Ask us anything. No judgments.

Is there an average time for periods to start?

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Someone asked us:

I get my period in the middle of the day, but I’ve heard it’s more regular to get it in the morning. Is there an average time for periods to start? Should I be worried about mine?

 There’s no “average” time for periods to start, so there’s no reason to be worried about getting your period in the middle of the day instead of in the morning. People might be more likely to report getting their period in the morning since if you got it while you were sleeping (which is usually for about a third of the hours in the day), you’d likely only notice it when you woke up.

Periods don’t always, or even often, happen like clockwork. Your period might start at the same time of day every month, and it might not — nothing to worry about either way. In general, a lot of people have irregular periods when they’re younger, which often become more regular as they get older.

Read more about menstruation here.

-Nina at Planned Parenthood

My mom says I need a pap smear to get birth control. Do I?

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Someone asked us:

hi there! i really want to go on birth control for a variety of reasons, but my mom is telling me that in order for me to get it that i have to have a pap smear. now, i’m a virgin. i’ve never heard of any one having to have a pap smear before getting birth control, especially if they’re a virgin. could it be necessary for me to have a pap smear prior to receiving birth control?

What your mom said used to be true (i.e., she means well!), but times have changed. Today, you may be able to get prescribed birth control without any kind of pelvic exam (which is when a Pap test would take place).

Today’s medical experts recommend that women start getting pelvic exams at age 21. But you can go see a gynecologist anytime before then for birth control, STD testing, or just to ask questions and talk about any concerns you have. All you need to get birth control is a conversation with a health care provider and a blood pressure check, assuming you don’t have any risk factors. Keep in mind that while there’s no medical reason why you need a Pap to get birth control, there are definitely still providers out there who do still require it for one reason or another. You can always call ahead and ask what their policies are about that.

And in case your mom needs to be convinced from a source other than Tumblr , here’s up-to-date information about the pelvic exam (and Pap test) guidelines, for you guys to read through together! 

-Mary at Planned Parenthood

How do I pay for an abortion?

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Someone asked:

Do you do like a payment plan for an abortion? I know having an abortion is between $300-$950 depending on trimester. Or do I have to pay in full when I show up?

Your local Planned Parenthood health center may be able to work out payment with you, and many provide services on a sliding scale (meaning that the less income you have, the less you need to pay). It’s best to contact your local Planned Parenthood and ask them directly what their policies are; you can look them up by typing your ZIP code in here

Good luck and take care.

-Mary at Planned Parenthood

Can We Keep Using The Same Condom if He Loses His Erection?

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Someone asked us:

Hi! Thanks for providing this important service. Just a question; my boyfriend had sex with a condom, and he lost his erection a bit but kept using the condom after it had slipped off a bit (after pushing it back on/readjusting it), once he got his erection back. I don’t think I phrased this right, but is it a bad idea/dangerous to do that? 

Oooh, great question! As many people know, it’s easy to plan on using condoms perfectly, but sometimes things just don’t go as smoothly in the real world.

It’s very common for erections to come and go throughout sexual activity, and sometimes people lose their hard-on after putting on a condom. (If this is a continuous issue, making the process sexy and fun — putting the condom on your partner, rubbing extra lube on the penis, and keeping the “mood” up during application, etc. — can help.)

I know it’s kind of annoying to replace condoms in the middle of some super sweet action, but continuing to use a condom after the penis goes soft, even if it quickly gets hard again, is really not recommended.

Here’s why: it’s no secret that most penises are bigger when erect, and when condoms are rolled on, the condom stretches to accommodate that particular size. If the penis goes limp, the condom will be a little baggier than before and can easily slip around/off (as you noticed). Even if he gets an erection again soon thereafter and pulls the condom back on, that’s still a lot of stretching and stress. It’s just not going to fit as well. You’ll also probably find that between exposure to air and all that pushing and readjusting, the condom might get pretty dry.  And dryness = friction, which = breakage, which = :(

This is why it’s a great idea to keep more than one condom around: even though using condoms is pretty simple, there’re still a few things that can go wrong through no fault of your own. The possibility of rolling the condom on the wrong way, losing an erection mid-sex, having a condom break, or wanting to have sex more than once is reason enough to stockpile. (That and the fact that you can get them free in many Planned Parenthood and community health centers!)

Another tip: if you’re having the type of sex that can result in pregnancy and you’re not using another form of birth control, consider keeping some emergency contraception in your medicine cabinet, just in case you have a condom snafu.

But I do want to applaud you for knowing it was important to stay protected, no matter what. Even though what you did wasn’t perfect, it’s still a whole lot better than giving up on that condom and having unsafe sex instead. 

Finally, while I’m sure lots of people already know this, I’ma drop it here just in case: do NOT ever reuse a condom that has been ejaculated into. That is one big no-no.

-Kendall at Planned Parenthood 

When does an IUD start working?

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Someone asked us:

how soon do IUD’s start working?

How soon an IUD starts working depends on what kind it is: copper or hormonal. The ParaGard IUD, which contains copper and is effective for up to 12 years, starts preventing pregnancy as soon as it’s inserted. The Skyla and Mirena IUDs, which release a small amount of the hormone progestin, is effective for up to three or five years respectively, and when it starts working depends on when it’s inserted. If it’s inserted within seven days after the start of your period, it’s effective immediately. If it’s inserted at any other time during your menstrual cycle, use another form of birth control (like a condom) if you have vaginal sex during the first week after insertion. Pregnancy protection starts after seven days.

Want to learn more about IUDs? Check out our IUD page.

-Nina at Planned Parenthood

Can Skin-To-Skin Contact Cause Pregnancy?

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Someone asked us:

Can skin to skin contact get you pregnant?

When talking about sex, we define “skin-to-skin” contact as touching your vulva, vagina, penis, testicles, buttcheeks, or anus to another person’s, without a barrier like clothing, condoms, or dental dams. Some people call this “dry humping.” Sexual skin-to-skin contact also includes touching another person’s genitals with bare hands (mutual masturbation).

Skin-to-skin contact itself does not cause pregnancy, but things get a bit, um…stickier if semen (the fluid that comes out of the penis containing sperm) comes into the equation. Pregnancy IS possible if semen gets on your vulva or in your vagina.  There are a number of ways this can happen:

-A penis ejaculates on your vulva or in your vagina (duh).

-A penis ejaculates somewhere else on your body, and the semen drips or is wiped onto your vulva.

-There is fresh semen on your fingers, your partner’s fingers, and/or sex toys, which then touch your vulva or vagina.

-Any of these things happen with pre-ejaculate (AKA pre-cum), which can have a small amount of sperm in it. 

Basically, if you’re trying to avoid pregnancy, it’s important to not only keep sperm out of the vagina, but also away from the vulva. It may seem a teensy bit paranoid, but sperm can use moisture on the vulva (which tends to increase during sexytimes) to help them swim up into the vagina.  

Also, I’d be a very bad sex educator if I didn’t remind you that genital (and oral) skin-to-skin contact CAN transmit some sexually transmitted infections, like herpes and HPV, even if you don’t have actual “intercourse” or swap fluids. 

-Kendall at Planned Parenthood

Should lesbians get the HPV vaccine?

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Someone asked us:

Should lesbians get the Gardasil shot?

Gardasil, for those who don’t know (unlike you, you savvy Tumblr-er), is a vaccine that protects against certain strains of HPV (the human papilloma virus) which can cause cervical cancer, oral, anal or penile cancers, or genital warts.

HPV can be passed by vaginal, anal, or oral sex, as well as genital skin-to-skin contact. So your sexual orientation doesn’t have much to do with your risk for HPV. Condoms and dental dams provide  some protection from HPV and other STDs, so they’re always a good idea.

Gardasil won’t completely eliminate your risk for contracting HPV – there are a lot of strains and they’re not all covered by the vaccine. So keeping up with your Pap tests when recommended is still important, vaccinated or not. 

-Mary at Planned Parenthood

Which birth control method should I use if I smoke?

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Someone asked us:

is there a method of birth control that’s safer for someone who smokes

Really good question, glad you asked! You’ve probably heard this already but we’ll say it for anyone who hasn’t: habitually smoking cigarettes while on certain kinds of hormonal birth control is discouraged because it can put you at increased risk for blood clots. The higher risk methods while smoking are those that contain both progestin and estrogen – like the pill, patch and ring. Methods that don’t have estrogen, like the IUD, implant and shot are generally safer if you smoke. But definitely check in with your health care provider. They can give you the best info on what is and isn’t safe for you to use.

Also… no judgments, just if you’re interested: some Planned Parenthood health centers offer smoking cessation programs. Click here to find your local Planned Parenthood health center; if they offer smoking cessation it will be listed under “General Health Services.”

-Mary at Planned Parenthood

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