There is no such thing as a dumb question.

But there are ques­tions peo­ple feel dumb asking.

So that’s why we’ve answered the ques­tions that you’ve prob­a­bly want­ed to ask out loud.

What­ev­er it is you need to ask, this is the place to find the answers.

Sex Info

How can I talk to my part­ner about safer sex? 

There are a few tips to remem­ber when talk­ing to your part­ner about safer sex:

  • If it’s the first time you’re talk­ing about it, don’t wait until you’re in the heat of the moment. The talk’ is best had when you’re both relaxed and in the right frame of mind.
  • Try not to stress! Real­ly. Think­ing about talk­ing to your part­ner about safer sex is usu­al­ly way more stress­ful than actu­al­ly talk­ing about it. Calm down, and just say what you have to say.
  • Talk­ing about safer sex and con­sent isn’t a one-time deal. Things might change as your rela­tion­ship changes, so keep the lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion open with your part­ner and don’t be afraid to talk about doing things differently.
  • Have a look at this web­site and those on our Resources page togeth­er, or go to a clin­ic togeth­er so you can both get the facts. That will also break the ice so you can talk about your own safer sex practices.

How long should I wait before hav­ing sex with someone? 

You’re the only one who can decide the answer to that ques­tion. Some peo­ple choose to wait a cer­tain amount of time, oth­ers choose to have sex with peo­ple they’ve only known for a short while. What’s most impor­tant is that you’re both ready and able to com­mu­ni­cate before hav­ing sex.

Does sex hurt? 

Sex shouldn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly hurt. If you’re hav­ing vagi­nal sex, it might be uncom­fort­able or bleed a lit­tle the first few times. Pain in the penis shouldn’t hap­pen; if it keeps up, check with your health care provider to see what the prob­lem could be.

For vagi­nal and anal sex, it could be because there isn’t enough lubri­ca­tion (wet­ness). If this hap­pens, you can add water-based lubri­cant to a con­dom or use a con­dom that is already pre-lubri­cat­ed. More lube is always bet­ter. It could also be painful if you’re not com­fort­able, in which case you have every right to stop and think about what works for you.

Is it true what they say about masturbation? 

There are many myths out there about mas­tur­ba­tion, like that if you do it you will go blind or grow hair on your hands. These might be enter­tain­ing, but for­tu­nate­ly they’re false. Rather, mas­tur­ba­tion is one way to sat­is­fy your sex­u­al crav­ings with­out hav­ing sex and to explore your own body so you know what you like and don’t like.

All my friends are hav­ing sex and I don’t want to, what should I do? 

It’s their choice what they do with their bod­ies, just as it’s your choice what you do with yours. They might be hav­ing sex because they feel ready for it – that doesn’t mean you have to feel ready for it, too. Or, they might only say they’re hav­ing sex because they don’t want peo­ple to think they’re vir­gins. By Grade 12, half of teens have had sex and half of teens haven’t – not every­one is hav­ing sex, so if you’re not ready for it, then wait it out.

I feel ready and want to have sex, but all the mes­sages I hear say that I shouldn’t. What should I do? 

It’s your choice what you do with your body. Oth­er peo­ple may not be hav­ing sex because they don’t feel ready for it – that doesn’t mean you have to feel the same way. Or, they might only say they’re not hav­ing sex because they want peo­ple to think they’re vir­gins. By Grade 12, half of teens have had sex and half of teens haven’t – if you feel ready, make sure you’re pre­pared and have all the infor­ma­tion you need to make the right choice for you.


Can you get an STI from a toi­let seat? 

No. The organ­isms that cause STIs can’t live out­side the human body for very long and they need a warm, moist envi­ron­ment to sur­vive. Even stub­born STIs like trich can’t sur­vive on a cold, hard toi­let seat. So, you can sit on a toi­let seat with­out worry.

Can you get an STI from kiss­ing someone? 

There is a very slight risk of trans­mis­sion of cer­tain STIs (e.g. her­pes and syphilis) by kiss­ing, but the chances are slim. There are also some STIs that can infect the throat, like chlamy­dia and gon­or­rhea, but it’s very unlike­ly that they could be passed on just by kiss­ing someone’s mouth, even if it’s an open-mouth kiss.

If you’re kiss­ing any­where around the gen­i­tals and your part­ner has an STI, then the chances increase that you could catch it. If you’re doing any kiss­ing or oral sex in the gen­i­tal region, it’s best to use a con­dom on a penis or a sex/​dental dam on a vagi­na, vul­va, anus, or scrotum.

Can you get an STI if you don’t have sex? 

Many STIs can be spread from direct con­tact with the infect­ed area, even if there is no inter­course (pen­e­tra­tion). These include her­pes, syphilis, and gen­i­tal warts. They occur on the skin on or around the gen­i­tals, anus, and mouth.

There are also STIs that can be trans­mit­ted through bod­i­ly flu­ids (blood, semen or vagi­nal flu­id), such as gon­or­rhea, chlamy­dia, HIV, and hepati­tis. So, if your part­ner is infect­ed and their semen, pre-ejac­u­late (pre-cum), or vagi­nal flu­id gets in con­tact with your body flu­ids, you could get infect­ed with­out hav­ing sex.

Oth­ers, like pubic lice (crabs) and again, syphilis, like to hang around out­side the body. They’re not STIs that you’d catch from a place like a toi­let seat, but you could pick them up in envi­ron­ments where they thrive, like bed­ding, tow­els, or bathing suits. If you share such things with an infect­ed part­ner, there is a risk that you could get infected.

Can you get an STI from masturbation? 

STIs are passed from one per­son to anoth­er. If you have an STI on one part of your body, it would be almost impos­si­ble to trans­fer it to anoth­er part of your own body.

Do you have to tell your part­ner if you have an STI

It’s always a good idea to tell your part­ner if you have an STI, even if you don’t want to. If you’ve already had sex­u­al con­tact with them, they should get test­ed as some STIs can turn into seri­ous health prob­lems if left untest­ed and untreat­ed. They can also be passed back and forth, rein­fect­ing you even if you’ve already been treated.

If you test pos­i­tive for gon­or­rhea, chlamy­dia, HIV, hepati­tis B, or syphilis, you can either tell your part­ners your­self (check out these resources for tips: Share your result… Not your STI, and the Sex, Etc. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Tool) or a pub­lic health nurse can make the call for you, keep­ing your iden­ti­ty con­fi­den­tial. Pub­lic Health does not fol­low up on her­pes, gen­i­tal warts, pubic lice, or tri­chomo­ni­a­sis (trich), but it is still rec­om­mend­ed that you noti­fy your sex­u­al part­ners if you have one of these infections.

How do I know if I have an STI or if it’s a symp­tom from some­thing else? 

You won’t, unless you go to your health care provider’s office or a clin­ic and get test­ed. Don’t just assume it’s noth­ing, because if you have an STI, ear­ly detec­tion makes it eas­i­er to treat.

The con­dom broke and my part­ner said he was HIV pos­i­tive. What should I do? 

Just like we have the Morn­ing-after Pill to help pre­vent preg­nan­cy, there’s also some­thing like a morn­ing-after’ treat­ment if you might have been exposed to HIV. It’s called Post-Expo­sure Pro­phy­lax­is,’ or PEP. It con­sists of tak­ing anti-HIV drugs very soon after a pos­si­ble expo­sure, to pre­vent an HIV infec­tion from estab­lish­ing. PEP isn’t avail­able to every­one, and it should be used with­in just a cou­ple hours after expo­sure. If you’ve had con­tact with some­one who you sus­pect might be HIV pos­i­tive (through unpro­tect­ed anal or vagi­nal sex, needle­stick injuries, or shar­ing nee­dles), go to your local emer­gency room — HSC is rec­om­mend­ed if you are in Win­nipeg — or call Health Links at (204) 7888200 or toll-free 18883159257.

Can you get an STI from some­one who is the same sex as you are? 

Yes. STIs can be passed on from skin-to-skin con­tact with the infect­ed area or from bod­i­ly flu­ids (blood, semen, vagi­nal flu­ids) between any two people.


Is it bet­ter to use two con­doms instead of one, just to be extra safe? 

No. Using two con­doms actu­al­ly gives you less pro­tec­tion than you’d have if you used one. This is because sex can cause fric­tion between the two con­doms, which increas­es the chance the con­doms might break.

Can you use a con­dom in the show­er or under water? 

You can, but it may not be as effec­tive. If the water has chlo­rine or oth­er addi­tives such as soap or bub­ble bath in it, it can cause the con­dom to break. If you are going to use a con­dom under water, make sure to put it on before get­ting in the water.

Can you use a male con­dom and a female con­dom at the same time? 

No. Using both con­doms at the same time can cause fric­tion that might make both con­doms slip or tear. It can also cause the out­er ring of the female con­dom to be pushed inside the vagina.

Are lamb­skin con­doms a good thing to use if you’re aller­gic to latex? 

They’re not rec­om­mend­ed because they have big enough pores (holes) that STIs can still be passed between part­ners. Polyurethane con­doms are a bet­ter option if you’re aller­gic to latex.

Can a con­dom get stuck in a vagina? 

It can, if the part­ner doesn’t pull out cor­rect­ly. Remem­ber to hold the base of the con­dom and the base of the penis at the same time as the penis pulls out. If the con­dom gets stuck inside the vagi­na, there’s a chance that it may not have pro­tect­ed ful­ly against STIs or pregnancy.

If I use a con­dom, I lose my erec­tion. What can I do? 

Get some con­doms before hav­ing sex and prac­tice using them or mas­tur­bat­ing with them on. This way, you can get used to putting them on and using them, so you’ll feel more relaxed when you put one on before sex and be less like­ly to lose your erection.

Preg­nan­cy and Birth Control

What hap­pens if I for­get to take my birth control? 

Nobody is per­fect. We know that birth con­trol is more effec­tive when used exact­ly as direct­ed. Every time you miss, you do increase your risk of pregnancy.

But, if you do for­get, you should take it as soon as you real­ize you’ve missed it. Also, decide if you need to use Emer­gency con­tra­cep­tion.

Mak­ing sure that you’re pro­tect­ed against preg­nan­cy and get­ting back on sched­ule with birth con­trol depends on the exact type of birth con­trol you’re using, which week in your cycle you are, and how late you are tak­ing it. Check out the Stay on Sched­ule web­site and answer a few ques­tions; it will help you fig­ure out the best way to get back on, and stay on schedule.

Also, talk­ing to your health care provider may help you to fig­ure out a dif­fer­ent birth con­trol method that you can stay on sched­ule with more easily.

Why does the phar­ma­cist always ask me if I’m on any birth con­trol when I pick up oth­er prescriptions? 

Dif­fer­ent med­ica­tions can affect how well your birth con­trol might work, but this depends on a lot of things (the med­ica­tion you need, the kind of birth con­trol you’re on, oth­er health con­di­tions, etc.). The phar­ma­cist needs all this infor­ma­tion to make sure that your med­ica­tions won’t inter­fere with your birth control.

What are the hor­mones in birth con­trol pills? 

Some birth con­trol pills have a com­bi­na­tion of the hor­mones estro­gen and prog­es­terone, which pre­vent your ovaries from pro­duc­ing eggs (ovu­la­tion). Oth­ers have only prog­estin. Some have high­er dos­es of hor­mones than oth­ers. Talk to your health care provider to find out which type of birth con­trol will suit you.

Will I gain weight if I’m on the pill? 

Some peo­ple gain a lit­tle weight or lose a lit­tle weight when they go on the pill, but most stay exact­ly the same. Because there are low dos­es of hor­mones in birth con­trol pills, they don’t real­ly affect your weight.

Are there any long-term effects of the birth con­trol pill on my fertility? 

No. You can still get preg­nant after stop­ping the pill even if you’ve been on it for a long time. When peo­ple go off the pill, they get more reg­u­lar peri­ods with­in a few months. Some peo­ple may take up to six months or more for peri­ods to go back to nor­mal. That doesn’t mean you can’t get preg­nant dur­ing that time – as soon as you miss or stop tak­ing the pill, you increase the chances you’ll get pregnant.

What hap­pens if I find out I’m preg­nant and I’ve been tak­ing the pill? 

Most like­ly, noth­ing. The chances of some­thing hap­pen­ing to the fetus because you’ve been tak­ing birth con­trol pills are very small. You should stop tak­ing the pill while you are preg­nant (as you won’t need them now). As soon as you can, talk to your health care provider to dis­cuss your preg­nan­cy options.

Is it okay to have sex if I’m preg­nant? What if I have an STI

If you’re preg­nant, it’s safe to have sex as long as you’re com­fort­able. Sex­u­al inter­course will not harm you or the fetus. If you have an STI, just remem­ber that some untreat­ed STIs may harm the fetus (check out the STI page for more infor­ma­tion). Plan togeth­er with your health care provider ways to min­i­mize the poten­tial harms of an STI to you and your fetus.

Can I still get my peri­od when I’m pregnant? 

Yes. You may get light, irreg­u­lar bleed­ing when you’re preg­nant, but the bleed­ing should not be as heavy as a reg­u­lar period.

There is also some­thing called implan­ta­tion bleed­ing, which can hap­pen when the fer­til­ized egg implants into the uterus. It doesn’t hap­pen to every­one, but some might notice a pink­ish-brown dis­charge that they may mis­take for their period.

Is it okay to have sex with some­one who’s on their period? 

Yes. You should still use pro­tec­tion, as it’s pos­si­ble to trans­mit STIs or even get preg­nant. There may be an issue of com­fort, though, as some peo­ple may be sore or crampy and each part­ner will have to be okay with hav­ing sex while there is blood present.

Is it pos­si­ble to notice preg­nan­cy symp­toms before your peri­od is due? 

Yes, although most peo­ple prob­a­bly won’t notice any symp­toms until around the time their peri­od is due, as that’s when there is enough of the preg­nan­cy hor­mone in your body to cause notice­able changes. But some peo­ple do notice symp­toms ear­li­er than oth­ers, so it is possible.

How should I tell my par­ents that I’m pregnant? 

Find a time when you can sit down with them in pri­vate, and tell them you have some­thing impor­tant you’d like to tell them. Then, just be hon­est and tell them. Get­ting it out in the open is eas­i­er than try­ing to hide it or being dishonest.

Be pre­pared for their reac­tions, as hard as it may be for you to think about it. It like­ly took you some time to go through the range of emo­tions you felt, and it will prob­a­bly be the same way for them.

If you feel it would be too dif­fi­cult for you to tell them alone, you can ask a friend or a trust­ed adult to come with you.


What is a pap test and does it hurt? 

Pap tests check for cer­vi­cal can­cer. A health care provider inserts a specu­lum (a tool that allows them to see inside your vagi­na), and then uses a long cot­ton swab to take a sam­ple from your cervix. The whole process takes less than a minute, and it can be a lit­tle uncom­fort­able but it shouldn’t hurt.

When you’re tak­ing a pee or blood test, can the doc­tor tell if you’ve done drugs? 

No. They will only test for what you’ve giv­en them per­mis­sion to test for.

Can you get test­ed for all STIs? 

For some STIs (like her­pes and HPV), the only way to make a prop­er diag­no­sis is if you’re cur­rent­ly expe­ri­enc­ing an out­break (lesions, blis­ters, warts, etc.). But you can def­i­nite­ly ask to be test­ed for the STIs that can be detect­ed at any time, even if your health care provider tells you it’s not nec­es­sary. It’s your right to access health care ser­vices and to be aware of what’s going on in your body.

Gon­or­rhea and chlamy­dia can be detect­ed from a urine (pee) sam­ple. Test­ing is gen­er­al­ly no longer done by swab­bing in the penis (ure­thra) or in the cervix. Syphilis, HIV, hepati­tis, and hepati­tis anti­bod­ies (to check your immu­ni­ty) can be detect­ed from a blood sam­ple. For female bod­ies, BV and trich are test­ed with a swab in the vagi­na. See the STI page for more infor­ma­tion on all of these.

Do STI tests cost money? 

No. They’re cov­ered by provin­cial health care, so as long as you have your health card or num­ber, it won’t cost you any money.

Should you get test­ed after hav­ing oral sex? 

Yes. Many STIs can be passed on through oral sex (mouth on a penis, vagi­na, or anus), so you should get test­ed for STIs whether you’ve giv­en or received oral sex. Con­doms and sex/​dental dams are good choic­es for safer oral sex.

Do you need a sep­a­rate STI test if you have anal sex? 

Yes. Any body part that was used dur­ing sex can and should get test­ed for STIs.

What if I get an erec­tion when I get an STI test? Is that normal? 

It can hap­pen, and yes, it’s total­ly nor­mal. Hon­est­ly, there is noth­ing health care providers haven’t seen. It’s not a big deal to them. Penis­es some­times react from get­ting touched, and health care providers under­stand that. If you’re not com­fort­able, though, you can tell the health care provider you’d rather get test­ed anoth­er time.