Know the Facts – Get Yourself Tested

By: Jasmine

Did you know: “1 in 2 sexually active people will get a sexually transmitted disease (STD, also called STI for sexually transmitted infection) by the age of 25? Most won’t know it. The only way to find out is to Get Yourself Tested” ( April is dedicated to a social movement called Get Yourself Tested or GYT, which was started to help young people take control of their reproductive health with regular STD testing.

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When you start a new relationship or have sex with a new partner, it’s important you have the awkward condom talk, use barriers like condoms or dental dams, and get tested together. Remember—you can’t  tell by looking who has an STD, so follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines and get tested once a year.

How do you get tested? Getting tested is simple and easy, and usually painless! When you go for your test it’s usually not in a doctor’s office like this:

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But rather, something more like this:

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Often as a sexuality educator, I get questions about what to expect about testing. Providers will ask you a lot of questions that may be uncomfortable. The provider will need to know specific information to help determine your risk of infection. It is important to be open and honest when you respond to their questions so they can give you the best possible care and the information you need to stay healthy.

Some questions might include:

“Have you ever (or are you currently) having sex?
“Do you have sex with women, men or both?”
“Do you have oral sex? Anal sex?”
“Do you use condoms?”
“Do you have symptoms – what is different from what you normally experience?”
“Do you know if your partner(s) have any STDs or symptoms of STDs?”


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GYT is about knowing yourself, and knowing your status, while carving your own path in life. (  Planned Parenthood health centers offer STD testing, as well as information about how to protect yourself from STDs. So, what are you waiting for? Make an appointment today by calling 1-800-230-PLAN or find a testing site near you.

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GYT Month is Here

By: Cici Stutsman, Indy Teen Council Member

Happy Spring—it’s  GYT Month!

What is GYT?

GYT stands for Get Yourself Tested. It is a campaign advocating for everyone, especially young people, to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also called sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Why should you get tested?

If you are sexually active, then you are at risk of contracting an STD. Condoms can and should be used to reduce the chance of infection, nothing is 100% effective against STIs except for abstinence. Most STDs have minor or no noticeable symptoms. Even if you don’t feel sick, being tested ensures that you can take care of your own health and honestly tell your partner(s) that you’re STD free.

How can you get tested?

In Indiana and Kentucky, Planned Parenthood is promoting testing during the month of April and some health centers are even offering free testing and counseling. There are also at home tests available through stores like CVS and Walgreens. But, while the idea of a private test may sound appealing, professional support and knowledge on how to protect yourself from STDs or what to do if an STD is present is worth the visit to a professional.

How often should I get tested?

The frequency of STD tests depends on how many sexual partners you have and how reliably you use condoms, it’s also depends on if you have shared needles with anyone (sharing needles can spread things like HIV). Hormonal birth control, like the pill or the shot, does NOT protect against STDs. Everyone who’s sexually active should know their status and get tested once a year, with more frequent  testing for more variety in partners.

Schedule an appointment today! Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky now has online scheduling!

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Pubes: The Hairy Truth

By: Melanie, Education Intern

pubes 1

You may have heard the phrase “manscaping” recently (and no, I’m not talking about the cute neighbor boy mowing his lawn). “Manscaping” refers to a male-bodied person trimming or grooming his pubic hair. While the trimming trend is relatively recent for men, the idea of a woman trimming or removing her pubic hair has been openly discussed for much longer, and it’s often reflected in porn. Either way, choosing to alter your pubic hair can be a big – and sometimes tricky – choice.

Pubic hair naturally starts growing during puberty, which is usually between the ages of 8 and 16 and often happens a little earlier for girls. It may be thick and curly or thin and straight. It may grow around a person’s genitals and groin (some pubic hair on the labia, the shaft of the penis, or the upper part of a person’s inner thighs is also normal) or it may only cover a small area above the genitals. Your pubic hair may or may not even match the color and texture of the hair that grows on your head and the rest of your body!

The idea of grooming your pubic hair to look a certain way has been around since at least the 1950s. In the 1970s, many people let their pubic hair grow untamed – people were proud of their bushes! While many people still find untamed pubes empowering, beautiful, and sexy, options for pubic hair care are more diverse than ever now. The trends more recently include an array of exciting things to do with your pubic hair, like waxing, shaving, trimming, shaping, going ‘au naturale,’ or even dying it (seriously).

You may be wondering why you have pubes at all. If some people remove them all the time, what’s the point? Researchers have lots of theories about why humans have hair around their genitals, many of which are related to evolution. One reason is that secretions from glands around the genitals mix with healthy bacteria on the skin to produce pheromones. Pheromone scents are unique for each and every person. Another person’s scent may or may not be noticeable to you, but it taps into your unconscious mind to influence your sexual attraction to that person. Plus, abrasions or cuts resulting from removing pubic hair can actually increase risk for STDs like HPV and Herpes that are spread by skin-to-skin contact. What an awesome built-in protection, right?

Pro Tips (before we get into the hairy details):

  • Anytime you remove hair completely, the process of growing it back in can be itchy and uncomfortable. This may also cause you to have some razor burn (red bumps), ingrown hairs, or folliculitis, all of which can be somewhat painful. If it is too painful (i.e. long lasting, you find an abnormal rash, etc.) see a medical practitioner.
  • Remember that any small cuts or abrasions on the skin around the genitals (even the tiny ones that you can’t see) can increase your risk for STD transmission if you’re sexually active. To minimize or prevent STD transmission, take precautions like using a condom or keeping boxers on during penile-vaginal sex, or any genital to genital contact.
  • Hair grows back. If you shave or wax once and don’t like it, you can choose not to do it again!

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Before you choose what you do with your pubes, be sure to consider your own health and safety. Make sure you know the facts about each of your options, and keep in mind that some of them require upkeep and might be pricey!

  1. Shaving can be tricky around the genitals, where there are tons of blood vessels and nerve endings that help you feel good and function well. Also, shaving in a slippery shower or without a mirror may end in disaster! Make sure that if you choose to shave, you use a clean, new razor every time.
  2. Waxing can be painful and can cause ingrown hairs, but the smoothness lasts for much longer than shaving. Waxing should not be a “DIY” (do-it-yourself) project! If you choose to do this, leave it to the professionals.
  3. Trimming can be a good middle-of-the-road choice if you’re unsure. This option allows you to keep some of your pubic hair, but trim off the excess. This may be a good choice if your pubic hair grows in such a way that it sometimes gets caught in your underwear lining or the zipper of your pants.
  4. All-natural pubic hair is also a perfectly normal decision. This choice doesn’t require any maintenance (besides regular washing in the shower, of course), and some people say that they even enjoy the sensation of hair on their genitals during sexual activity.

It’s entirely up to YOU! You can always experiment until you find the ‘do for you. Make sure that whatever choice you make for your own pubic hair is something you’re comfortable with. It seems like your partners will care a lot about what you do with your pubic hair, but trust me – they won’t. Someone who cares about you shouldn’t make you feel like your pubic hair is ‘gross’ or ‘dirty.’ It isn’t!

There are all kinds of choices for caring for your pubic hair, including letting them grow! The long and short of it is this: always treat your body with care, kindness, and respect – even those prickly pubes.

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Domestic Abuse: Is it Getting Worse?

I recently facilitated an education session that I called “It’s in the News Again”. This was around the time the story emerged about Ray Rice and his partner, Janay Palmer. Unfortunately, it seems this issue is escalating in terms of how often we hear about it in the media. Whether it is a celebrity or an everyday Joe or Jane, it feels like not a day goes by that we don’t hear, read or see something about domestic abuse.

Indiana has the second highest teen dating violence rate in the country. Teen relationships are often where old family patterns begin to repeat. The Domestic Violence Network’s 24th Annual Commemoration event was held on Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at Broadway United Methodist Church. We learned that 67 people in Indiana died as a result of domestic violence. Among them was an IMPD officer who was killed by her ex-husband – a fellow IMPD officer.

So what is it that perpetuates these high rates of violence in Indiana and around the country? Undoubtedly, we see it more because of modern media and technology. I believe it’s more than that though. While we can recognize abuse in its worst forms – hitting, beating, shooting, stabbing, killing – often, more subtle forms of coercion and abuse are not recognized. Examples include:  controlling behaviors, jealousy, and verbal abuse. These are behaviors that many people would not consider abusive, but are often woven into the pattern of behaviors that could and often do escalate to more recognizable forms of abuse.

When children and teens witness domestic abuse day after day in their homes and neighborhoods, it becomes expected. For them, it is ‘normal’. This was never more poignant to me than when I was working with a young woman in a public housing community. She told me that she would not get married until age 50 (she was about 11 or 12 at the time, so 50 seemed ancient to her) – “because that way when he beats me it won’t matter.” I was stunned and frightened for her. I tried to provide her with examples that disproved her belief that this was the way it had to be. She remained firm though, in her belief that being abused is a normal part of having a spouse. No matter what I said, she was resigned to the idea that she would suffer abuse if she married. This incident was many years ago, but I still remember that young woman’s words. I can only hope that by some miracle, she was able to broaden her experience and learn that she does not have to accept that as her fate. Thinking about the pervasiveness of domestic abuse in our daily lives in Indiana and Kentucky, perhaps it is me who was disproved.

Young people learn from us by watching how we behave. Many will adopt the same behaviors they see us display. What non-verbal messages are you sending the young people in your life? They also benefit from the opportunity to discuss or maybe even role-play with us solutions to relationship problems and concerns. Are you “askable”? Would a young person be able to dialogue with you without feeling judged? October is “Let’s Talk” Month. This is a great time to talk to the young people in your life about healthy relationships.  If we can start early and keep an open mind and open door, imagine how we might change things.

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From Dreaming to Making It Stick

This past October, our PPINK educators hosted a retreat for peer education teens from Indianapolis and Louisville. In one activity, the teens formed small groups, debated the most intense problem teens in their cities face, and came up with a plan to solve it. Their ideas were presented to the entire group and one was chosen. All agreed that the most important issue teens face was a lack of consent or unclear definitions of consent. They felt strongly about this issue in particular because they all knew someone who had struggled with the definition, was confused by media representations, or simply had a partner try to push their own definitions. In order to solve this problem they worked to first define consent and then create a bumper sticker using this definition. The result is below; peer eds created the definition, designed the sticker, and worked to get it approved.

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One of our peer educators in Indianapolis had the following story to share about the stickers:
“This happened on a Tuesday night shortly after I got home from a Teen Council meeting in which I picked up 10 or 11 of our #DefiningConsent stickers. Another student from Brownsburg High School posted a vaguely sexist tweet about what happens to girls on spring break. When other students from the school questioned him, they were met with jokes pertaining to drugs and rape from other students, which infuriated me. I took a picture of the consent stickers I had, and tweeted that they are up for grabs for anyone who may want them, and I will be placing some around the school if anyone would like to help; a fellow student replied and told me that she would be happy to. I gave half of the stickers I had left to her, and a couple more to other students. I placed the remaining three stickers I had left in various spots in BHS’s senior academy: on the door of the boys’ restroom, by the vending machines, and in a stairwell.
Shortly after that, I saw people taking pictures of the stickers I had up, and I also overheard other students talking about the stickers in a positive light. I even heard from word of mouth that the girl I gave the rest of my stickers to placed them in other parts of the building, and they caused a stir in that area of the school as well. I had some students ask me what exactly I meant to say in handing out the stickers and what my motives behind it were, and after some explaining, many of them told me they didn’t realize how large of an issue it was, and that they thought it was neat that I was interested in the cause. I’ve also given the stickers to my immediate family, and have gotten them more involved in backing the cause. There are many people who initially thought Planned Parenthood only dealt with abortion who now know the many issues Planned Parenthood deals with in terms of safe sex education and sexual health as a result of the consent stickers being passed around.
When I was placing and handing out the stickers, I did not expect them to cause this large of a movement at my school, but I could not be happier with the outcome. I look forward to handing out more stickers, and I think it would be absolutely fantastic if this could happen in other schools and settings as well!”
To learn more about the stickers, Teen Council (peer education), or PPINK programs please contact

TC Retreat 5

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More than “No Means No”: Moving Toward a Culture of Consent

By: Diane, Educator/Trainer

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As a sexuality educator, I use the phrase “no means no” quite a bit when discussing consent for sexual activity. I frequently find myself frustrated at the reaction I get from young people on this topic. Some common responses include:
• “No doesn’t always mean no.”
• “She’s just playing hard-to-get and she wants me to try harder.”
• “She has to say no so that she doesn’t seem like a slut, but she really wants it.”
• “He let me do other things in bed, so he must want to go all the way.”

It often doesn’t occur to young people that their partners genuinely may not want to have sex, or that they might want to be sexual in some ways but not others. Many justify having sex with someone who has said “no” by convincing themselves that despite what they have said, their partner really does want it.

But why do so many people assume that no doesn’t necessarily mean no? Why do we so often convince ourselves that a victim of sexual violence somehow “asked for it” or provoked the assault? I believe much of the cause lies with the way we talk about and act out consent throughout our lives.

From childhood, we are taught that it is sometimes acceptable to touch others without their consent. Think of an elementary school playground: amid the happy chaos of children playing, two young boys begin scuffling. A teacher separates them, but takes no further action because “boys will be boys.” A whimpering girl reports that a boy has been teasing her and pulling her hair. Rather than reprimanding the boy, the teacher just winks at the girl and says, “That just means he likes you.”

As these examples indicate children often learn about consent as a flexible concept. If they are taught that they are entitled to keep pushing for what they want even if it violates another person’s comfort level, than why would we think this attitude wouldn’t be extended to sexual relationships?

On television and in the movies, we are inundated with images of men taking what they want rather than respecting the boundaries set by their love interests. Even when it rises to the level of physical violence, the encounter is still portrayed as a romantic ideal. When movies teach us that the guy always gets the girl if he just tries hard enough, how can we expect people to accept “no” as a final answer?

So how do we solve this problem? We begin to create a culture that values consent. There are many things we can be doing to work toward this goal; here are a few:

1. Start from the beginning.
We need to change the way we talk about consent from the very beginning. We need to teach our children that their bodies are their own and belong to no one else. No one should be allowed to touch them if they don’t want it, and if they are touching someone else they need to make sure the other person wants to be touched. (Check out this mom’s awesome letter to her sons for more guidance on having these conversations.)

2. Speak up!
Don’t be afraid to speak up when a potential partner is coming on too strong. If that person gets upset that you don’t want to be sexual, that’s their problem, not yours!

Step in to help if you see someone vulnerable to sexual assault because of drugs or alcohol. Intervene if one of your buddies is pressuring a girl or calling her a bitch for not wanting to be sexual with him.

3. Say “YES!” to sex you want!
The attitude that women should be ashamed of their sexual desires is dangerous. It teaches women that they should play hard-to-get before agreeing to have sex in order to avoid seeming promiscuous. Rachael Kay Albers put it well, “When we send the message that resistance is a form of flirtation . . . we romanticize the imposition of one human being’s will on another.” We should instead empower people to enthusiastically say “Yes!” when they want to have sex.

Set boundaries at your own comfort level, and be clear with your partner about what you want, but be sure to respect your partner’s boundaries as well.

4. Make consent sexy!
Instead of approaching consent as, “I’ll keep going until he/she stops me,” engage in active consent. Make consent a part of sexual interactions by allowing your partner to tell you what he or she wants you to do in bed. Communicating about what you want doesn’t have to be awkward or negative; consent can be sexy!

Phrases like “boys will be boys,” “she shouldn’t have been drinking/wearing a short skirt/hanging out with that crowd,” and “she was just playing hard-to-get,” reveal how screwed up our cultural views about consent have become. It’s time to change the message.

When we talk about consent, we need to talk about more than “no means no.” We need to get across the messages that our bodies belong only to ourselves; that there is absolutely nothing that entitles a person to violate your wishes; and that actively engaging in a process of consent can enhance sexual experiences.

What else do you think people can do to create a culture of consent? Leave your answer in the comments!


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Words can Wound

By: Jessica, a sexuality educator

“Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This is one of the tools I was taught as a child to help me stand up to the hurtful words that bullies often sling. I remember singing that little ditty (or others like it) and then walking away with my friends, feeling safe and secure. Sometimes the hurtful words came from my friends, they didn’t mean it, somehow the words had become a part of our language and we were kids just looking to be accepted and “cool.” Let’s be honest, the words did hurt me, no matter how many little ditties I sang. When I was young it was easy to avoid the obvious bullies, the kids who weren’t on my side. I grew up in a world before technology, a world before the internet and social media.

As I sit here and reminisce about my childhood, on this day on Twitter the word “fag” has been used 19,043 times, the word “dyke” has been used 1,700 times and the phrase “so gay” has been used 5,313 times and counting…

• “Almost 90% of LGBT students are verbally harassed, 44% are physically harassed and nearly 1/4 are physically assaulted at school because of their sexual orientation.
• And 2/3 of LGBT students are verbally harassed, 30% are physically harassed and 14% are physically assaulted at school because of their gender expression.”2

Words are often unintentionally hurtful, especially when we are confronted with thoughts, ideas or concepts we may not completely understand, like sexual orientation or gender expression. Sexual orientation refers to the type of sexual, romantic, and/or physical attraction a person feels for another person. Whereas, the way a person dresses, behaves socially, their demeanor is referred to as their gender expression. These might not be terms you are familiar with – regardless it is important to learn more about them so that you understand what your words are actually saying.

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Words become a part of our lingo, a part of our slang, but that doesn’t eliminate their power. I wonder how many of those tweets were unintentionally hurtful; I don’t want to wonder how many of them were fully intentional. I have a suggestion—let’s stop singing nursery rhymes; stop being a bystander and start using our words with intention.

• Be a Leader: Say something original.

• Speak up: If you feel safe, let those who behave disrespectfully know that you don’t appreciate it.

• Be a Friend: Support the targets of hurtful words.

Take Action: Plan an event that will educate others about bullying.

Learn More at a PPINK education session.

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From the Desk of the Empowering Educator

By Jasmine, Sexuality Educator

by: Camille
When I look in the mirror;
I feel okay about myself,
not too bad or not too good.
Although, I don’t feel beautiful,
I know that I do several things really well and I celebrate those things.
Kids teased me in elementary school;
that went all the way through college.
When I look in the mirror,
I feel proud of who I am,
my mixed heritage, the way I dress,
and my love for helping others.
When I look in the mirror,
I feel beautiful, strong, and confident.

I haven’t always been this way. I started out staring at the mirror for long periods of time during my teenage years hoping my reflection would change. I loved others, but I neglected to love myself and it affected every area of my life. I shied away from certain opportunities, because I did not want to be in the spotlight where people could tease me. I could not see the positive things about myself. I wanted to feel good about myself, but I didn’t know how. A friend of mine suggested a few of the following tips by Margo Maine, Ph.D., and through them, I have grown to love myself.

• Tip #1: Keep a list of 10 positive things about yourself—without mentioning your appearance. Add to it.
• Tip #2: Put a sign on your mirror saying, “I’m beautiful inside and out.”
• Tip #3: Start saying to yourself, “Life is too short to waste time hating my body this way.”
• Tip #4: Find a method of exercise that you enjoy and do it regularly. Don’t exercise to lose weight or to fight your body. Do it to make your body healthy and strong and because it makes you feel good. Exercise for the Three F’s: Fun, Fitness, and Friendship.
• Tip #5: Choose to find beauty in the world and in yourself.

I know I’m not the only one with body image issues – often times we are so critical of ourselves. Did you know that “The average American woman is 5’4” tall and weighs 165 pounds. The average Miss America winner is 5’7” and weighs 121 pounds (Martin, 2010)” ?Making comparisons to celebrities in media leaves us feeling inadequate. Developing a healthy self-esteem is a process that takes time and conscious effort. I challenge you to think of 2 positive thoughts for every negative thought that you have about yourself.

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I find tip #1 is very helpful. You can keep a list in your purse or a notebook to remind yourself of your accomplishments and the things that you do well. Rehearsing the affirmation, “I’m beautiful inside and out.” every day will certainly boost your self-esteem. Make it a habit to repeat it at least 3 times when getting dressed in the morning. Positive thoughts carry a lot of weight and can change our perception when used in conjunction with other things. Finding a workout routine or going to the gym consistently will help you feel more positive about your body as well; one of my other favorite tips is to do something that only takes five minutes-everyone can fit a quick five minutes of exercise into their day. Maine puts things in perspective with this quote, “Think of your body as the vehicle to your dreams. Honor it. Respect it. Fuel it.” Make the choice to feel good about yourself and practice the tips that we have included above, it will make a positive change on your life; after all you are awesome and you deserve to be happy!

Loving yourself will help you experience a more meaningful relationship with a partner. It is a great foundation and it will allow you to make healthy relationship choices, because you respect and love yourself. We all know that confidence is sexy. It’s hard to pinpoint why that it is but research backs up this claim time and time again. In short, we know you can get to a healthier, more self-confident you that is ready for all relationships – especially those romantic ones.

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Awkward Moments in Sexual Communication

By: Diane, a Sexuality Educator

Let’s face it: there can be some uncomfortable moments when it comes to communicating with a potential or current partner about sex. Whether you are asking if your partner has been recently tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs, also known as STDs) or discussing using condoms, communicating about sexuality can sometimes be downright awkward.

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Take the following story told by a friend. She was taking birth control pills and wanted to explore the possibility of no longer using condoms with her boyfriend. First though, she had to make sure they were not at risk for STIs:

We were sitting there and I was the one who said, “Okay, neither one of us like using condoms and I am on the pill and I have been tested, I am clean….” I just sat there not wanting to look him in the eye because it all kind of came out in an awkward rush.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to have these kinds of talks without the awkwardness? Well the Educators at SARPHE can help you with those difficult conversations about birth control or STI testing. Sometimes it’s as simple as finding an excuse to bring the topic up, like these conversation starters:

“I have an appointment with my doctor tomorrow and she asked me if I needed an STI test. It got me thinking; maybe we both should get tested, just to be safe.”

“I heard that 1 in 2 sexually active people will get an STD by age 25 — and most won’t even know it. Maybe we should get tested just to be sure we’re both OK.”

Remember, your partner might be thinking the same thing and just not know how to bring it up!
If your partner doesn’t like using condoms, ask why. Condoms come in a variety of different sizes, materials, textures, and even flavors. You might find that using a different type of condom solves the problem. For example, if your partner finds condoms to be desensitizing, you could suggest a sheer condom to increase the sensation. (Check out Jessica’s SARPHE blog post for fun condom info and tips for use!)

If your partner is making excuses for not wanting to use condoms, here are some ways to respond:
“I don’t like sex as much with a rubber, it doesn’t feel the same.”
“This is the only way I feel comfortable having sex but believe me, it’ll still be good even with protection! And it lets us both just focus on each other instead of worrying about accidentally getting pregnant.”

“I don’t have a disease, don’t you trust me?”
“Of course I trust you, but anyone can have an STI and not even know it. This is just a way to take care of both of us.”

“I didn’t bring any condoms.”
“I have some, right here.”
Check out the American Sexual Health Association website for more tips on talking about condoms!

Communicating with your partner is a great way to make sure that you are both on the same page about your sex life. Being able to talk honestly about your STI status, birth control, the kind of relationship you want, and your sexual boundaries can create a more satisfying and healthy relationship for both of you.

By the way, the benefits of sexual communication don’t end with the birth control and STI protection. Recent research has found that communication during sex is linked with higher levels of sexual satisfaction. In other words, communicating with your partner about what kinds of touches feel the best for you and desires you might have, can take your sex life to a whole new level. Remember, no one is a mind reader – your partner can’t know what you like if you don’t say anything!

Hopefully you and your partner can be comfortable having honest and open communication about sex. But even if it is a little uncomfortable at first, you and your partner can say what needs to be said and at the end of the day you can laugh about how awkward it was.

awkward condom pic 2

Oh, and in case you’re wondering what happened when my friend asked her boyfriend about STI testing, this was his reply:

“Well, I just switched my health insurance, and I had to get tested. I came back with clean test results sooo….”

And they lived sexually healthily ever after, thanks to awkward moments in sexual communication.


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The Cervix, the Future and You

by: Leslie

Why think about cervical health? As a sexuality educator I get lots of questions about STIs, Guardasil, pregnancy, and fertility. Did you know these are all actually questions about or related to the cervix?



When I was growing up and thinking about being a mother, I never thought about how important it was for me to take care of my reproductive health. Honestly I didn’t even know what that meant! I didn’t know what a cervix was, where it was or how it might be connected to my future children. In my experience young people today don’t know about it either, although many may someday want to be parents, like I did. For those that want to be parents someday it’s important to practice good cervical health. That means getting annual exams, PAP smears, and getting vaccinations.

Today there are vaccines available to help take care of your cervical health including Gardisil and Cervarix. These vaccines protect against the human papilloma virus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer and genital warts. Both vaccines are administered as a 3-dose series over a 6 month period. It is very important to get all 3 doses of HPV vaccine to get the full benefits. (via:

cervical health info graph

Several years ago when Gardasil was first introduced, they had a commercial with little girls jumping rope and chanting “I want to be one less.” I loved these commercials because they emphasized how the vaccine prevents cervical cancer in a meaningful way. Both vaccines are proven effective at preventing the types of HPV that cause the majority of cervical cancers. Gardasil is also effective at preventing HPV strains that cause most genital warts. In addition they have also prevented some cancers of the anus, vulva and vagina. They are most effective if taken before one becomes sexually active and are given to females and males between the ages of 9 – 26 years. Yes, males should get the vaccine too!

When I am doing education with parents, many of them are saying that their daughters, and in some instances, sons, have had the vaccine. This is great news. And although we now have the ability to prevent some cervical cancers and genital warts; it’s important to remember those who weren’t able to get the vaccine, share their stories and encourage young people to get it. I have a poster of a young woman, Kristen Forbes (an Indiana resident), who was unfortunately, not “one less”. She got one of the strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer and eventually died from the cancer as have many others before and after her. (via: ). “Each year about 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer. About 4,000 women die of it every year (via:”

The vaccines along with Pap tests and HPV testing at recommended intervals are powerful, safe and effective tools that will go a long way toward preventing needless deaths and illness due to HPV. So, let’s take care of our cervix! If we do, there will be “one less” and “one less” and “one less” until every cervix is healthy.

Make an appointment at your local Planned Parenthood of Indiana today. Call us at 1-800-230-PLAN or visit our site to find the nearest location.

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