Burn of the Screw
By Anna Sachse
That said, we’ve all been there. If you’ve just had unprotected sex, it’s okay to beat yourself up a little because hopefully it will inspire you to take better care of yourself the next time you get busy. But don’t let that get in the way of taking some proactive steps to stay healthy right now. The same advice applies if a condom simply breaks or if you use your birth control incorrectly.
Also known as “the morning after pill” or by the brand name Plan B, emergency contraception contains the same hormones that are in birth control pills. Taken in pill form in either one dose or two, it works by preventing a woman’s ovaries from releasing eggs. Sperm + no egg = no pregnancy. The hormones in Plan B also prevent pregnancy by thickening a woman’s cervical mucus, which effectively blocks the sperm and keeps it from joining with an egg if it has managed to get released.
Although the sooner you take it the better, Plan B can be taken up to five days after you have sex. (It reduces the risk of pregnancy by 89 percent when started within three days after unprotected intercourse.) Women and men age 18 or older can get it without a prescription at any time from a health center such as Planned Parenthood (They also give out free condoms!) or drugstores, for between $10 and $45. Teenagers under age 18 will need to get a prescription from a health center.
Keep in mind that emergency contraception is only preventing pregnancy due to sex you already had—it won’t prevent pregnancy from occurring during sex you have after taking the pills. Check out www.plannedparenthood.org for more information.
Get Tested for STDS
Different sexually transmitted infections rear their nasty heads at different times, so it’s likely you may need a few trips to your gyno, doctor or health clinic over the next six months. According to Dr. Kate, an OB/GYN in New York City and frequent sex question answerer for Glamour magazine, there’s no single right answer for when and how many times you should get checked out, but she makes the following important recommendations:
1. Get tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea and trichomonas two weeks after your unprotected sex.
2. Get your blood tested for syphilis and HIV in three months.
3. Get another blood test for HIV six months later.
Six months may seem like a long time to wait, but it’s useless to get tested before the test can tell you anything.
You should also talk to your health care provider about tests for other STDs, such as chancroid infections, cytomegalovirus (CMV), genital warts, Hepatitis B and C, herpes, HPV, molluscum contagiosum, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), pubic lice and scabies. Remember that STDs don’t always have obvious symptoms, but it’s important to get checked out anyway because many are treatable and they do less damage if you take care of them right away. Douching of any kind does nothing to prevent STDs and can actually increase your chances of getting pregnant by pushing sperm into the uterus.
This is all very sexy, isn’t it? Maybe condoms aren’t so bad.