  • T--Trans: “Trans,” is used here, as some people refer to themselves as transsexual, others as transgender. It refers to a person whose gender identity does not match up with their biological gender.

For example, a person may have a penis and testicles (assigned gender--male) but may feel strongly that they are female (gender identity) and may choose to go by a female name and female pronouns, or present as a female in appearance, or may not.

  • Q--Queer/Questioning: Questioning refers to a person who is still determining where they fit in the gender and sexuality spectrum. Queer is word that traditionally has been used as a slur, but is now being reclaimed by some members of the LGBTQIA community as a positive word. However, is still considered extremely offensive by most people, so be safe and avoid using it.
  • I--Intersex: human beings whose biological sex (either chromosomally, genitally or both) cannot be classified as either female or male. An older term, hermaphrodite, is considered offensive, and should not be used.
  • A--Ally: Anyone of any gender or sexual orientation, who supports and accepts the LGBTQI community.

How do I Talk to my Friends?
Maybe you are questioning your sexuality. Maybe you think one of your friends is. Maybe you want to stop your friends from saying things like “that’s so gay” or “no homo.” All of these are important conversations to have, but they might not be easy. Here are some tips to help you out.
Telling your friends about yourself…
Remember, YOU get to decide when you are ready to talk and who you are comfortable talking with. Make sure you feel very comfortable with the people or person you are telling--trusting them is key.
Before you talk to them, keep these things in mind:
Wondering about a friend…
This is not about you, it is about them. You may be very sure that someone you know needs to “come out,” but that is their decision, not yours. It is never okay to “out” someone. Some people might ask a friend about crushes, or bring up a celebrity or classmate who is out to gauge their reaction or attempt to get a conversation started, but you should never push it. If the person is a friend, they’ll tell you when they are ready.
Things to keep in mind if a friend comes out to you:

  • If a friend comes out to you, be supportive! This is a huge deal, and you should feel honored that they trusted you enough to share this with you. Let them know you are proud of them, that you will always be there, and leave it at that. Oftentimes, people feel like this information has a radical impact on their friend, and they no longer know how to act around them. This should not be the case. Sexuality is a part of a person, but it is not that person’s entire identity. Your friend will probably appreciate it the most if you treat them the way you’ve always done!
  • Help keep people’s language in check!“Gay,” “Fag,” “Queer,” “Lesbo,” and “No homo” are tossed around casually by both teenagers and adults. If you hear someone saying them, let them know it bothers you. Make sure that you report language like that to your principal or boss, as it qualifies as harassment and may be illegal.
  • Find ways to support and protect your friend. Stand up for them if you hear people gossiping about them or starting rumors. Don’t tolerate classmates using slurs such as “that’s so gay.” Get teachers and staff involved to help create a more welcoming school climate. Join your schools GSA, or help get one started (http://gsanetwork.org/). Being an ally, not just for your friend, but for all LGBTQI young people, can help make the world a safer, happier and better place.

How do I Talk with Adults?
Coming out to adults like your parents might seem like the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do in your life. Many young people are worried that their parents will not listen to them, ask them if it is a phase, and try to change them, or even kick them out of the house.
Many people have great coming out experiences, where sharing with their family actually strengthens their bond, but we are realistic when we say it doesn’t always happen that way.
Click here for some tips that can make it easier, and what to do if things don’t go as hoped.
Remember the process takes time. Don’t give up!
 
Safer Sex for LGBTQ Youth
Deciding to be sexually active is a big decision for any person, especially a teenager. Making the choice to be intimate with someone requires maturity, confidence and self-respect, and it is a decision most young people take very seriously.
It’s important that all sexually active young people, regardless of the gender of their preferred partners, learn about safer sex practices. Not all types of sexual activity or all partners will put a person at risk for a pregnancy, but all will increase someone’s risk of contracting an STI.
Here are a few tips to make sure you are being as safe as possible, no matter who you’re with:

  • Don’t assume that because someone identifies as LGBTQ, they will never be at risk for an unplanned pregnancy. There is a chance that everyone, at some point in their lives, may have a partner who can become pregnant, or who can impregnate them, so it is important to be aware of the variety of birth control methods available to young people.
  • Condoms, dental dams, finger cots, and other barrier methods are a necessity for each and every act of intercourse. These precautions keep semen or vaginal fluids from spreading between partners, lessening their risk of STIs. Condoms and dental dams (used as a barrier between the mouth and sexual openings) are available at myHealth. In addition, here is a simple way to turn a condom into a dental dam.
  • Make sure to always have water-based lubricant on hand. Sex, particularly anal sex, becomes more risky without proper lubricant, because friction increases the chances of abrasions or tears in the skin; openings that could let infections into the body.
  • Get tested for STIs regularly! Know the symptoms to be looking out for, and get tested at least once a year once you’ve become sexually active. Get tested again if you’ve had a new partner. Knowing your status is a key part of being a safe sexual partner. Women having sex with women still need to get regular annual exams and STI tests.
  • Talk to your partner! Make sure both of you know how the other feels about sex, what method of protection you’re planning on using, and what each other’s status is. If you don’t even feel comfortable talking with your partner about sex stuff, you should really think about whether you are ready to take the next step into having sex with them either.
  • This is not just a sex tip, but a life tip too—we want you to know that it is okay to ask for what you want, and it is also okay to say no! LGBTQ youth have the same right to safe, consensual sex as any other person on the planet; however, they are also at a disproportionately higher risk for sexual violence, assault and rape.

Please know that violence towards someone is never okay, and that everyone has a right to be heard, and be believed. Say no, get away, get help, or fight back. Sex will always be unsafe if it is forced on someone else.

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Confidentiality

Minnesota's Minor Consent Law
myHealth for Teens & Young Adults complies with the Minnesota Minor Consent Law when providing reproductive health services. Anyone 17 and under has the legal right to make some health care choices:

  • Without parents’ knowledge or permission, minors can receive services related to:
  • Pregnancy
  • Birth Control
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
  • Alcohol and drug issues
  • Otherwise, your parents have the right to see your records and discuss them with us without your consent.
  • Without parents’ permission, minors can receive services related to:
  • Parenting
  • Making an adoption plan
  • Abortion - with both parents knowledge, or after getting permission from a judge to not tell your parents. *myHealth does not provide abortion services.*

However, as health care professionals, we are required by law to report to county Child Protection Services if we suspect that anyone 17 and under has been physically, sexually or emotionally abused and/or neglected, regardless of the reason for the visit.

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