Keeping Up With Your Sexual Health In College
Everyone's birth control journey is different.
College is just another word for “freedom” to many young people, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a place and a time for you to transition into a new phase of your life: adulthood. For many, college is the first time you’re entirely responsible for feeding yourself, doing all your own laundry, getting to class on time, and balancing your responsibilities with your friendships.
But whether you’re a freshman or a senior, don’t let taking care of your sexual health slip off your to-do list. Your sexual health matters too! It’s important to keep it in mind regardless of your relationship status or sexual activity.
Here are four ways to make sure you’re keeping up with your sexual health while in college:
Consider All Your Birth Control Options.
Everyone’s birth control journey is different. If you’re not on birth control right now, or if you are but aren’t sure it’s right for you, visit a provider at your nearest The Right Time health center to talk to them about all of the methods that are available. You can get any one of them for free or at a low-cost, and you do not need to have insurance.
When thinking through which methods will work for you, consider what you want to get from your birth control and what matters most to you. Something that worked for you in the past may not work anymore now that you’re in college.
Here are a few questions to think about before you talk to a provider:
- Is how well the method works at preventing pregnancy your highest priority?
- How do you feel about using a method that contains hormones?
- Is having a low-maintenance method the most important thing right now? (A “low maintenance method” is a method that doesn’t require you to do anything or remember anything to use it, such as an IUD or an Implant. Once these are inserted into your body, they get to work and there’s nothing else for you to do.)
- Do you want to continue to get your period every month or are you okay with having lighter or no periods while on a method?
- Are you okay with having to remember to take a pill every day, change your patch every week, or your ring every month, or remember to get the shot every 3 months?
- Are STIs a concern for you?
Get Tested for and Treat STIs.
Not all methods of birth control prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Only condoms (either internal or external) can prevent pregnancy and also STIs. Dental dams can also help prevent STIs if you’re having oral sex. If you have sex without one of these barrier methods, or if your barrier method fails, see a health care provider to get tested. If you have an STI, make sure you get the treatment you need, and tell your partner(s) that they should get tested too.
The most common STI, HPV, can often be symptomless or even go away on its own. But, some forms can lead to cancer. The good news is there is a HPV vaccine that helps protect you from getting HPV.
Proactively Take Care of Your Sexual Journey.
Beyond birth control and STIs there are other things you can do to make sure you live your healthiest life. Take the time to think about what you do and don’t feel comfortable doing with another person. Defining your boundaries and understanding what you like and don’t like before entering a sexual situation not only gives you a better understanding of yourself but will prevent you from depending on a partner to direct your experiences and journey. And if you decide you’re not yet ready to have sex or engage in sexual activity, that’s totally okay too. Consent is also a key part of ensuring positive sexual experiences and good sexual health.
Understand Your Resources.
Along with all the other changes it can bring, if going to college involves a move for you, it may change where you can receive care. It’s a good idea to figure out where your nearest health care provider is, because this person can help you stay healthy during this exciting time in your life.
While you're having all that fun in college, don't forget your health. By thinking ahead and looking out for your future self you can ensure you have the best college experience possible.
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