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Sexual health care

Sexual health care for teens

As a teen, it’s normal to have questions and concerns about sex, hormones and your changing body. Access to sexual health care is an important part of your overall health. Read on to learn more about your sexual health, where to get care, what questions to ask and what to expect during your visit.Need more info? Ask an Expert.

What is sexual health care?

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Sexual health care includes services that promote your sexual and reproductive health. A sexual health care appointment can cover:

You can get this type of care with:

Will my parents know about my visit?

Because of HIPAA laws, your health care provider must keep your health information private. Most providers will not tell your parents/guardians about your visit, even if you’re a minor (under age 18).

Some states have laws that allow you to consent to care without parent/guardian permission. Every state is different, so if you’re concerned about privacy, call your provider’s office and ask if they’ll keep your information private and if you need permission from a parent/guardian to get testing or prescriptions.

If you use health insurance during your visit, the primary insurance holder (such as your parent/guardian) will get an explanation of benefits (EOB) that may show that insurance paid for a pregnancy test, STI test or prescribed birth control.

Find out your state’s policies or laws on sexual health.

What to expect during your sexual health care visit

When you first arrive at the office or clinic, you may be asked to fill out basic information (like your name, age, medical history and gender) and provide health insurance information. If you don’t have health insurance, some clinics and health departments offer care at little to no cost.

During the visit, you will see a health care provider, such as a doctor, nurse, physician assistant or nurse practitioner. They may ask you:

  • About your past and current sexual and reproductive history
  • What protection you use if you’re sexually active
  • If you’ve ever been tested or treated for a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • If you’ve ever received the HPV vaccine
  • If you have any medical issues or medication allergies
  • When your last period was and if you have irregular periods
  • If you smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs

During the visit, your provider may also:

  • Ask for a urine sample (where you pee in a cup)
  • Check your blood pressure and listen to your heart
  • Look at your genital area to make sure everything looks healthy
  • Perform a pelvic exam (if you have a vagina)
  • Give you a Pap test (if you have a cervix; this test is generally not done until you’re 21)
  • Examine your breasts
  • Examine your testicles or check for signs of testicular cancer (if you have testicles)

This visit is a good time to talk about any physical or mental health concerns you have, such as:

  • What contraception methods are available to you
  • If you should get tested for STIs
  • How to protect yourself from STIs
  • If you’re experiencing intense sadness or anxiety
  • If you think you may be pregnant
  • If you notice a lump in your breast or genital area
  • If you’ve been sexually assaulted or raped
  • If you don’t feel safe at home

What to do if you feel uncomfortable during your visit

While it’s normal to feel uncomfortable during this visit, know that your provider has likely heard it all before and is there to help you, not judge you. It’s essential to be open and honest with them so they can help you.

Some offices allow you to bring a family member, partner or friend with you. If that’s something you’d like to do, call ahead and ask if it’s possible.

If you have anxiety or concerns about a certain exam or procedure, ask your provider to explain it to you. Remember, even health care providers must ask for your consent before they touch you.

If your provider makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s OK to ask to see someone else or find another place to get care.

Need more info? Ask an Expert.

Resources

For more information about staying in charge of your health and future, visit:

CDC: A Teen-Friendly Reproductive Health Visit (PDF)

CDC: Get Tested: National HIV, STD, and Hepatitis Testing

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