Just for teens

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Sexual health 101

It's your life and your body. Just as you learn to make choices about your sex life and relationships, you need to learn how take care of your sexual health, too. We’re here for you, and we'll customize your care so that you get the information, programs, and services that are right for you.

Teenage girl hikingIf you're under 18, we'll work with your parents or guardians to keep you healthy, but the law also guarantees your privacy about certain kinds of health issues and confidential services:

  • You can talk to your doctor or other medical professional about anything.
  • If your doctor or other health professional sees you for a confidential service, they can't tell your parents or guardians anything about your exam in most cases. Be sure to tell your practitioner if you want your exam to be confidential.
  • Once you're 13, you can also register for your own kp.org account. Then you can use online services, including emailing your doctor's office with questions, though those emails aren't private from your parents or guardians.
  • You can get information and support for personal health, school, or family issues in our family medicine and pediatrics departments and teen clinics. Find services near you.

Your period

Each month, an egg matures in one of your ovaries, then it travels down the fallopian tube to your uterus.

As the egg travels, it sends a signal to your uterus to build up a thick lining of blood to feed it if a sperm fertilizes it and a pregnancy begins. If no sperm fertilizes the egg, there's no pregnancy, so there's no need for the thick lining of blood.

Your period is when the blood your uterus isn't using passes through your vagina over 5 to 7 days. If your cycle lasts longer than 7 days each month, or you have heavy bleeding or clotting, contact your doctor or OB-GYN.

Your first period 
Menstrual cramps
Missed or irregular periods

What is a healthy relationship?

Everyone deserves a safe, healthy relationship. Couples in a healthy relationship treat one another with respect and know how to communicate what they want. A good relationship never includes hitting, threatening, put-downs, or trying to control the other person.

You always have the right to say "no," even to something you've done before. If someone says "no," respect his or her decision.

  • Don't pressure your partners, and don't let them pressure you into something you're uncomfortable with.
  • Trust your gut. If someone makes you uncomfortable, get out of the situation.
  • Date rape isn't about love or passion. It's about power and control. It can happen to anyone, and it's not your fault if someone date rapes you. Get medical help right away.

If you're afraid that you're in danger, talk with your doctor or another person you can trust or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), toll-free, 24 hours a day.

Are you ready to have sex?

Choosing to have sex (including oral sex) is a big decision. There are physical and emotional consequences that go along with being sexually active, such as pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and guilt. You can get pregnant and get an STI, even if it's your first time.

If you're being pressured to have sex, say no. Only you can decide if you’re ready to have sex.

Not having sex is the best way to prevent pregnancy, HIV/AIDs and STIs.

If you decide to have sex, make sure you know how to protect yourself from HIV/AIDs and other STIs. You can reduce your risk of getting an STI by using condoms, dental dams, or birth control correctly.

If you forgot your birth control, the condom broke, or you are a victim of rape, you can use emergency contraception (the "morning-after pill") to prevent a pregnancy. You'll need to take emergency contraception within 5 days after your birth control failed or you had unprotected sex. It works best if you take it within 3 days of unprotected sex but can be used up to 5 days.

The sooner you take emergency contraceptive pills, the more effective they are, so you may find it helpful to have some on hand just in case you need them. In the U.S., the morning-after pill is available over the counter without age restrictions to women and men. Although some types of the morning-after pill require a prescription. You can also get the highly effective copper IUD placed by your provider as another type of emergency contraception.

You can also talk to someone about emergency contraception by calling the toll-free Emergency Contraception Hotline: 1-888-NOT2LATE (1-888-668-2528).

If you're already pregnant, emergency contraception can't terminate the pregnancy. 

Sex myths

The only way to be 100% sure you won't get pregnant or an STI such as herpes, chlamydia, or HIV, is not to have any type of sex (abstinence). But if you do decide to have sex, you'll need to stay informed and learn what's true — and what's not.

Could you be pregnant?

If you weren't planning to become pregnant, finding out that you might be or are pregnant can be confusing, scary, or overwhelming. What are your choices? How do you decide what to do?
Take a little time to think. It's okay if you don't know what to do right now.

If you're a teen, your practitioner may be able to help you think through your pregnancy options, whether you want to keep or not keep the pregnancy. He or she may also recommend a clinic that specializes in pregnancy counseling for teens.

If your doctor or other health professional sees you for a confidential service, they can't tell your parents or guardians anything about your exam in most cases.

See our maternity center for information on pregnancy, childbirth, and caring for a baby.

Are you questioning your sexuality?

Are you attracted to men, women, both, or not sure? If so, you're not alone. Sexual orientation is only part of who you are, so try not to judge yourself as you work out your questions and concerns.

Source: Kaiser Permanente, Healthy Teens, Healthy Futures newsletters.

Reviewed by: Juanita Watts, MD, April 2016

Additional Kaiser Permanente Reviewers

© 2016 Kaiser Permanente

Reviewed by: Asma Saraj, MD, December 2018