Sexual health FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
We’ve been doing sexual health work for more than 40 years so we’ve heard lots and lots of questions about sexuality and sexual health. There is not much you could ask us that would make us feel uncomfortable or judgmental. It’s our job to provide our clients and the community with factual and current information. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you can’t find the answer to your question on our site.
Here is a list of the most common questions we get asked both in the clinic and the community by people from all different backgrounds.
Click one of these common questions to jump to the answer, or browse the whole series.
Call us to speak to an educator about your sexual health questions. (We cannot answer questions by email.)
Questions about our clinics
- Do I need to make an appointment?
- How old do I have to be to come to the clinic?
- Do I have to tell my parents?
Questions about birth control, infections, and sexuality
- What if I need pills and can’t pay for them?
- What do I do if I miss a pill?
- I think I might be pregnant! How can I find out?
- Can I get pregnant the first time I have sex?
- Can I get pregnant by swallowing the semen during oral sex?
- Can I become pregnant without having sex?
- Can I get my girlfriend pregnant if she has her period?
- If I am taking birth control pills, do we still need to use condoms?
- What do I do if I have had unprotected sex?
- How do I know if I have a sexually transmitted infection?
- I don’t want to have intercourse—what else can my partner and I do to be intimate?
- Is it okay to masturbate?
- What is a PAP test and when do I need to get one?
Questions about abortion
- How far along in a pregnancy can you get an abortion?
- How old do you have to be to get an abortion?
- How much does an abortion cost?
Questions about sexual orientation
Answers about the clinic
Do I need to make an appointment to come to the birth control clinic?
Appointments are necessary at all clinics to see an educator or a doctor if you need a prescription. If you would like a pregnancy test or emergency contraception you can walk in during clinic hours and we will do our best to serve you. If you just want to pick up pills and you already have a prescription with us, you can drop in during clinic hours.
How old do I have to be to come to the clinic?
There is no age limit to become a client of the Island Sexual Health Society. You can come to any of our clinics at any age.
Do I have to tell my parents?
All of our services are totally confidential. You don’t need your parents’ permission, and you don’t have to tell them if you don’t want to. You are also welcome to bring your parents with you to the clinic, if you choose.
Answers about birth control, infections, and sexuality
What if I need pills and can’t pay for them?
If you need pills and don’t have the money when you come to the clinic, we will give you one pack of pills on credit and keep a tally of your account. If ongoing payment is a problem please ask to see our nurse and discuss an assistance program.
What do I do if I miss a pill?
If you miss a pill take it as soon as you remember and refer to our missed pills guidelines to see if you need to take emergency contraception.Also use a back-up method, such as condoms, for a week.
I think I might be pregnant! How can I find out?
If you have missed a period, or if your period is late, you can take a pregnancy (urine) test to find out if you are pregnant. We can do a pregnancy test for you and have counsellors available to discuss your options with you. You can also see your doctor to be tested.
Other signs of pregnancy include:
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Swelling, soreness or tenderness in your breasts
- Nausea or vomiting
Stress or changes in your lifestyle can affect your menstrual cycle too, so that may be why your period is late. Get tested to be sure, and continue to use birth control if you are still having sex and don’t want to become pregnant.
Can I get pregnant the first time I have sex?
Yes! You can get pregnant the first time you have sex because having sex for the first time is the same as having sex any other time. If you want to avoid becoming pregnant, you should use birth control, right from the first time you have sex.
Can I get pregnant by swallowing the semen during oral sex?
No, you can’t. Swallowing semen is the same as eating something that ends up in your digestive system—it can’t make you pregnant because your mouth doesn’t connect with your reproductive system.
Remember though, that you can get a sexually transmitted disease through oral sex if your partner is infected, so you should use a condom or dental dam during oral sex.
Can I become pregnant without having sex?
You can’t get pregnant through oral sex, or through masturbation. But if you are fooling around with your partner and there is any genital contact, especially where fluid is involved, there is a chance that you can become pregnant. This can even happen if he touches his own semen and then touches your vagina with his hands. If you want to make sure that you don’t become pregnant, make sure you use a condom, or avoid having contact with his genitals and fluids.
Can I get my girlfriend pregnant if she has her period?
A woman can get pregnant any time of the month, even during her period. It’s not the most likely time, but it can happen.
If I am taking birth control pills, do we still need to use condoms?
Yes. Birth control pills are only prescribed to prevent pregnancy; pills do not prevent sexually transmitted infections.
Condoms offer your best chance at preventing STIs.
What do I do if I have had unprotected sex?
If you have had unprotected sex or your birth control method failed (condom breaks), you can get emergency contraception pills up to 120 hours following the incident, to prevent pregnancy but it is most effective if used within 72 hours (3 days).
Contact us for more information about emergency contraception.
You should also consider the possibility of Sexually Transmitted Infections and should be tested for these as well, particularly since many STIs do not have any symptoms. Talk to you Doctor or Clinic Staff for further information.
How do I know if I have a sexually transmitted infection?
Common symptoms of an STI include a burning feeling when you urinate, itchiness or a strange smell in your genitals.
You can have an STI but not have symptoms though, such as in the case of chlamydia, gonorrhea, or HIV. This means the infection can damage your body without you even knowing about it. It also means you could accidentally pass on an STI to someone else.
If you think you have an STI, the only way to be sure is to see a doctor or a nurse. Go to your family doctor, a clinic, or a special STI clinic if your city has one and ask to be checked for STIs. Most STIs can be treated with antibiotics.
I don’t want to have intercourse—what else can my partner and I do to be intimate?
There are many things two people can do to be intimate.
- holding hands
- bathing together
- mutual masturbation
- oral sex…
The list is endless, so get creative!
Is it okay to masturbate?
Masturbating can’t hurt you—it’s really a personal choice. Some people are comfortable with it and some people are not, and both choices are okay. Masturbation can teach you a lot about your sexuality, such as how and where you like to be touched. This can help you communicate to your partner what you like.
People masturbate for different reasons—because it feels good, to relieve stress, even as a way to be intimate with their partner. If you enjoy masturbating and you do it in appropriate ways (not in public!), then it is definitely okay.
What is a Pap test and when do I need to get one?
A Pap test is a medical test performed by a doctor during an internal pelvic examination. The Pap test specifically screens female for cancer of the cervix (the opening to the uterus, which is located within the vagina). The Pap test can detect changes to the cells on the cervix before they become cancerous.
As part of the exam other swabs may also be taken to test for STIs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. Females should begin having paps at the age of 21 or 3 years after first sexual contact (even sexual touching counts!).
NOTE: You do not need to have a Pap exam on your first visit to the clinic.
Answers about abortion
How far along in a pregnancy can you get an abortion?
In Victoria, you can get an abortion up to 20 weeks.
How old do you have to be to get an abortion?
There is no age restriction in BC. You can get an abortion at any age.
How much does an abortion cost?
Abortions are covered by BC Health so it won’t cost you anything for the procedure if you have a care card. There may be associated costs with medications. Abortion services are completely confidential at any age.