You don't have to be pregnant or have an infection to go to the clinic …
Going now can help protect you in the future!
Where to Go?
Depending on where you live and what your money situation and insurance are like, you have lots of different options:
- Teen Clinic
- Private Doctor
- Free clinic
- Hospital Clinic
- Health Department
- Private Clinic (like Planned Parenthood)
Look in the Yellow Pages under "Clinic" to find out your local options!
- Look for sliding-scale fee (discounts).
- Ask if appointments are necessary.
- Ask is about after school and weekend hours.
"My friend said that the clinic was unpleasant but my experience was different … I talked with a counselor and I learned a lot!"
Every clinic is different… find out what services are available before you go! If you have a long wait you can read or hang out with other patients!
It helps to bring a friend!
Don't let them rush you!
If you don't understand something, ask and ask again!
Birth Control Counseling
"My boyfriend and I have decided to have sex and we want to use protection. I came to the clinic to get counseling on birth control and STIs."
When you go to the clinic for birth control counseling, make sure you learn about ALL of your options—not just the ones you've heard of. Keep your mind open to the possibilities!
For some methods you need a pelvic exam and/or a prescription.
Road to Protection: Abstinence, Cervical Cap, Condoms, Diaphragm, The Pill, The Ring, The Patch …
"I'm really scared about this test—I wish we had used protection."
"I feel much better with him here—what will we do if I'm pregnant?"
What's a pregnancy test like? You pee in a cup or take a blood test. Get your results (at the same visit) and talk with a counselor.
If you're not pregnant … Be sure to get information on birth control so that you can protect yourself!
If you are pregnant … Be sure to take the time to talk about your options—adoption, abortion, keep the baby. (One out of every six pregnancies ends in miscarriage)
Ask about emergency conceptive pills which can be taken within 120 hours (five days) after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy.
Clinics are for You Too, Guys!
You can go for STI testing (sexually transmitted infections), testicular exam and check-up, birth control counseling with your girlfriend, and free condoms!
Don't be afraid to ask questions!
"I woke up this morning and my penis was all itchy and burning and there was stuff coming out of it—my friend said I might have an infection since I didn't use a condom—he told me to get it checked out at the clinic!"
You don't have to have an infection to go to the clinic … it's a good idea to get regular check-ups!
Testicular Exam: Taking Care of Yourself
When you go to the clinic for a regular check-up or if you think you have an sexually transmitted infection (STI), the doctor will examine your penis and testicles (balls) for lumps, sores and discharge. (Yea, we know, this is kinda uncomfortable!)
They might also get blood and urine samples to check for STIs. You can examine yourself at home every month to look for changes. Ask the doctor for more information!
The Pelvic Exam
Don't let friends' stories scare you… pelvic exams are a great way to learn more about your body!
What really happens? First, the doctor looks at your vulva (labia, urethra, clitoris, vagina). Next, the doctor inserts the bills of the speculum into your vagina and opens it to see your cervix. Finally, the bimanual exam—the doctor puts one finger in your vagina and presses down on your abdomen with the other hand to locate your uterus and ovaries.
You need to have a pelvic exam once a year after age 18 or once you start having sex. Don't delay!
Positive tips for your pelvic exam
- Relax! Take a deep breath. If you're tense it might be uncomfortable.
- Have the doctor show you the speculum and explain the exam.
- If you want to, sit up during the exam and ask for a mirror so that you can watch.
- Listen to your walkman or daydream to help you relax.
- If you want, ask for the speculum after the exam so that you can become more familiar with that part of your body.
We know it can be uncomfortable, but if you relax it will be easier! Use this as a learning opportunity!
"My doctor taught me how to examine my own breasts!"
You can do it in the shower, in your room, or looking in the mirror.
- Start now and make it a habit! (every month)
- The best time is right after your period. Put a reminder in your calendar.
- If you find anything unusual, go to the clinic!
One of 8 women will get breast cancer. Exams help you find it before it spreads.
Questions for the Clinic?
If possible, it's wise to go with your partner so that you can learn together and have support! When you go to the clinic you deserve to get all the available information on your health and your options. Here are some good questions to keep in mind (it helps to write them down)!
- How much will my visit cost?
- What is the best method of birth control for me?
- Can my partner come with me?
- Are you going to call my house with test results? (You can tell them not to.)
- How can I best protect myself for STIs?
It's Not Just a Clinic
We know that sometimes it is hard for teenagers to find someone they can trust to talk with about personal situations such as sexual orientation, family, rape or alcohol or drug abuse.
Take advantage of your visit to the clinic to ask for HELP! Clinic staff can usually help you find a place in your community that can provide support … just ask!
"Your Guide to the Clinic" was designed by teen members of Advocates for Youth's Teen Council.