Category Archives: STDs

After Cyber Monday Comes #GivingTuesday

Reproductive Justice Champions support a wide range of Maine Family Planning services and programs.

Tomorrow, November 28, is Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving that offers folks the opportunity to support their favorite charities amidst holiday shopping and deal-scoring bonanzas.

We hope you’ll participate in this altruistic activity by donating to Maine Family Planning. In particular, we urge you to consider our Reproductive Justice Champion monthly giving program. By committing to a monthly donation, you help us provide comprehensive reproductive health care to women, men, and teens across Maine. You help us empower teens to make healthy decisions through our Best Practices sexuality education curriculum. You help us advocate for your rights in Augusta, in Washington, D.C., and in courtrooms. You help transgender Mainers, rural Mainers, low-income Mainers… You get the picture.

And we need your support now more than ever. With a hostile administration in Washington, D.C., family planning providers like us have a target on our backs. From affordable birth control to abortion access, the Trump administration is waging a multi-pronged attack on women’s health care. Loyal friends like like you help us fight back.

Donate here.

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.

 

What type of contraception is best for me? Part 2 – The Pill

Let’s face it, even though condoms are the most accessible form of contraceptive for teens, they aren’t necessarily the “best” option out there. Condoms have to be used correctly every time you engage in sexual intercourse in order to prevent STIs and unplanned pregnancies. This is why it is highly recommended for people who are sexually active to “double up” on their birth control. This means that you use two forms of contraceptives instead of just one. The most common combination is using both condoms and oral contraceptives, i.e., the pill.

Condoms represent a barrier method of birth control, while the pill is a hormonal method. The pill works by regulating a woman’s menstrual cycle and preventing ovulation. In simpler terms, the pill prevents a woman’s ovary from releasing an egg. Without an egg, conception cannot occur because the sperm has nothing to fertilize. The pill also works by thickening cervical mucus to prevent sperm from entering the uterus in the first place!

If used perfectly, the pill can be up to 99% effective! However, in order to be as effective as possible, the pill needs to be taken every day at approximately the same time of day. This can be difficult, especially in the hectic life of a teen! That is why using a condom as well helps to be sure than no unwanted pregnancies will occur. Condoms are also still important, even if you are on the birth control pill, because the pill does not work to prevent the contraction of STIs.

In order to get started on the pill, you need to make an appointment with your doctor or your local Maine Family Planning clinic and get a prescription for a monthly supply of an oral contraceptive. There are many different kinds of the pill that have different doses of the hormones estrogen and progestin, which work together to prevent ovulation and thicken cervical mucus. You can work with your doctor to select the pill with a combination of hormones that is right for you.

Once you have a prescription for birth control pills, you can even sign up to have them delivered to you each month through the mail so you don’t have to worry about getting to a pharmacy to pick up your prescription on time each month!  Maine Family Planning’s Meds by Mail:  CLICK HERE

If you have questions about cost and insurance, as well as possible side effects, don’t be afraid to contact Maine Family Planning. They can answer any questions you may have about getting a prescription for the birth control pill!

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.

What type of contraception is best for me? 

Being a teen is hard, especially when you’re facing pressure from your friends to be sexually active and pressure from your parents to remain abstinent. 

The most important thing to remember when facing the issue of whether or not to be sexually active is that YOU and what YOU want is the most important. 

If your friends are pressuring you to be sexually active, that doesn’t mean you should be. If your parents are stressing that abstinence until marriage is the only acceptable thing, that doesn’t mean you have to remain abstinent. In this situation, it is most important to do what you feel is right for YOU at any given time. 

If you do plan to be sexually active, using proper precautions is crucial— especially if you do not intend to contract an STI or get pregnant!

As a teen, deciding what type of birth control is best for you can be difficult. The easiest, most inexpensive form of birth control for a teen to obtain is the condom. You can get condoms for free at most health clinics (including one of Maine Family Plannings eighteen sites HERE), and maybe even in your schools nurse’s office! You can also purchase condoms at any drugstore (like Walmart, Target, RiteAid, etc.) On average, you can get a box of 12 Durex condoms for around 6 bucks. You can also order condoms online at places like Amazon.com! This is an easy way for you to obtain condoms without needing to physically get to a drugstore. 

Condoms are a great birth control options for teens because they don’t require a prescription! This means you can get as many condoms as you need without having to make a visit to the doctor! Condoms aren’t necessarily the most effective form of birth control, but if they are used correctly every time, they can be up to 98% effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy or STI’s. 

Be sure to do your research on different types of birth control methods before engaging in sexual activity. Condoms are a great first step, especially for teens, because they are so easy to access and don’t require a doctor’s visit or the use of insurance. Check out these links for more information on condoms: http://www.mainefamilyplanning.org/page/2-766/birth-control

https://www.bedsider.org/methods/condom#details_tab

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.

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

Thank you.

During the 40 days of Lent each year, anti-choice protesters descend on Maine Family Planning’s Augusta headquarters to spew lies, judgment, hate, and to intimidate our patients and staff. These picketers can not understand the lives of those who enter our gates, yet they show up daily to harass patients, despite the fact that protesting does not change the minds of people who know what’s best for themselves and their families.

In an attempt to make lemons out of lemonade (and to show our patients and staff that they are supported by many of their neighbors), Maine Family Planning runs a Pledge-A-Picketer fundraising campaign during these same 40 days. This year, we raised about half as much as we typically do; the Christian Civic League of Maine claimed that their prayers were responsible for defunding abortion and family planning.

But that wasn’t the end. Over the past week, Mike Tipping, Dan Savage, and advocates all over the world stepped up to speak out against the CCL’s harassment and bigotry.

Since the CCL’s claim of righteous victory, we’ve received almost $24,000 from over 720 new donors in six countries and 45 states (pushing our total over $29,000).

Many of you stepped up and donated, despite not knowing Maine Family Planning or the work we do. Perhaps you heard about our effort from  Dan Savage, Mike Tipping, Think Progress, Raw Story, Wonkette, Daily Kos, or our supporters on social media. Despite the fact that many of you don’t know us, you’ve made it clear that you trust family planning clinics to provide reproductive care, and that you trust women, men, teens, and trans* people to make the decisions that are right for themselves and their families.

The work we do is important. We provide confidential reproductive health care that people can afford, including birth control, pap smears, breast exams, STI testing and treatment, pregnancy testing and counseling, and queer and trans-friendly care. At some of our centers (we operate 19 practices at 18 sites), we provide abortion care, primary care, support for growing families, needle exchange services, and hormone therapy for transgender patients.

We work with schools throughout the state to provide evidence-based, comprehensive sex education. We work with legislators, policy makers, and advocates to ensure that sexual and reproductive freedom are protected in Maine. We work in coalition with many other organizations to address sexual assault and domestic violence, to promote the rights of LGBTQIA Mainers, and to help make our state a place where people can create their families safely and with dignity.

Our patients, like many across the country, can’t always afford the health care they need. Health insurance does not always cover the cost of reproductive health services, and thanks to corporations like Hobby Lobby, it may not always have to. We do receive federal Title X funds— and (like many Planned Parenthood centers) we rely on those funds to keep our doors open. Federal dollars make sexual and reproductive health care available to many people who would not otherwise be able to afford services, but those dollars do not always cover the full cost of care, are not available for every patient, and don’t cover every service.

That’s one reason your support is so important. Throwing up our hands and allowing basic reproductive health care to be a luxury afforded only to those with enough money is not an option. This is a point you’ve helped us make and a promise you’re helping us to fulfill.

Access to family planning allows people to pursue education, to make a living wage, to leave abusive relationships, and to create the healthy families they choose. Celebrating a lack of funding for family planning services means celebrating the perpetuation of inequality.

Your support accomplished something else, too. You sent an emphatic message to those who would foster discrimination, inequality, and hatred in the name of religion: bigotry is not divine.

We’re proud to be an organization that works to promote sexual health and reproductive justice in Maine, and we are grateful to have received such an enormous outpouring of support for our work and our patients.

Thank you.

p.s. Haven’t donated yet but want to? Now’s your chance.

Update: as of Monday, April 13th, you’ve helped us raise over $40,000! Thank you, thank you, thank you forty thousand times over. 

PAP 40k 2

 

May We Suggest a New Year’s Revolution?

It’s January, which means it’s New Year’s Resolution season. Maybe you resolved to take good care of your health, to give back to your community, or to save more money.  Because taking care of ourselves can be a political act (as Audre Lorde reminded us), might we suggest you make a New Year’s Revolution, instead?

Whether or not your resolution feels revolutionary, there’s something nice about a new year and a fresh start– and it’s especially satisfying to know you’ve done something kind for yourself (we can help!). Continue reading