Sexpert: Maintaining sexual health during summer

Dear Sexpert, 

I’ve been using McCosh’s services to remain diligent about my sexual health and have gotten used to the easy, accessible resources on campus. I’m going home for the summer in a few weeks, and I am worried about accessing resources at home, especially without my parents knowing about it. My home state is also extremely strict about abortions, and while I don’t plan to get pregnant, unwanted pregnancies could still happen and I’m not in a place to have a child right now. I could use some guidance regarding this matter.

— Summer Fling Seeker 

Dear Summer Fling Seeker,

Planning ahead and being cautious are certainly important goals! If you intend to be sexually active this summer — especially if you are engaging with new or multiple sexual partners, it is a good idea to have a plan in place to continue practicing safer sex. It’s also great that you’ve been able to take advantage of the services at McCosh while on campus. If you already have a provider at McCosh who you are comfortable with, you can message your provider through your MyUHS portal with non-urgent questions throughout the summer. They may also assist in getting you connected to resources near you. However, this should not be used for urgent or immediate care concerns or services.

If you are not connected with a care provider at home, Planned Parenthood has clinical locations across most of the United States. These clinics offer sexually-transmitted infection (STI) testing, contraception, physical examinations, consultations, pregnancy testing and prenatal services, abortion care, and sex education. Your local pharmacy may also offer consultations, evaluations, STI and pregnancy testing, and vaccinations or treatments, as needed.

You note being concerned about unwanted pregnancies. If you do not have a consistent or reliable contraception method, consider making an appointment at McCosh with Sexual Health and Wellness (SHAW) to explore your options before your departure from campus. There are a ton of different methods — hormonal, non-hormonal, daily use, or ones that last years once inserted. Remember that external and internal condoms also prevent STIs, in addition to pregnancy.

Even with these options, no method is 100 percent foolproof, other than abstinence. Should you suspect a pregnancy, it can be more cost-efficient to get a test at a Planned Parenthood location (since they accept insurance or offer a sliding scale fee, if paying out-of-pocket) than to pick up an at-home testing at a pharmacy. But at-home testing does ensure more privacy. Just keep in mind that if you are on your family’s insurance plan and use it, an explanation of benefits (EOB) may be mailed to the policy holder. Learn about some strategies to navigate this.

If you find yourself pregnant and want to explore your options, you may want to learn more about state laws and restrictions (e.g., ultrasound and waiting period requirement, parental consent or notification) to know more about your options, including what you could expect at a provider’s office. You can also look to any of these resources for supportive talk or text lines regarding options to navigate pregnancy. Additionally, Hey Jane is a startup that connects menstruating people to healthcare providers who can educate and prescribe contraceptives and abortion medication. This company caters to those who are less than 10 weeks pregnant and over 18 years old, and in the states Calif., Colo., Conn., Ill., Md., N.J., N.M., N.Y. and Wash. (which may not be applicable to your situation). This service is private and will work with you to financially support your decision. Plan C is another resource that has up-to-date information about accessing at-home abortion pills. More than 54% of abortions in the United States are medication abortions, and they are often chosen over surgical abortions because of the desire for privacy.

Taking preventive measures to maintain your sexual health is incredibly important for your overall well-being, as well as to avoid STIs and unwanted pregnancies. Using condoms and other forms of contraception are the easiest ways to stay diligent about this, but the only way to definitively prevent STIs and unwanted pregnancies is practicing abstinence. If you choose to be sexually active, make sure you are on top of your self-protective behaviors, know your options, and can get connected to care.

Stay safe,

The Sexpert

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The Sexpert is a monthly column written in collaboration between The Prospect and the Peer Health Advisers (PHA) program. For more information, you can visit the Sexpert’s website. If you are interested in submitting a question, you can send it through this form: tinyurl.com/princetonsexpert.

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