FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Sexual Health!! Read All About It!

There is a lot of information out there about sex, sexual health and pleasure. But how do you know which resources to trust? Wonder no more! Below is a list of resources that contain excellent, reputable information:

Go Ask Alice!

Go Ask Alice! is a great health resource that is maintained by health educators at Columbia University. The website is set up in a Q & A format and it covers a variety of health topics including emotional health, sexual health and relationships.

Sex Etc.

Sex Etc. is a great website hosted by Rutgers University. All the staff writers for the website are students so it is sex education for students, by students! The website is fun and interactive and once a week, the site hosts chats with a health educator so you can ask questions and get an accurate answers immediately.

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood has been providing accurate sexual health information for a long time and they are still one of the best resources on the web. Their website has information on just about any sexual health topic you can think of including body image, gender and emergency contraception.

Scarleteen: Sex Education for the Real World

This website offers a lot of information about sexual health, but they also have a blog and “sexpert” advice. The website has also started building a database to connect young people to services like counselors and clinics. Check it out!

Skipping Your Period for Summer Time Fun

It’s summer time! That means vacations, swimming and perhaps, periods coming at inconvenient times. Have no fear! It is possible to skip or reschedule periods!

Before we get started, if this is something you are interested in, I encourage you to talk to your clinician or healthcare provider before you skip your period. Your health care provider is most familiar with you and the medications you are taking.

That being said, there are things everyone should know about the process of scheduling/skipping your period.  If you are already on the birth control pill and been taking it for a few cycles, then you should be able to skip your period.  Also note, this blog post is focused solely on using combined oral contraceptives, which is a type of birth control pill, to reschedule periods. This type of pill uses a combination of hormones (estrogen and progestin) in order to prevent pregnancy.

Many packages of birth control pills contain 21 hormone pills (also known as active pills) followed by 7 pills, which contain no hormones (also known as placebo or spacer pills). This means a person taking birth control pills usually takes 21 days of hormone pills followed by 7 days of no hormone pills. The period usually happens during the 7 days of no hormone pills. Many of the newer pill formulations have more active pills and fewer no hormone pills, for example 24 active pills and 4 placebos. Continue reading

Anal Sex: A Response to Students’ Questions

Early in the semester, I attended Dan Savage’s program at UNC and I was struck by how many questions there were about anal sex. And then I thought back: whenever the Sexual Wellness Specialists (formerly CHECS) do a program, we also get lots of questions about anal sex. I then looked at the Healthy Heels blog and saw that we’ve never done a post on anal sex. Well, there’s no time like the present so let’s talk about anal sex.

Anal sex can mean lots of different things; it isn’t just a penis inserted into the rectum. Anal sex can be anal massage, sticking your tongue up and around your partner’s anus (also known as rimming), and something going in the anal opening, including a finger, butt plug, penis or dildo. Continue reading


IUDs (i.e. intrauterine devices) are really popular around the world! In parts of Asia, IUDs are used by 50% of contraceptive users, and in parts of northern Europe, 27% of women using contraception are using an IUD. IUD usage is on the rise in the United States.

First off, an IUD is a method of birth control where a small device is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. IUDs are one of the safest and most effective methods of birth control available. There’s a lot of information about IUDs online (and not all of it is accurate) so let’s take the time to provide some facts and dispel a few myths.

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The Healing Power of Soup

Recently, many of my friends and family have come down with a cold. That got me thinking that there is nothing quite so comforting as soup when one is feeling under the weather. Here’s an interesting article on how people around the world rely on soup to comfort them when they are sick.

Free Birth Control?!

Free birth control?! Well, sort of. Last August, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) adopted the women’s health recommendations issued by the Institute of Medicine. By adopting these recommendations, DHHS is requiring new health insurance plans to offer a comprehensive list of women’s health services with no copay or deductible.

Some of these services include:

  • Screening for cervical cancer and HIV
  • Intimate partner violence screening and counseling
  • Prescription birth control coverage

This is great news and you might be wondering when you can take advantage of these benefits. Well, starting on August 1, 2012 most new health insurance plans will be required to cover these services without cost sharing. “New” is really the operative word here. If you are purchasing a new health insurance plan, this ruling applies to you!

“New” can mean many different things, though.  A health insurance plan doesn’t necessarily have to be new to an individual to be considered “new”. Any substantial change to a health insurance plan makes it a new plan under DHHS’ rules.  So, a person might have the same plan as before (say “Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO”) but if that plan made changes to its coverage or cost-sharing, it’s considered a “new” plan.  Once these changes are made to a plan, it loses its grandfathered status and has to obey the new regulations.

What about those of you without any type of new plan? If your plan existed before March 2010 and there haven’t been any big changes to the plan since then, it’s a “grandfathered plan.”  That means the plan doesn’t have to offer these benefits yet, so you probably won’t see a difference in cost. For now we will have to wait and see how insurance companies transition next August.  Health policy experts expect about half of all grandfathered plans to give up their status by 2013, so it’s likely that lots of plans will be offering this new coverage. So, it is possible that this ruling to could lead the way to lessening the cost burden for all women. Here’s to hoping!

If you want to learn more, check out this factsheet!

Also, if you have questions about your specific health insurance, you can always call your insurance company. Usually, there’s a phone number for customer service on the back of the insurance card.

Fishy Business

I’ve been a vegetarian for six and a half years. I eat eggs and dairy so I’m not that strict, and a few times a year I eat fish. With most of the food I eat, I try to ensure that it comes from a local, sustainable or organic source. I can’t always afford to do this, but I definitely try to make an effort. And there are some really great resources out there if you are interested in eating sustainable seafood. Here are a few I use:

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch:
This group offers suggestions to businesses and individuals about what types of seafood to buy and eat. Many types of seafood are overfished and you can help improve the situation by making informed choices. Seafood Watch also has a free App too so you can look up information on the go.

Marine Stewardship Council
This group creates standards to encourage responsible and sustainable fishing practices. You’ll know that a product meets their standards if you see this blue label.

Core Sound Seafood
This group is a Community Supported Fishery (CSF). Perhaps you have heard of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)? This is where individuals buy a share in a farming operation and in exchange they receive a box of produce every week. It is the same idea with CSFs: individuals buy a share and in exchange they receive fresh fish every week from the North Carolina coast. A whole share can be a lot of food so many people get friends together to purchase one share. If you choose this option, it can be a great excuse to get together with friends and cook a meal!

Now take a breath…

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling the end of the semester pressure already and I figure I am not alone. Here is a breathing technique that I use to help calm down and practice mindfulness. Breathing exercises are great because anyone can do them, they are free, and you can do them anywhere. For a calming exercise, try these steps:

  1. Place your right thumb over your right nostril. I’m serious. Now.
  2. Close your mouth and breathe very deeply, very slowly through your left nostril. Do this 30 times.
  3. Feel your brain and body relax.

This exercise is called Moon Breath. It is the calming half of the exercise Sun and Moon Breath.  If you want to achieve balance, you can alternate between breathing through the right and left nostrils. If you want to perk up, you can practice Sun Breath, which is breathing very slowly and deeply through your right nostril. Happy breathing!

Which method is right for you?

People get on birth control for a variety of reasons, not just for pregnancy prevention purposes. Some people want to regulate their periods, others want something to help with acne and still others need birth control to ameliorate cramps. Whatever your reason for getting on birth control, there are some great resources out there to help you find the best method for you. Here are a couple of ideas…

Method Match

The Association of Reproductive Health Professionals provides this tool to allow people to compare birth control methods on the criteria that matter most to them. The website is interactive and has medically accurate information too!

My Method

Planned Parenthood has a quiz-style interactive tool to help women think about what they want from their birth control method. This tool takes into account STI protection and partners when helping you think about different methods.

If you have questions or want to talk to someone in person, you can always make an appointment with a Sexual Wellness Specialists (formerly CHECS) at 919-966-3658.

More Orgasm Answers?! Yes, Please!

Did you attend “Orgasms? Yes, Please!”? Were you not able to make it, but wish you had? Never fear! We are answering questions from the event on our blog so everyone can get the answers. For the event itself we focused mostly on women’s bodies and, unless otherwise stated, all of our information directed towards “partners” is applicable to anyone who partners with women. Because there were so many questions asked, we will have several blog entries dedicated to answering questions.

Is it possible to have more than one orgasm?

Yes! Multiple orgasms refer to orgasms that happen one after another, sometimes only seconds apart. Multiple orgasms can happen with a partner, alone and sometimes sex toys might be involved. For many women, stimulating the clitoris immediately after have an orgasm is not a very pleasurable experience. This is because the clitoris becomes very sensitive after orgasm. If you are interested in trying to have multiple orgasms, try taking a short break and let the clitoris rest a few minutes. During the resting period you and your partner can kiss, touch, talk, or whatever feels good. When you and your partner are ready (or if you are having a self-loving session), you can resume clitoral stimulation and try to have another orgasm. With all of this being said, there is nothing wrong with women who cannot have or have not had multiple orgasms. Continue reading