On and Off the Birth Control Train

Hi Shawna,

I’ve stopped taking my pills a month ago because I wanted to try a different method but I changed my mind and want to stick to pills. I still have 3 filled packs. Is it safe if I start again tomorrow?

Questions about the Pill

PrintHi,

This is a great question!!

You can definitely restart your pills tomorrow or whenever you’d like! Just remember to use a backup method, like condoms, for the entire first week. In fact, you should always use condoms if you are concerned about STD’s or HIV. Also, your period might be slightly off for the first pill pack, but that is normal and OK. If you don’t get a period in 4 weeks, come in for a pregnancy test.

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Hope this helps answer your question!

In happiness & health,

Shawna

Want more information about the pill, like what to do if you miss a pill, click here!

Reviewed by Kohar Der Simonian, MD

Gonorrhea — Hard to Spell, Easy to Catch!

Okay, this may sound very familiar to the blog about chlamydia and that’s because chlamydia and gonorrhea are very similar.

stdin2

Gonorrhea is a very common sexually transmitted infection in the United States and we see it often here at New Generation Health Center.

What is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection caused by bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae

How Do People Get Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is 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). Meaning, it’s possible to get gonorrhea in your vagina, penis, anus, or your mouth, depending on how you have sex. Gonorrhea can also be spread from an untreated mother to her baby during childbirth. However, if a pregnant woman is receiving prenatal care she is tested and treated for any STD’s making this type of transmission far less common.

You can’t catch gonorrhea from a towel, doorknob, or toilet seat.

*Anus is the butthole

What are the Symptoms of Gonorrhea?

Unfortunately, most people don’t experience any symptoms and therefore don’t know they have it. The lack of symptoms is why gonorrhea is such a common infection – it is easily passed unknowingly!

But for those who do have symptoms, they usually go as follows:

For women symptoms may include vaginal discharge; pain and/or burning with urination (peeing); vaginal bleeding between periods; and/or pain during sex. Women with gonorrhea are also at risk of developing serious complications from the infection, even if symptoms are not present or are mild. That’s why it’s super important to get tested regularly.

For men symptoms may include white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis and/or pain with urination (peeing). Sometimes men with gonorrhea can get painful or swollen testicles.

For both men and women, anal infections may not cause any symptoms.  But if symptoms are present it may include discharge, itching, soreness, bleeding, or painful bowl movements (pain when pooping).

Infections in the throat may cause a sore throat but usually cause no symptoms.

TransferFromTo-Circles-375x285

How is Gonorrhea Treated?

Fortunately, gonorrhea is curable. Just 2 pills and an injection (shot) of antibiotics and no bodily fluid exchanges for a week (meaning no sex or sex with a condom) and it’s gone like you never had it. But treating it once doesn’t mean you can’t get it again in the future if you are re-exposed. That’s why it’s important that any partners you have also get tested and/or treated and that you use condoms to protect yourself in the future!

What is the Test for Gonorrhea?

Sterile Urine Cup

EASY!  Pee in a cup!!! That’s all we ask you to do here at NGHC anyway. Other clinics may take a swab (use a big Q-Tip) of the vagina, penis, or anus. The sample (pee or swab) is then sent to a lab where it takes about a week to process and get the results.

*If someone is on the receiving end of anal sex (meaning a penis is being put into their butt) a swab will be used to test instead of urine.  

We recommend that sexually active teens and young adults test for gonorrhea at least once a year. More if they have more than one partner or are having unprotected sex (sex without a condom).

Routine testing is important (even if no symptoms are present) because if gonorrhea is left untreated it can lead to a more serious infection that can cause infertility (not being able to get pregnant) in the future.

rectal-cultureHow Do You Prevent Gonorrhea?

Play Safe

Luckily, this is also easy! Use condoms. Condoms prevent the sharing of fluids. No exposure to fluids = no gonorrhea! Also, talk to your partner(s) about their STD status. If they haven’t been tested recently, you may want to wait to have sex.

Get tested! Use Condoms!

Check out San Francisco City Clinic for more information!

In happiness & health,

Shawna

Reviewed by Kohar Der Simonia, MD

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

Your Bagel Isn’t the Only Thing that Needs to be Smeared!

What is a pap smear? And when should I get one?

A pap smear is a routine screening test where a clinician uses a small brush to gather cells from the cervix (starting at age 21 and every 3 years thereafter if the result is normal).  To do this, the clinician first places a speculum (looks kind of like a duck beak) in the vagina (which is a canal) to create some space that lets the clinician reach the cervix (the lower part of the uterus).  This sample is sent to a laboratory to be examined to look for any kind of abnormal changes in the cells.  The exam is slightly uncomfortable and can cause feelings of pressure or cramping.

cervical_smear

What is an abnormal pap smear?

An abnormal pap smear is a lot more common than you might think.  Sometimes bleeding, recent pressure on the cervix from sex, semen (cum) or common vaginal infections can cause cervical cells to appear abnormal.  Other times, cervical cell changes are due to a sexually transmitted infection known as Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).  More about HPV below.

So why are abnormal cells such a big deal?

Abnormal cells on the cervix  can lead to cervical cancer if not monitored and/or treated.  However, that doesn’t mean an abnormal pap will lead to cervical cancer.  That’s because it takes a long time for abnormal cells to turn into cancer.  I mean, a really long time with plenty of time for treatment.  Cervical cancer is treatable!  So as long as you are getting routine paps, even if the result is abnormal, there is a very low risk of cervix cancer.

What happens if I get an abnormal pap?

Usually, a clinician will simply want to repeat the test in 6 months.  This is because the immune system will generally clear the abnormal cells.  In less common situations, a clinician may want to do a colposcopy.

90% of abnormal PAP smears will get better on their own.

What is a colposcopy?

A colposcopy is a more specific test to examine abnormal cells of the cervix.  A colposcopy uses a large microscope (called a coloposcope) that allows the clinician to look at the cervix more closely.  Your clinician may put acetic acid (vinegar) on your cervix in order to see the abnormal areas on the cervix more easily.  The clinician may take a small biopsy (a tiny sample of cervical cells) to send to the lab for examination.

What is HPV?

HPV (human papilloma virus) is spread by skin to skin contact.  There are over 100 types of HPV viruses; about 40 of those types can cause genital infections and are sexually transmitted.  Some strains can cause genital warts and others can cause cell changes on the cervix.  About 14 types can, in rare cases, lead to cervical cancer.  Over 80% of men and women get infected with HPV one or more times in their life.  But as I mentioned above, usually the immune system clears the virus and a person may not ever know they even had it.

The best way to protect yourself from HPV is abstinence or condom use.  It’s important to acknowledge that because condoms do not cover all of the genital skin,  transmission is still possible.  But because condoms prevent skin to skin contact with the cervix, they do protect against the strains that can cause cervical cell changes which is way awesome!

In happiness and health,

Shawna Pattison & Mei-Lani

Reviewed by Andrea Raider, NP & Debby Davidson, NP

The Ninja of STDs!

Hey Shawna,

What is the most common STD?

-Anonymous

Oh, this is an easy one.  The answer is (drum roll please)…. CHLAMYDIA!

Chlamydia is the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the United States and we see LOTS of it here at New Generation Health Center.

What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection caused by bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis.

How Do People Get Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is 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). Meaning,  it’s possible to get chlamydia in your vagina,  penis,  or your mouth.

You can’t catch chlamydia from a towel,  doorknob,  or toilet seat.

*Anus is the butthole

What are the Symptoms of Chlamydia?

Unfortunately,  most people don’t experience any symptoms and therefore don’t know they have it.  The lack of symptoms is why chlamydia is such a common infection – it is easily passed unknowingly!

But for those who do have symptoms,  they usually goes as follows:

For women symptoms may include pain and itching of the vulva or vagina;  vaginal discharge;  unusual vaginal or anal bleeding;  pain with urination (peeing);  and/or pain when having sex.

For men symptoms may include discharge from the penis or the anus;  pain or itching at the head of the penis;  and/or pain with urination.

IF only it were this easy to tell if someone has chlamydia.

How is Chlamydia Treated?

Fortunately,  chlamydia is easy to treat.  Just 2 pills of an antibiotic and no bodily fluid exchanges for a week (meaning no sex or sex with a condom) and it’s gone like you never had it.  But treating it once doesn’t mean you can’t get it again in the future if you are re-exposed.  That’s why it’s important that any partners you have also get tested and/or treated.

What is the Test for Chlamydia?

EASY!  Pee in a cup!!!  That’s all we ask you to do here at NGHC anyway.  Other clinics may take a swab (use a big Q-Tip) of the vagina,  penis,  or anus.  The sample (pee or swab) is then sent to a lab where it takes about a week to process and get the results.

We recommend that sexually active teens and young adults test for chlamydia at least once a year.  More if they have more than one partner or if there is unprotected sex (sex without a condom).

Routine testing is important (even if no symptoms are present) because if chlamydia is left untreated it can lead to a more serious infection that can cause infertility (not being able to get pregnant) in the future.

How Do You Prevent Chlamydia?

Luckily,  this is also easy!  Use condoms.  Condoms prevent the sharing of fluids.  No exposure to fluids = no chlamydia! Also,  talk to your partner(s) about their STD status.  If they haven’t been tested recently,  you may want to wait to have sex.

Get tested! Use Condoms!

Check out Planned Parenthood for more information!

In happiness & health,

Shawna

Reviewed by Kohar Der Simonian, MD

Herpes!!!! A very misunderstood STD!

Alright, so this was not a question that was necessarily asked anonymously through email but something I often have to explain to so many of our patients here at New Gen.  It can be a bit confusing so I will do my best to make it more clear.

What is herpes:

The herpes simplex virus (HSV), otherwise know simply as herpes, is a viral infection that lasts a lifetime.  Meaning, the virus never leaves your body – even when symptoms aren’t present (symptoms will be discussed next).  HSV-1 usually affects the mouth and HSV-2 usually affects the genitals (vaginal, penis, or butt area).  However, both types can happen in either part of the body!

What does herpes look like?

Herpes looks like little blister type sores that usually appear in clusters (though they can appear alone), are fluid filled, often itch, and can be painful.  The sores then usually pop and crust over (at this point they are beginning to heal).  When sores are present it is called an outbreak.

Herpes-picturesSo if herpes sores heal, how is it that someone will have it forever?

Outbreaks usually last about 7-14 days, meaning the sores do go away.  However, they can come back.  Usually the longer someone has the virus, the fewer outbreaks they have.  The best way to prevent an outbreak is to take care of yourself.  Sleep well, eat right, try to reduce stress…anything to keep your immune system strong.

How is herpes passed from one person to another?

Herpes is passed between one person to another through skin contact – even when no sores are present (though it is much less likely).  That means you don’t even have to have penetrative (something inside of something) sex!  Simply touching or rubbing your mouth or genitals against the mouth or genitals of someone who has the virus can pass it to you.  That also means that condoms do not protect you 100% because condoms do not cover the entire genital area. Because it’s so easy to transmit (passed from one person to another), it is a really common infection!  According to the Center for Disease and Control, 16.2%, or about one out of six, people 14 to 49 years of age have genital herpes & up to 80% have oral herpes!  I told ya it was common!

How do I know if I have herpes?

If you noticed any unusual bumps in your mouth or genital area, come get it checked out.  The best way to determine if someone has herpes is to test the actual sore.  There are blood tests available but they aren’t necessarily the most useful. A blood test may reveal someone has been infected but it does not reveal where.  Remember, 80% of the population has been exposed to oral herpes therefore the chance of a positive blood test is high.

How do you prevent the transmission of herpes?

  • Not having skin to skin contact with the affected area of anyone who has sores visible (on their mouth or genitals). Other kinds of touch, like hugs and hand holding, won’t transmit the infection.
  • Using condoms and other types of barriers like dental dams (don’t know what that is? askshawna@yahoo.com). Remember, condoms don’t protect you 100% as they do no cover the entire genital area.
  • There are also medications that can help lower the chance an infected person passes it to their partner(s).  This is called suppressive treatment.

How is herpes treated?

There is no cure for herpes but there are several medications that can help shorten the length and severity of an outbreak as well as to reduce the number of outbreaks all together.  If you have herpes, come see us at New Gen and we can hook you up with these meds.

There is life after herpes!

Yes, there is life after herpes.  Often times when people find out they have herpes they are devastated.  They may feel embarrassed, ashamed, and think that no one will ever love them or want to have sexual contact with them again! Although these are all very common feelings, it’s definitely not the truth.  Like I mentioned before, herpes is super common.  It doesn’t mean someone is ‘dirty’.  People with herpes go on to live very normal lives, including sex lives.  The fact that the longer someone has herpes the fewer outbreaks they have, many people forget they even have the infection.  And with several different treatment options, it’s totally possible to reduce the chance of spreading the infection.  Having herpes simply means there will be a few days/weeks from time to time that are pretty annoying.  The infection will not cause any permanent damage, it will not effect future pregnancies, nor will it cause death.

Having herpes also means becoming a better communicator with your partner(s).  It means talking to your partner(s) about the infection and ways to prevent  it’s transmission.  Now you may find that not all people are willing to have any kind of sexual contact with someone who has herpes and that can be a bummer but there are plenty of people who see past the infection.  The people who care about you realize that herpes is just a part of the deal.  If you find it difficult to talk to your partner about herpes, schedule an appointment with us at New Gen – we can totally answer all your herpes questions individually and as a couple.

Alright, I know there is a lot of information here so I will end it here.  If you have further questions,  feel free to come into the clinic or email me a question(s).  I’d love to answer them for you!

In happiness & health,

Shawna

Reviewed by Andrea Raider, NP