Staying Safe All Summer Long

Ahh summer… a time for picnics in the park, fun in the sun, and summer romance! With school getting out and summer in full swing many people will have a lot more time for a summer lovin’!

summer-love-sunflower

That being said, this week’s blog is all about how to keep yourself safe and protected from unintended pregnancy, STDs, and HIV.

First tip, consider stopping by New Gen (or your local sexual health clinic) to get some routine STD testing. All that is required is that you pee in a cup! The urine will then be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea – two very common infections. These infections are passed from one person to another through female vaginal fluids and male ejaculatory fluids (cum and pre-cum) of people who are infected. Although it is most commonly passed through sexual intercourse (penis in vagina or penis in anus), it can also be transmitted (passed from one person to another) orally (mouth on penis/vagina/anus). Unfortunately, people with these infections don’t always know they have them because they often don’t have any symptoms. We recommend this test about once a year (under the age of 25) or if you have had any new partner(s) since your last test. The good news is that both infections are completely CURABLE with antibiotics (meaning after you complete the quick and easy treatment, it’s like you never had it in the first place). So why not take some time now to make sure you are tested and treated before any summer flings?

P.S. Want to know more about chlamydia? Click here! And I just realized I haven’t written about gonorrhea yet. Perhaps that’ll be the next post – unless there is something else you are dying to know about first. Let me know!!!

Okay, so although chlamydia and gonorrhea are totally treatable, they are also totally preventable (along with other sexually transmitted infections). You guessed it: condoms! Remember that condoms require special care in hot weather. Condoms need to be stored at room temperature away from direct sunlight to prevent the breakdown of the latex. For this reason, you should not store a condom in your wallet and definitely not in a hot car. Ideally you would carry your condoms in a bag or backpack but you can also keep a condom or two in a front pocket short-term without any keys or other items that may puncture the condom. If you haven’t used the condoms by the time you get back home, put them back in a cool, dry storage space. You can also buy a condom case or reuse items like mint tins (like the Altoids container) for this purpose.

altoids caseWhat about birth control? Well, many of you will have totally different schedules in the summer. For those of you using the pill, patch or ring, you may have to put some extra effort into remembering to take your pills or to change your patch or ring. If you usually take your pill in the morning before school, now you might need to set an alarm instead. Another option is to sign up at Bedsider.org/reminders to set up an email or text reminder to take your birth control. There are even apps for smartphones that will remind you– “myPill” and “Ring Timer” are some examples.  It’s important to keep on schedule with your birth control because if you don’t, it is less effective and you become more at risk for pregnancy.

bedsider_reminder

Summer is also a time that many people go on long trips. Pill, patch, or ring users need to make sure you have enough birth control to get you through your trip. You can call your pharmacy and see how many refills you have, and if you’re on your last refill, call the clinic to see about getting your prescription renewed. If the Depo shot is your birth control of choice, you will want to make sure that your next shot appointment isn’t scheduled when you are going to be out of town. If it is, give New Gen (or your shot provider) a call and see if they can schedule the appointment before or after your trip, so that you stay covered!

Summer Heart

To all the ladies with an Implant or IUD, you’re all set for the summer!  You have a low-maintenance form of birth control and don’t need to stress about it until your 3 years (Implant), 5 years (Mirena IUD), or 10 years (Paragard IUD) are up! Safe summer lovin’ y’all!

In happiness & health,

Shawna & Angela

Reviewed by Andrea Raider, NP

What do YOU like about your birth control method?

What do YOU like about your birth control method?

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The other day, a patient asked me:  “Which birth control method is the best?”  This is a great question!  Although there are some methods more effective than others, “the best” method is the method that works best for you and your life. Finding a birth control that works for you may take some time as you try out different methods, but luckily we have a variety of methods to choose from.  If you try a method out for 3 to 6 months (about the amount of time needed for your body to get used to the method) and aren’t happy with it or find that you are forgetting to take it, you can try another!

We asked our patients and Facebook fans what they like about their birth control method and this is what they said!  You can start to see that each person has their own reasons for why their method works for them.  Let us know what you like in your birth control by posting a comment or emailing us at askshawna@yahoo.com. Everyone who submits a few sentences about their method will receive a $5 gift card to Starbucks or Jamba Juice!

IUD

“I really like the IUD because I don’t like remembering to take a pill every day. I’ve used it for over 5 years and it’s very effective.”

Implant

“I like the Implant because I don’t have to remember or think about it. It hasn’t made me moody or given me side effects.  I also lost a little weight while using it.”

Depo Shot

“I am on the Depo shot and I like that it is convenient—I am very forgetful with pills. It also just works well with my body.”

NuvaRing

“I really like the NuvaRing and have been on it for 6 years. It’s great because I am super inconsistent with taking pills and don’t have a reliable system for being on top of it ever. With the NuvaRing, I can leave it in and not have to think about it. Plus, I have this app on my computer that tells me when to take it out and when to put a new one in. Also, I hear it is a lower dose of hormones than other birth control, which I like. Oh, finally for real now, it has also helped regulate pimples!”

Patch

“I really like the patches because they are simple and effective. I also like it because it’s easy to apply and not noticeable.”

Pills

“I like birth control (pills) because it eases the menstrual cycle and helps my period stay regular.”

“I am on (low-dose pills) and I like that the extra low dosage doesn’t make me nauseous.”

Condoms

“I use condoms; I like them the most because they are non-hormonal and they also protect against STDs.”

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As you can see, it’s all about finding what works for you!  Make an appointment at New Gen (415.502.8336) to talk to a health educator about what YOU want in your birth control method.  You can also check out previous blogs written about these various methods by using the search function on the lower right side of this page underneath the archives titled “What Cha Looking For?”.  You can also visit Bedsider.org methods to learn more about the different methods and see videos of women talking about what they like in their method.

P.S.

Many patients also like to know which method is most effective, which can be part of someone’s decision to pick a certain method.  Check out this chart for more about the effectiveness of different methods:

Chart-3

Remember, the effectiveness of all birth control depends on how well you are using the birth control (not forgetting pills, getting the shot on time, removing the ring or patch correctly, etc.)  If you use your method perfectly it will be more effective, and some methods (like the IUD or Implant) are easier to use perfectly! Still have questions? Email us at askshawna@yahoo.com

-Angela Freitas, AmeriCorps member

Reviewed by Andrea Raider, NP

When Plan A fails, there’s a Plan B (and then some)!

EC Pix

When Plan A fails, there’s a Plan B (and then some)!

What is Emergency Contraception?

Emergency Contraception (sometimes called EC or the ‘morning after pill’) is a pill (or two depending on brand – Plan B, Next Choice, Ella) you can take up to 5 days AFTER sex in order to prevent pregnancy if you think your birth control failed, you didn’t use contraception (including condoms), or you were forced to have sex.

ec

How does EC work?

Emergency contraceptive pill(s) prevent pregnancy by delaying or preventing ovulation.  Remember, ovulation is when your ovaries release an egg and is the time you are most likely to get pregnant (usually the time between your periods). No egg = no pregnancy!

There is no evidence to suggest that EC has any effect if an egg has already been fertilized (meaning it does NOT cause an abortion and is NOT the same as the abortion pill).

How well does EC work?

This is a very good question.  Honestly, it depends on the brand of EC.  Here at NGHC we dispense Next Choice.  According to Next Choice, it reduces your risk of pregnancy by 88%.  However, that’s only if taken within 3 days of unprotected sex.  It drops down to 50-60% if taken 5 days after unprotected sex.  That means, the sooner you take EC after unprotected sex, the better it works.  And no emergency contraceptive is as effective as using condoms or birth control correctly!

Where can I get EC?

We are lucky here in the state of California.  EC is available over the counter at any pharmacy without a doctor’s prescription if you are 17 years old or older.  It can range between $35 – $65 but is FREE if you have an active Family Pact card (the green card given to you from most reproductive health clinics).

If you are younger than 17 or you do not have an active Family Pact card, you can always see us here at New Gen (no appointment necessary for EC).

FPACT Card

What else should I know about EC?

EC does NOT protect against STD’s or HIV.  If that is a concern, please talk to us here at New Gen or your doc.  Also, some women may experience nausea, headache, cramping, breast tenderness and/or changes in their menstrual cycle.  But don’t let that scare you away.  Not everyone experiences that and for those that do, it only lasts a day or two.  And honestly, those possible side effects are way easier than dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.

BUT WAIT!!! THERE IS MORE! THERE IS SOMETHING MORE EFFECTIVE THE EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTIVE PILLS!!!

The Paragard IUD!!!!

Paragrd

The Paragard IUD (also called the copper IUD) is the MOST effective form of emergency contraception.  It is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy within 5 days of unprotected sex.  And better yet, it also acts as birth control that lasts up to 10 years.  Seriously, how cool is that? EC AND birth control in one??? Want to know more about the Paragard? Click here or come into New Gen (p.s. you can get the Paragard IUD even if you don’t need it for EC).

For more information about the various brands of EC, including the Paragard, click here!

In happiness & health,

Shawna

Reviewed by Kohar Der Simonian, MD