Author Archives: Rebecca

Taking Birth Control Pills Properly

Failure to take birth control pills properly can cause a lot of anxiety, and even lead to pregnancy. Follow the manufacturer's directions for best results.

Failure to take birth control pills properly can cause a lot of anxiety, and even lead to pregnancy. For best results, follow the manufacturer’s directions.

Oral contraceptives (also known as birth control pills or BCPs) are used to prevent pregnancy. Taken properly, they are about 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. They are even more effective when used in combination with other birth-control methods, such as condoms.

There are many different brands of birth control pills. Most contain a combination of the two female hormones estrogen and progesterone, but there are some BCPs that only contain progesterone. These different brands may need to be taken in slightly different ways and may have different benefits and risks, but whichever type you use, it’s very important to take them properly to get the most benefit.

You cannot take a birth control pill only when you remember to or just after you’ve had a sexual encounter — they must be taken daily.

First of all, it’s important to know which oral contraceptive you are taking. These pills usually come in packs of 21, 28, or 91 tablets and need to be taken daily.

  • Packs of 21: Take one pill each day until all 21 are gone, then don’t take a pill for seven days – this is when you should have your period. After seven days off, start a new pack of 21 pills.
  • Packs of 28: Take one pill each day, and when you finish with the pack start a new pack the next day. Sometimes these packs have pills with different colors that contain different doses of the hormones or inactive ingredients, vitamins, or minerals. They must be taken in order.
  • Packs of 91: The 91-tablet pack is larger and may contain three trays – take one pill each day until all 91 pills have been taken and then start the new pack of 91 pills the next day. Continue reading

Who Stands for Planned Parenthood?

The past couple years have been rough for Planned Parenthood. As Congress ushered in Health Care Reform, we have seen definite losses to women’s health care rights. In 2010, the leadership in the House of Representatives shifted to Republican and Republicans increased in number in the Senate. The very conservative Tea Party became a large voice in this new Republican Party and are outspoken opponent’s of women’s health rights.

Nationally, 89 new laws were enacted in 2010 that affect reproductive health care rights. Of these, 39 of them in 15 different states pertain to abortion. Fourteen states introduced measures to restrict insurance coverage of abortion.

In 2011, 162 new provisions were introduced and 49% of those restricted access to abortion. Five states restricted funding to family planning providers.

Arizona passed five new laws further restricting abortion that effectively required Planned Parenthood to cease abortion services at seven of its health centers. Women living in rural areas will be the most adversely affected by these new restrictions.  Continue reading

Beware of Fake STD Cures

You think you may have herpes, genital warts, or HIV, but you don’t have a doctor or are too ashamed and worried to go to a health center or clinic.  So you research online and find impressive looking medical sites that offer “cures” for your condition. These claims sound too good to be true, and they are!

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have joined forces in the Fraudulent STD Products Initiative. The FDA is the government agency that evaluates drugs for safety and effectiveness. Together, these agencies are warning makers of these bogus products to change their claims or take these products off the market. The FDA states that none of these products has been shown to treat any disease and they may have untested ingredients that could cause harm. Dr. Debbie Birnkrant of the Food and Drug Administration warns that these products won’t work and may cause delays in someone getting treatment. Effective treatments for sexually transmitted diseases are only available by prescription through a health care provider. Continue reading

Apathy is not an Option

I was raised in a very conservative family- sex was not discussed openly, but you certainly did not want a reputation as a “loose girl.”  How that could happen was up to me to figure out, but it had something to do with boys.  When I got to college, it was the late sixties, and love, free sex and birth control pills were everywhere! How could I deal with these new freedoms?  I was excited by the ideas, but scared of the consequences if I made the wrong choices.  In the back of my mind, I was consoled by the thought of Planned Parenthood – somewhere I could go if there were questions or issues that I could never discuss at home.

I married and raised two daughters in a home where I hoped we could discuss most anything.  I always tried to convey these thoughts:  ask me, I love you, trust me, I will not lie, and if I don’t know the answer, we will find out.  Of course, mothers and daughters cannot always discuss everything without some embarrassment or judgement, so when they were away at university, I told them, “go to Planned Parenthood – they will always be there for you.”  Continue reading

STIs: The Basic Facts

Anyone who is sexually active is at risk for contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).  You can acquire an STI through vaginal, anal or oral sexual contact with an infected partner who may or may not have symptoms or signs of an infection.  Most of these infections do not go away on their own.  You may be embarrassed or feel guilty if you think you have a sexually transmitted infection, but it’s important to see your doctor. Untreated STI’s can cause complications for your health and the health of your partner.

STI’s are usually caused by bacteria or viruses.  Some common symptoms may include:

  • Rashes, open sores, blisters or warts in the genital area
  • Uncomfort or painful intercourse
  • Swelling or tenderness
  • Pus, bleeding, odor or abnormal discharge
  • Burning during urination
  • Sometimes there may be no symptoms at all

Women usually make an appointment with their gynecologist, but both men and women may see their regular doctor for STI testing.  Anyone can make an appointment for an STI test using Planned Parenthood’s website .  For a discount code, click here. Continue reading

What to Expect From Your First Pelvic Exam

You may be apprehensive about making your first gynecological appointment.

When should I go?  What will happen?  Why do I need to have a pelvic exam? How do I find a gynecologist?  But having a pelvic exam is a normal and responsible part of taking care of your body and keeping yourself sexually healthy.

Most women, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology  should have their first pelvic exam by the age of 21 or within three years of becoming sexually active, whichever comes first. Whatever your sexual orientation, pelvic exams are part of a healthy woman’s checkup.

So when should you schedule a pelvic exam? It can be part of your regular health check-up.  But you should also make an appointment if you have any of the following problems:

  • If you have abdominal or vaginal pain.
  • If you have a vaginal discharge that itches, burns, or smells.
  • If you have vaginal bleeding lasting longer than 10 days
  • If you have missed periods or have severe menstrual cramps
  • If you have not had a menstrual period by age 15 or 16

You also need a pelvic exam to be fitted for a diaphragm or have an IUD inserted.

How to get ready for your exam

You do not need to do anything special to prepare for your exam. It is usually best to schedule your appointment when you will not be having your period. Also you should not have sex, douche or use vaginal creams 24 hours before your visit.  Let your doctor or nurse practitioner know that this is your first pelvic exam. provides ample information on well-woman and pelvic exams, including tips for finding doctors and making appointments.

You may be asked questions before your exam about your menstrual periods or your sexual activities.  It is always best to answer honestly so that the doctor is able to provide the best care for you and your lifestyle.

Your well-woman examination may also include other screenings such as a  breast exam, weight and blood pressure check – the pelvic exam itself lasts only a few minutes.

What happens during the actual examination;

You will be asked to undress and given a gown to wear.  You will be asked to lie down on an examination table and place your feet up in holders called stirrups which are connected to the end of the table.  You will need to slide to the end of the table and hold your knees open for the doctor to perform the exam. It is best to try to stay calm  and breathe steadily to relax your muscles and make yourself more comfortable. It is normal to be nervous.

The exam consists of three parts. First the doctor examines the outside genitals visually, looking for signs of infection or other problems.  Then a speculum, usually warmed, is inserted gently and keeps the walls of the vagina open so the doctor can examine the cervix and vagina. This may cause a feeling of pressure or some discomfort, but relaxing can help. While the speculum is in place, the doctor may swab some cells from your cervix for a Pap smear.  These cells are put on a microscope slide and sent to a lab to check for signs of precancerous or cancerous cells.

The speculum is removed and the doctor will use a lubricated gloved hand to put one or two fingers inside your vagina while pressing gently on your abdomen with the other hand.  This allows him or her  to feel your internal organs and  check for any abnormalities.  Sometimes the doctor will also insert one finger into the rectum to check for abnormalities or better feel the internal organs. Sometimes you might feel like you need to have a bowel movement but this sensation passes quickly.  You may have a tiny bit of spotting or bleeding after the exam.

All of this is over in just a few minutes and then you can get dressed  and meet with your doctor to discuss your exam results.  This is a good time to ask the doctor any questions you may have about your sexual health.  You may receive tests for STIs or prescriptions for contraceptives at this time.

Congrats! You’ve survived and made your sexual health an important part of your overall well-being!