Take Charge of Your Sexual Health

What you need to know about preventive services

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Talk with your provider about your plans for having, or not having, children.  Then they can provide information on the best contraceptive methods for you. Long-acting reversible contraceptives - the intrauterine device (IUD) and the implant - are among the easiest and most reliable methods for people who want to prevent pregnancy. Other available methods include injections, birth control pills, the vaginal ring, the patch, diaphragm, sponge, cervical cap, and internal or external condoms. Condoms are the only contraceptive method that prevent both pregnancy and STIs.

If you’re done having children or know you don’t want to have any children, permanent contraception (e.g., tubal ligation (also referred to as tying your tubes)) may be right for you. Natural family planning methods and abstinence (not having sex) are other options.

Emergency Contraception

If you have unprotected sex, your provider can also tell you about emergency contraception (EC), or the “morning after pill.” EC can prevent pregnancy if taken within five days  of having unprotected sex, and it’s best to take it as soon as possible. EC can be available without a prescription at family planning clinics and some pharmacies. You can also ask your health care provider if they have it at their office. If you can’t find it in stores, you can buy a generic version at https://afterpill.com/.

Additionally, the Paragard copper IUD can be used as EC if inserted within 5 days of unprotected sex. Like other IUD’s, the Paragard copper IUD also provides continued protection against unwanted pregnancies for 10 years after insertion. The copper IUD is a non-hormonal option for a long-acting reversible contraceptive. You can learn more at https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/morning-after-pill-emergency-contraception/how-does-copper-iud-work-emergency-contraception

STI Prevention 

Using an external (“male”) or internal (“female”) condom every time you have sex is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of getting many STIs, including HIV. Other effective ways to protect yourself include abstinence (not having sex), engaging in lower risk sexual activities, or only having one partner who you know does not have an STI.

If you have sex without a condom, have an STI or recently had one, or have a new partner and are unsure of their health status, talk to your health care provider or a health educator. They can counsel you on ways to protect yourself and your partner from STIs, including whether medicines to prevent HIV infection are right for you.

People who do not have HIV but are at high risk of becoming infected can stay healthy by taking PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) might be prescribed if you think you’ve been exposed to HIV during sex; but, to be effective, it must be taken within 72 hours of possible exposure to HIV. Also, you can consult the resources at the end of this guide for more information about preventing STIs.


It’s Your Body!

You know your body better than anyone. Always tell your health care provider about any changes in your health. Speak to them about any concerns you may have about conditions, diseases, or issues related to sexual pleasure, functioning, or performance.