sexual health

I’m about to graduate! There’s been a ton of resources available while I’m at Harvard. Do you have any tips about how to find things once I’m out of the college bubble?

RC: Building off last week’s post, this week we are going to speak to some national resources that folks might find of interest when thinking about sexual and interpersonal wellbeing.  We will start with a quick run-through of resources that address sexual health and then look at some that address interpersonal wellbeing.

AG: One awesome thing about the digital world we live in today is that there are an amazing array of great online informational resources. Of course, that means that there’s also a lot of not-so-great information online, but some websites that we recommend if you are looking for sexual health information include:

Many of these have Q&A boards similar to our website, as well as informational articles. None of these offer direct healthcare services, which we talked a bit about last week. But just a reminder that places like Planned Parenthood or community health clinics can be a good first stop for accessing health care.

RC: When thinking about interpersonal wellbeing, it’s really important to note that there is no set formula or map that will define relationships.  We try to stress that understanding interpersonal wellbeing is less about understanding objective symptomatology and more about understanding the felt- and lived- impact of the interpersonal dynamics.  Because of this, interpersonal practices that might help me thrive might really not work for someone else, and vice versa. That being said, there are some important resources for folks who are interested in learning more about interpersonal harm, health, and how to be a mutual and equitable person.

AG: You can also find even more resources, broken down by category, via OSAPR’s website! Navigating this world of information can be overwhelming but there are definitely a ton of amazing organizations out there doing great work and publishing really useful content. Good luck!

RC:  Wow, we made it through a whirlwind academic year!  For those of you who are graduating, including the person who wrote in with this question, we wish you nothing but the best as you move into the next phase of your lives.  For those of you who we will see around campus in the Fall, have a great summer, and we will see you soon! Thanks for reading!

How does a sexually active person prevent UTIs?

AG: Great question! Urinary tract infections are basically when any part of the bladder, kidneys, or urethra gets infected and they are an incredibly common - and painful! - infection. Sexually active people are also at a higher risk for UTIs than those who aren’t having sex.

AA:  Thanks for asking this very common question! Female bodied individuals are more likely than male bodied individuals to contract a UTI. Anatomy has a lot to do with this. Female bodied individuals have a shorter urethra making it easier for bacteria to enter the bladder. This doesn’t mean that men can’t get UTIs. Though, when they do they are generally more serious and should be seen by a doctor right away.

AG: UTIs definitely aren’t fun but the good news is that they’re treatable and that there are things everyone can do to lower their risk! A pervasive myth is that cranberry juice helps treat UTIs. This is not true! If you do have one, see your PCP and you can get prescribed antibiotics. A hot compress can also help to relieve the pain.

AA: You can also go to the pharmacy to pick up some over the counter medication like Pyridium or Phenazopyridine which can help relieve some of the symptoms of UTIs which include persistent urge to urinate, burning during urination, and pelvic pain just to name a few.

AG:

For everyone, whether or not you’re sexually active:

Make sure you’re drinking enough water and not holding in your pee - this can make it easier for bacteria growth. Also, try to wear cotton underwear and loose fitting pants because tight jeans can trap moisture. Lastly, limit bladder irritants like coffee or alcohol.

If you’re having vaginal sex:

The first thing is to remember to always, always pee after having vaginal sex.

AA: Additionally, using unlubricated condoms or spermicides can increase the risk of UTIs. If you are using one of these methods and find yourself having recurring UTIs I would recommend having a conversation with your PCP about your barrier and birth control methods.

AG: Just a reminder that the anus and the vagina are different environments and you should never move penetrative objects (sex toys, penis, fingers) from the anus to the vagina without cleaning them off or changing condoms! Lastly, don’t worry - oral sex alone doesn’t increase the risk of UTIs!

AA: Check out the mayo clinic and the NIH websites for more info on UTIs!

Good luck,

AG

Student

Amanda Ayers

Health Educator

Does getting an IUD hurt?

EXPERT ANSWER:

Thank you so much for asking about IUDs (Intrauterine devices). IUDs are one of the most effective forms of birth control on the market. There are now four different kinds of IUDs that you can choose from, each meant to fit different needs. These IUDs are Paragard (non-hormonal), Mirena, Skyla, and Liletta

IUDs themselves don’t hurt while they are in place. This is a misconception. The only time a IUD user may feel any sort of pain would be during the insertion process which usually only takes a couple of minutes to complete. Most people obtaining an IUD say they feel minimal to moderate pain. There are many things that you can do to reduce any pain that you might feel. It is recommended to take 2 ibuprofen (Advil) before the procedure. Some doctors also tell their patients to schedule the appointment for during their period. The pain from insertion comes from opening the cervix for placement. While a person has their period, their cervix is already slightly opened which can aid in reducing any possible pain.

The pain (if any) usually does not last long. It can sometimes be followed by cramping which will go away within a few hours to days. I know that any sort of pain can feel very intimidating but think about the ease afterwards. Mirena can last up to 5 years and ParaGard can last up to 12 years. Having a long-lasting form of birth control can save you time, money, and mental space.

I hope that you will consider an IUD as your form of birth control.

If you ever have other questions about IUDs or other contraceptive options don’t hesitate to contact me at 617-496-2053.

Amanda Ayers, MPH

Health Educator


STUDENT ANSWER:

Thanks for the question! IUDs are awesome. They last anywhere from 3-12 years, can reduce or even eliminate periods, and are over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. Once they’re in, you can basically forget about it other than a quick monthly self-check to make sure it’s still in place.

BUT, it’s the classic question, how much do they hurt? IUDs are inserted (by a healthcare provider) into the uterus which means they must pass through the cervix. Though the insertion is incredibly quick (only a few minutes) it can be painful for female bodied individuals who have never had children. While it’s usually done without anesthetic, like Amanda said, having the appointment while you’re on your period and taking a few Advil can make the procedure more comfortable.

Fear of pain is one of the biggest deterrents for people in choosing to get an IUD but the truth is that it’s just a few moments of discomfort (and shouldn’t hurt more than some period cramps). I’d suggest trying to convince yourself that it won’t hurt too much and trying to focus on other things during the insertion. Maybe bring a friend to the appointment and have them distract you and squeeze your hand.

After the insertion itself, you may feel cramps, mild discomfort and experience some spotting for the next few days. This should go away pretty quickly although your periods can take a few months to get back on a normal cycle.

It is important to remember that the IUD does not prevent against any STIs and that condoms should still be used if you start sleeping with someone new. However, IUDs are the highest rated form of contraception and - especially if you don’t want to deal with taking a daily pill - can be a great, great option!

AG

Student