Take care of your reproductive health

If you’re planning to get pregnant in the future, it’s important that you take care of your reproductive health now.

Visit your health care provider regularly

Make sure you have an annual checkup with your provider. Your provider will most likely:

  • Give you a physical exam that includes taking your weight and checking your blood pressure
  • Give you a pelvic exam. This is an exam of the pelvic organs, like the vagina, cervix, uterus and ovaries, to make sure they’re healthy.
  • Do a Pap test. This is a medical test in which your provider collects cells from your cervix to check for cancer.

Protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

An STI is an infection that you can get from having unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who is infected. Many people with STIs don’t know they’re infected because some STIs have no signs or symptoms. Nearly 20 million new STI infections happen each year in the United States. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself from STIs:

  • Don’t have sex. This is the best way to prevent an STI.
  • If you do have sex, have safe sex. Have sex with only one person who doesn’t have other sex partners. If you’re not sure if your partner has an STI, use a barrier method of birth control, like a male or female condom or a dental dam. A dental dam is a square piece of rubber that can help protect you from STIs during oral sex.
  • Get tested and treated. The sooner you’re treated, the less likely you are to have complications from your infection.
  • Ask your partner to get tested and treated. Even if you get treated for an STI, if your partner’s infected he may be able to give you the infection again.

If you’re not ready to get pregnant, use birth control

More than half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. Planning your pregnancy can help you have a healthy baby. If you’re planning to have a baby, you’re more likely to get healthy before you get pregnant and to get early and regular prenatal care during pregnancy. If you’re not ready for pregnancy, birth control options include:

  • Abstinence. This means you abstain from (don’t have) sex. Abstinence is the only birth control that’s 100 percent effective. This means it prevents pregnancy all the time.
  • Intrauterine devices (IUDs). An IUD is a small, plastic T-shaped device that your provider puts in your uterus. Hormonal IUDs contain progestin and last for 3-5 years. Non-hormonal IUDs contain copper and can work for up to 10 years.
  • Implants. An implant is a tiny rod that contains progestin and is inserted into your arm. The rod is so small that most people can’t see it. Implants can last for about 3 years.
  • Hormonal methods. These methods, like implants, non-copper IUDs, the pill and the patch, contain hormones that prevent you from releasing an egg. Without the egg, you can’t get pregnant.
  • Barrier methods. Condoms and diaphragms are barrier methods because they work by blocking or killing your partner’s sperm so it can’t reach your egg.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

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