Category Archives: Sexual Health

What Contraceptive Method is Best for Me? Part 3 – LARCs

So far in this blog series, we have focused on the two most common forms of birth control options used by teens; condoms and the birth control pill. For this post, we will be discussing LARCs. Of course, there are plenty of other birth control options, such as the Depo-Provera™ shot, the hormonal patch and NuvaRing®. These are also great options, but are much less popular than the condom, pill, and LARCs.

LARC is an acronym for long-acting reversible contraceptives. This means you get these types of birth control inserted into your body and basically don’t have to think about it again for anywhere between 3 and 12 years. Two great examples of long-acting reversible contraceptive options are the implant and the intrauterine device (IUD).

As with any birth control method, there are horror stories that scare teens away from taking the plunge and getting a LARC.  LARCs do seem like kind of a big deal, because you actually have to go to your doctor and have them inserted, but they are very safe and very effective. I, personally, have had both the implant and the IUD, and I can assure you, the insertion for each is not scary in the slightest bit.

For starters, let’s focus on the implant. The implant (Nexplanon®) is a little plastic bar that is inserted under the skin of your arm (around your bicep area) by your doctor. It contains the hormone progestin that works in two ways to prevent pregnancy; this hormone thickens your cervical mucus to keep sperm from reaching an egg, and it also works to prevent your ovaries from releasing an egg in the first place.

The implant can be a great option for teens because once it’s inserted, you never have to worry about it again for up to 4 years! Of course, using a condom as well is important because the implant does not prevent the contraction of STIs. Once the implant is inserted, it is nearly undetectable. You may have a tiny dot scar at the place of insertion, but besides that, nobody would ever know there was an implant in your arm. This is great for teens who don’t want people to know they are on a form of birth control!

The insertion process for the implant is simple! It is almost just like getting a shot. The implant is placed on the inside of your upper arm, and it is inserted through a needle. Before getting mine, my doctor went over the process and showed me the device used to insert the implant. It was nearly pain-free. The worse part of the process was getting a shot in my arm that numbed the area before the insertion! A lot of teens worry about birth control methods like the implant because it requires a doctor’s visit and a “procedure.” However, it is very simple, safe, and pain-free.

The implant can be expensive, but it is covered by most insurance plans! If you are not insured or do not want the implant to go through your parent’s insurance, check with your local Family Planning to see what options they might have for free or low-cost implants! The arm implant is over 99% effective, and it’s a great option for teens because there really isn’t any responsibility to maintaining that effectiveness like there is with the daily oral contraceptive.

The implant can cause some irregular bleeding or spotting for 3-6 months after insertion, but otherwise is very safe and free of any serious side effects. If you want more information about the implant, be sure to contact your local family planning clinic http://www.mainefamilyplanning.org/ or check out Bedsider for all the pros and cons of Nexplanon® here: https://www.bedsider.org/methods/implant#side_effects

The IUD is a bit different than the implant because it is a T-Shaped piece of plastic that is placed in your uterus. All IUDs work similarly by making your uterus too hostile an environment for pregnancy. There are hormonal IUDs that also use hormones to stop conception, and non-hormonal IUDs that prevent pregnancy without the use of hormones. The non-hormonal option is great for people who cannot have hormonal birth control!

There are four types of hormonal IUDs—Mirena®, Skyla®, Liletta®, and Kyleena™.  These hormonal IUDs are effective from anywhere between 3 and 6 years depending on which type is best for you. They vary in size as well, assuring that there is an IUD to fit every woman, regardless if they’ve had children or not.

There is only one type of non-hormonal IUD and it is Paragard®. Paragard® is made of plastic and copper and works for up to 12 years!

An IUD is a great birth control option for teens, because, like the implant, once it is inserted it will protect from an unwanted pregnancy until it is removed. Just like with the implant, it is important to continue to use condoms even after you have an IUD inserted. IUDs are excellent at preventing pregnancy, but they do not prevent STIs.

This can be a scary option for teens, because having an IUD inserted requires a doctor’s visit. You can get an IUD inserted at any point in your cycle, but it is best to do while you are on your period because that is the point during your menstrual cycle that your cervix is the most soft and open. Call your doctor or your local family planning clinic to find out if the IUD is a good option for you!

Like I stated above, I have had both an implant and an IUD. I, too, was terrified to take the plunge and get an IUD because I was worried that it might hurt! So, I want to tell you in detail how the whole insertion process works so you can know what to expect if you think an IUD is a good option for you.

Before getting an IUD, my doctor suggested taking Tylenol about an hour before my appointment. This is good because often there is some cramping after insertion, so the Tylenol makes that cramping a bit more bearable. Personally, I’ve always had pretty painful periods, so that’s the type of painful cramping I was expecting, and that’s just what it turned out to feel like. At the office, you’re asked to take your pants off and sit on the table with a sheet over yourself just like you would for a pap smear. Easy enough!

At my appointment, my doctor came in and explained in detail every little thing about the Mirena® IUD, and told me exactly how the insertion would be done. First, they would go in (using tools just like with a pap smear) and look at my cervix. The worse part of the whole process is a little pinch when they grab onto your cervix to steady it so they can get to your uterus. Honestly, the pinch was uncomfortable, but it wasn’t necessarily painful.

Once they’ve grabbed a hold of your cervix, the hard part is over! They first use a tool to measure your uterus (to make sure it’s the correct size for whatever IUD you have chosen,) and then they insert the IUD. Once it is inserted, they trim the little string attached to the device and you’re done! That little string will curl around your cervix in time. The string is there as a way to check that the IUD is still in the cervix where it belongs, and it comes in handy in 3-6 years when you’ll need to have your IUD removed.

If, after having an IUD inserted, your partner can feel it during sex, call your doctor. The string can be cut shorter if need be so that it can’t be felt during sex. Often if the string is cut too short in the first place, it can’t curl around the cervix and can poke your partner during sex.

You’ll usually have a follow up appointment in a month or so just to check that everything is all set. Often, this is a good time for the doctor to trim the string if your partner is feeling it during sex. After this checkup, your doctor will just check on that little string at your yearly exam.

After insertion of my IUD, I was a bit crampy for the rest of that day, but after that everything felt completely normal and suddenly I didn’t have to worry about taking a birth control pill at the same time every day anymore!

The costs for IUDs vary, but they are covered by most insurances. If you do not have insurance, contact your local family planning clinic to see if you can get an IUD for free or at a reduced cost.

IUDs are over 99% effective, and are the longest lasting form of birth control. This is also a great option because there are both hormonal and non-hormonal options. The Mirena® IUD is a good option for women who have heavy and painful periods, and it often stops women from having their period! As with any type of birth control, IUDs can cause some irregular bleeding in the first few months while your body adjusts, but this is normal. Lots of women stop having a period after the first few months of having an IUD.

If you have any questions, contact your local family planning clinic http://www.mainefamilyplanning.org/directories/24/clinic-locations or check out Bedsider for more detailed information about the pros and cons of IUDs here: https://www.bedsider.org/methods/iud#side_effects

Chynna is attending the University of Maine pursuing graduate work in the field of human development with a focus in human sexuality. She is originally from Maine and enjoys spending her free time taking her dog for walks on campus.

 

Why is there a need for transgender specific healthcare?

For a lot of transgender people, going to the doctor is a big cause of anxiety. Having to explain pronouns and genitalia to the nurse, getting looks from other people in the waiting room, feeling uncomfortable with having to receive reproductive care—it adds up to make the doctor’s visit a really nerve-wracking experience. Even though it can be intimidating, everyone, including transgender persons, should go and get the healthcare they need.

It’s important for trans people to know that there are places they can go for healthcare and feel safe. Maine Family Planning offers their services to people of all genders. That includes STD testing, birth control methods, breast and pelvic exams, emergency contraception, and more. Maine Family Planning also offers a wide range of transgender health services. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT); self-injection lessons; referrals to mental, behavioral, and specialty providers; and other family planning services are offered to transgender patients.

The comfort of our patients, regardless of gender identity and expression, is important. All care and support is provided without judgment. To learn more about what Maine Family Planning can do for transgender patients or to set up an appointment, visit our website or give us a call!

This is a guest post by Adam, one of Maine Family Planning’s student interns.  Adam is pursuing a degree in creative writing. When he’s not writing for class or for Maine Family Planning’s blog, he’s petting cats.

Experimenting and hooking up: not just for college students

Experimenting and hooking up are very normal things to do during our college experience. While it’s fun and exciting to try new things and be with different people, it can also be dangerous if the proper protection isn’t used. Using protection such as condoms or dental dams can be a great way to decrease the chances of getting a sexually transmitted disease. However, we all have a mishap once in awhile. It’s not the end of the world—it’s easy to get tested and
receive treatment.

I interviewed some fellow college students to find out how often they get tested for STDs (everything was 100% anonymous!). A common response was, “Every few months, just to be safe.” Another response: “After every relationship or new sexual encounter.” And, “I do it when I’m sexually active and concerned.” All of these are great examples of how often a person who’s sexually active should get tested for STDs.

STD testing is readily available; all you have to do is make an appointment at your local family planning clinic. People who qualify for Maine’s Family Planning benefit program can receive STD testing for free—along with other services! Applications for this program are available at any Maine Family Planning location.

And remember: free condoms are available at every MFP clinic. STDs are preventable, so along with getting tested on a regular basis, be safe!

This is a guest post by Adam, one of Maine Family Planning’s student interns.  Adam is pursuing a degree in creative writing. When he’s not writing for class or for Maine Family Planning’s blog, he’s petting cats.

Why we need Title X, Abortion Care & Maine Family Planning:

The Title X Family Funding Program gives federal funds to centers—including Maine Family Planning!—that provide services such as contraception, cancer screenings, STD testing, and much more. Enacted in 1970, it was designed to provide quality family planning care to low-income or uninsured persons who may not be able to afford it on their own. With funding from Title X, they can get the care they need at little to no cost. In 2013, it was estimated that
Title X-funded centers served 4.6 million clients nationwide (Guttmacher Institute 2015).

In 2014, approximately 20,000 Maine women received contraceptive services and supplies from
Title-X funded programs (Frost et al. 2016). Without funding from Title X, it’s likely that these women may not have received the contraceptive care they needed. Using contraceptive methods
such as birth control can have benefits in addition to preventing pregnancy such as regulating periods, preventing menstrual migraines, reducing acne, and relieving symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). So don’t let people fool you—there are MANY reasons to start using a contraceptive method beyond pregnancy prevention, and contraception services aren’t the only
services provided by Maine Family Planning and other Title X-funded centers.

Due to the Hyde Amendment (FMI HERE), no federal funds can be used for abortion services.  Maine is also a state where Mainecare coverage does not include abortion care.  Maine Family Planning believes that abortion care is a KEY piece of women’s health.

There are bound to be some people in your life saying they do not support a woman’s right to choose unless she has been sexually assaulted or if she will be harmed bringing a pregnancy to term. Often, people view abortion as a last resort, something that should only be considered when there’s nothing else to do. This creates the feeling of taboo, shedding a negative light on those who receive abortion care. Abortion shouldn’t be considered a last resort; it should simply be viewed as another option.

Everyone should have equal access to abortion care, no matter the reason for seeking abortion care, whether it’s sexual assault, harm to the mother, not wanting a child, not being able to afford another child, or any reason at all. The decision is valid; the choice resides with the person who’s pregnant, period.

Some of those people in your life who don’t support abortion may be participating in 40 Days for Life: a group that pickets at Maine Family Planning’s Augusta office every year. Consider fighting back—against them and the stigma surrounding a woman’s right to choose—by participating in our Pledge-A-Picketer campaign HERE.

Maine Family Planning also provides physical exams, pap smears, breast exams, transgender health care, and immunizations! Title X-funded family planning centers are essential for low-income or uninsured women—and men!—who may not be able to afford these services otherwise. It’s not just abortion and birth control; it’s so, so much more.

This is a guest post by Adam, one of Maine Family Planning’s student interns.  Adam is pursuing a degree in creative writing. When he’s not writing for class or for Maine Family Planning’s blog, he’s petting cats.

Sources:
Contraceptive Needs and Services, 2014 Update, Frost JJ, Frohwirth L and Zolna MR, 2016.
< https://www.guttmacher.org/report/contraceptive-needs-and-services-2014-update >

The Role of Reproductive Freedom in Ending Domestic Violence

The right to determine what happens to our own physical selves has everything to do with our safety and wellbeing.  Attacks bodily autonomy are central to the issue of domestic violence. The behavior of those who commit domestic abuse is rooted in the belief  that they have the right to make decisions about every facet of their partners’ lives, including their bodies.

Survivors tell us that their abusers, using a wide range of coercive tactics, dictate what they wear, when and what they eat, where they go, who they see, when they sleep, and whether they can hold their children in their arms. They tell us they are not allowed to say “no” to sex, and when they do they are assaulted. They tell us they are grabbed, touched, hit, kicked, stroked and held in ways they do not want, and which they are unable to repel. In short, abusive people systematically work to strip survivors of their autonomy and their ability to make choices for themselves without risk of retribution.

Often, abusers focus on their partners’ reproductive health as a means of maintaining control over their partners’ lives. This is called reproductive coercion, and it particularly—though not exclusively—impacts women, for whom a pregnancy can make the difference between breaking free of and being connected to their abusers forever, through shared parenting if not through the relationship.

Women tell us about preparing to end the relationship, having painstakingly put together plans for starting over—a place to go, some income, childcare and transportation—when they realize they are pregnant. Maybe he tampered with her pills, or maybe he poked holes in the condoms, or maybe he raped her. No matter the tactic, with a new baby all of those carefully laid plans are often rendered unworkable. Some women tell us that this happened to them more than once: “It’s like he always knew, just when I was getting ready to go.”

Others tell us about how their abusers kept them from ending a pregnancy, sometimes physically keeping them from going to a clinic for an abortion, sometimes showing behavior change that lasted only until the baby was born. And still others tell us about how their partners supported them, even encouraged them, to get an abortion—and then later used the knowledge of the procedure as a weapon, blackmailing and shaming them with it. Abusers are often perfectly willing to capitalize on the social stigma associated with abortion, as doing so allows them to isolate their partners even further.

Reproductive freedom matters for survivors of domestic violence. It matters because it is an essential part of safety planning around reproductive coercion. It matters because the ability to become pregnant leaves women vulnerable to abusers in a very specific set of ways, and women need to be able to manage that vulnerability in whatever way works best for them.

Reproductive freedom also matters because the belief that anyone other than a woman herself has the right to control what happens to her body is a key part of the culture than condones abuse in the first place. At the core, it is an abuser’s belief that his rights take precedence over hers that drives his behavior, and his belief has been culturally supported for millennia, in laws that treated women and children as property and gave men the final say over their lives.

In just one example, it was only in 1985 that raping one’s spouse was finally outlawed in Maine. Before that, our laws maintained that a husband’s right to his wife’s body was absolute; that once she was married, she had given up her right to choose when and if to engage in sexual activity. But by 1985, our understanding had evolved. We saw that women have the right to decide for ourselves what happens to our bodies—and that right must be recognized and upheld under the law.

The same understanding needs to be applied to our discussions around reproductive freedom.

Access to a full range of reproductive health care, including abortion, not only helps survivors counteract the abusive tactics used by their partners, but it sends a message of accountability to abusers, as well. Because a culture that insists that only a woman can decide what happens to her body is one that will be able to stand beside survivors and affirm, “Your body is yours, and no one else’s, and we will support you in keeping it that way.”

Used with permission by MCEDv and also appeared on the MCEDV Voices Blog March 7, 2017

B.Y.O.R. (Be Your Own Receptionist)!

Things I do from my phone:

  • Keep in touch with friends and family
  • Listen to podcasts (and Beyoncé)
  • Check my bank account balance
  • Look up driving directions
  • …Basically everything important

And now:

  • Schedule appointments with Maine Family Planning (!!!)

We’re excited to announce that online scheduling is now available at MaineFamilyPlanning.org.

While current patients have been able to schedule online (using the Patient Portal) for a few years, new patients have always had to call us or come to a clinic to make an appointment. Now, anyone can make an appointment online, day or night.

Why schedule online?

Privacy

Need to make an appointment but don’t want people around you to overhear your concerns? We know it can be tough to find time and privacy to call us during business hours, and while nothing freaks us out, chances are you may not want your coworkers, family, or strangers in the coffee shop to know about your birth control method or that you think you might have a UTI.

Convenience

You can schedule your visit using a computer, smartphone, or tablet whenever and wherever works best for you. Waiting in line at the grocery store and just remembered you need your next Depo shot? Only have a couple minutes during your lunch break to schedule an STD test? Did you put off calling about your annual exam until after our offices close? No worries—our website is always open.

Peace of Mind

We know what it’s like to feel anxious about something going on with our bodies. We also know the relief that comes with knowing you’ve scheduled time to figure things out with a healthcare provider. With online scheduling available 24/7, you don’t have to lose sleep worrying about when you’ll be able to get a pregnancy test or see a Nurse Practitioner about that weird bump you just found.

How it works:  Continue reading

Preventing HIV with PrEP

medication chalkboardStarting this month, Maine Family Planning will be offering consultations and prescriptions for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis – commonly called PrEP – a daily pill that significantly reduces the risk of HIV infection (HIV is the virus that causes AIDS). You can talk to a Nurse Practitioner at any of our 18 clinics about your HIV status, your individual risk, and whether PrEP is a good option for you.

Want to know more? We’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions below. If PrEP sounds like something that might be right for you, give us a call to set up a visit.

What is PrEP?

PrEP (brand name Truveda) is an antiretroviral medication that can be taken by an HIV negative person before potential HIV exposure to reduce risk of HIV infection. When taken consistently and correctly, PrEP is over 90% effective at preventing HIV transmission through sex, and over 70% effective at preventing HIV transmission through IV drug injection.

How does it work?   Continue reading

#GiveDifferently for #GivingTuesday

Maine Family Planning is getting ready for #GivingTuesday and we need your support!

It’s that time of year again; the weather is getting colder and for many of us in Maine that means breaking out the shovels and snow tires. It also means that the holiday season is approaching quickly. While you may be starting to think about holiday shopping lists and hosting family gatherings, Maine Family Planning is getting ready for #GivingTuesday!

giving tuesdayIn case you haven’t heard, the goal of #GivingTuesday is to create a global day of giving back, celebrating generosity and kindness. The day itself falls on the Tuesday following American Thanksgiving each year. This year #GivingTuesday is on December 1st.

We all know that this time of year can be incredibly hectic so we’ve come up with some ways to #GiveDifferently with Maine Family Planning. Monthly gifts spread your contribution over twelve months, so you don’t spend your holiday bonus all in one place. Giving in someone else’s name makes a great holiday gift, especially for that activist in your life who cares passionately about reproductive rights. There are even ways to contribute while you finish up your holiday shopping with Amazon Smiles and of course, one time gifts make a big difference too!

Continue reading

National Coming Out Day: A chance for safer Maine communities

This week’s guest post was authored by Cara Courchesne, Katie Kondrat, and Rachel Epperly, all of the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault and also appears in the Bangor Daily News

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With the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality and Caitlyn Jenner’s iconic Vanity Fair cover, issues faced by the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) community dominated headlines this summer.

As we celebrate these victories and the headlines fade, activists continue to rightfully point out the work that remains.

SAFE-SPACE

We know that sexual violence is the most under-reported violent crime in the United States, and that there are often barriers to victims and survivors who want to report to law enforcement and seek services. We also know that the rates at which LGBTQ people experience sexual violence are alarming survivors face even more barriers when seeking help. 

These barriers include: previous homophobic or transphobic experiences with services providers and law enforcement; concern the services available don’t have the expertise to affirm and support someone; a lack of understanding by the victim that what happened was sexual violence; a fear of being outed; service providers making false assumptions about someone’s gender identify or sexual orientation; or worse still, discriminate against someone who has come to them for help.  Continue reading

Back by popular demand: we can get you covered!

Open enrollment for Marketplace Insurance Plans starts November 1st, 2015, and remains open until February 1st, 2016. For those who don’t have health insurance, the time to sign up for coverage is quickly approaching, and Maine Family Planning is here to help.

get covered

Last year, we helped over 900 Mainers find and enroll in an affordable plan; we can help you find coverage this year.

Reproductive health care is essential for well-being and success. The ability to decide whether and when to have children allows people to pursue education, fulfilling careers, and to raise safe and healthy families if or when they’re ready. As important as reproductive health care is, it’s not the only kind of care people need. That’s why Maine Family Planning will be helping patients and their families enroll in affordable health insurance plans– we want Mainers to be covered for ALL of their healthcare needs, including Primary Care, prescriptions, and any emergencies that may come up. Maine Family Planning has always been a place where anyone can get affordable health care, regardless of insurance status. While we do accept private and public health insurance, many people who come to us are uninsured. In fact, we’re often one of the only health centers that people without health insurance can afford to visit.

What is the Affordable Care Act (ACA)?  Continue reading