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Relationships Q&A

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    How do I tell my parents I'm thinking of having sex without them freaking out?

    Some teens find it really intimidating or embarrassing to talk to their parents about sex. But many parents can give their kids better information, advice, and support than they could get anywhere else.

    If you think your parents might freak out, you may want to wait to have this discussion until all of you are ready for it. Meanwhile, you could turn to another trusted adult. This could give you the opportunity to rehearse what you want to say to your parents.

    When you are ready to bring it up with your parents, try using a magazine article or TV show as a jumping-off point to start a conversation about sex. Or you might try to start talking about a friend who's deciding to have sex and see how your parents react. It may take more than one conversation about this issue before you feel comfortable disclosing information about your personal feelings and intentions.

    Remember that it's normal to feel nervous many people feel awkward talking about sex. It's good to know that a lot of parents say they are relieved that their kids started this conversation.

    Good luck!

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    When is a good time to start talking to my child about sex?

    Understanding sexuality is a lifelong process. Parents give children messages about sex and sexuality from the time they are born. Experts at Planned Parenthood suggest that by age five, children should be taught "the basics" the names of body parts; that love should make people feel good, safe, and wanted; and that their bodies belong to themselves. Elementary school children should have a basic awareness of gender roles, health care, human reproduction, and sexual identity, and they should be comfortable with their own sexual thoughts and fantasies.

    Children age 9-13 should be aware that sex is a natural, pleasurable part of life. They should be familiar with birth control methods and sexually transmitted infections, the changes that will be happening to their bodies and emotions during puberty, and the dangers of sexual abuse. Older teens should have a broader understanding of human sexuality and how it relates to sexual behaviors, social pressures, relationships, parenting, and the potentially harmful consequences of sexual relationships.

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    Do all kids who are available for adoption get adopted?

    According to the National Council on Adoption, there is no way to know for sure. Most likely, infants placed through the "private, voluntary system," do get adopted. Just as likely, many infants in the foster care system are not adopted.

    Although there are organizations with waiting lists of women and men who want to adopt special-needs children, this does not necessarily mean that they will all get adopted. Placing children with HIV/AIDS, children who are older, or children with severe mental or physical disabilities, for example, is often very challenging.

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    Can Zoloft affect my sex drive? I never feel intimate anymore, and it's really hurting my relationship my partner gets so upset because he doesn't think I find him attractive anymore. I just don't feel like having sex, ever.

    Zoloft is one brand name of certain kinds of prescription medication that are technically called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Other common brand names for SSRIs include Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, and Prozac. SSRIs are used to treat depression, anxiety, panic disorder, and other conditions, including premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Like all medications, SSRIs may have side effects for some people. The possible side effects of SSRIs include decreased sex drive and/or more difficult orgasm for women and men. Each SSRI may have different effects on different people.

    Talk with your health care provider if you find that the SSRI or any other medication you are taking is affecting your sex life. Your provider may be able to substitute a different SSRI or a different kind of medication. Or your provider may suggest testing for other potential causes of decreased sex drive and function, which include certain hormone deficiencies and thyroid conditions.

    Don't let embarrassment prevent you from enjoying your sexuality as much as you can. Always be open about your sexual concerns with your health care provider, who will try to help you solve sexual problems that may be related to your medications.

    Similarly, share with your partner any concerns you may have about changes in your sex drive no matter what the reasons may be. It may be difficult to assure partners that one's feelings are not about them, but it is worth trying communication is everything. Understandably, partners may find it difficult to accept that their significant other's appetite for sex has changed, especially if it needs to be for an extended or indefinite period of time. In such cases, professional counseling with a sex therapist may be helpful.

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    My boyfriend gets upset that sometimes my vagina is looser than other times. He thinks I'm cheating, but I'm not. What's going on?

    Here are five possibilities:

    1. Women's vaginas are less elastic when they are not sexually aroused. They become more elastic "looser" the more sexually excited they become. A woman may feel "tighter" to a man when she is less aroused, less comfortable, and having less pleasure than her partner.

    2. Hormonal shifts during a woman's menstrual cycle affect vaginal secretions and may affect vaginal elasticity. She may feel "looser" on certain days of her cycle than on others.

    3. Certain drugs, such as antihistamines or marijuana, may make the walls of the vagina feel dry so they seem "tighter."

    4. A woman's vagina may feel tighter or looser in different positions for intercourse.

    5. Some men tend to be anxious about their sexual performance. Some have an exaggerated sense of jealousy. It's always best to discuss such problems with a partner or with a professional. But some men may put the blame on their partners because they are unable to recognize their own insecurities.

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    What would be wrong with making teens ask their parents for permission to use birth control?

    Basically, it would lead to more teen pregnancy. Minors seeking sexual health care services at a Planned Parenthood health center in Wisconsin were asked what they would do if they had to tell their parents they were using contraceptives. Nearly half said they would stop going to the clinic. Many others said they would stop using any sexual health care service. But only one percent said they would stop having sexual intercourse.

    Unfortunately, not all young people can trust their parents to be helpful. Some parents are abusive. Many young people don't even have contact with their parents. To keep kids safe and healthy, most states wisely let young people consent to their own medical care for a variety of services. These critical services include counseling, testing, as well as care for mental health problems, drug and/or alcohol addiction, sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy. Planned Parenthood believes that confidential health care is a public health necessity for the young as well as for adults.

This column is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have a medical problem, please call toll-free 1-800-230-PLAN for an appointment with the Planned Parenthood health center nearest you.

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