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As experts in reproductive and sexual health care, Planned Parenthood provides critical services and information that people need to stay healthy. For many of our patients, Planned Parenthood is their only source of care.

One of the most common questions we get asked, especially from students, teenagers and other young people, is what exactly are sexual health services. Many haven't needed or received sexual health care before, and aren't sure what type of care they should get and when they should get it. So, here's a guide to the sexual health services available at Planned Parenthood and when someone would need those services.

Pregnancy Testing

A pregnancy test is a urine test to see if you’re pregnant. Pregnancy testing by blood draw is available upon request. Common symptoms of early pregnancy include a late period, nausea, tender or swollen breasts, and frequent urination.

When should I get it? - When you have any of the above symptoms.

Birth Control

There are more than a dozen methods of birth control, including the patch, the shot, the ring, the diaphragm and the IUD. Birth control protects against pregnancy and can also treat certain health problems like irregular or painful periods.

When should I get it? - When you want to prevent pregnancy or treat specific health issues.

Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception (EC) can be taken up to five days after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. The sooner you take it, the higher your chances of preventing pregnancy. There are three types of EC: Plan B/Next Choice, Ella and the copper IUD. Emergency contraception is not an abortion pill and does not work if you’re already pregnant.

When should I get it? - After unprotected sex or a contraceptive failure if you want to prevent pregnancy.

HPV Vaccine

The HPV vaccine is three shots over a six-month period that protect against various strands of the human papillomavirus, or HPV. The vaccine protects against the strains that cause most cases of cervical cancer and genital warts.

When should I get it? - If you’re between the ages of 13 and 26 and haven’t yet received all three shots.

STI/HIV Testing

If you don’t have symptoms, STI/HIV testing involves a urine test and a blood draw to test for the following: gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV and syphilis. If you have symptoms, then a clinician will examine your symptoms before testing.

When should I get it? - Either once a year or before/after every new partner, whichever comes first.

Annual Wellness Exams

An annual wellness exam is a yearly reproductive health visit with your clinician or OB-GYN. It's a chance to talk to your doctor about birth control, STI testing and other aspects of your sexual health. The visit may include several screenings, such as a breast exam or a Pap test.

When should I get it? - Annually, much like a physical checkup with your primary care physician.

Pap Tests

Pap tests, also known as Pap smears, are a type of cervical cancer screening. During a Pap test, the clinician will use a speculum to open the vagina and then use a swab to collect cells from the cervix.

When should I get it? -  If you’re between 20 and 29, every three years. If you're between 30 and 65, you need a Pap combined with an HPV test every five years.


Pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as PrEP, is a daily pill that can reduce your chances of getting HIV by 92 percent. PrEP does not work if you’re already HIV positive.

When should I get it? - If you’re at high risk if contracting HIV, including having a partner who has HIV, engaging in sex work, or having injected drugs or shared needles.

Breast Exams

A breast exam is a breast cancer screening where the clinician checks each breast for possible signs of cancer. The clinician will both look and feel your breasts, including both nipples, and the armpits. Breast exams often take place during the annual wellness exam.

When should I get it? - If you’re under 40, every one to three years. If you’re over 40, annually.


A vasectomy is a form of permanent birth control where the tubes that bring sperm from the testes to the semen are cut or blocked. There is little to no recovery time after the procedure, as most patients can return to work the next day. Because vasectomies are permanent, they should only be considered if you’re sure you don’t want any, or any more, children.

When should I get it? - When you don’t want any, or any more, children.

Urinary Tract Infection Treatment

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in the urinary tract. Symptoms of an UTI include burning or pain during urination, the urge to urinate when your bladder is empty, an uncontrollable urge to urinate all the time, and/or lower abdominal pain or back pain.

When should I get it? - When you are experiencing any of the above symptoms.


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