Senior High FAQ

Additional questions and answers may be found in the elementary and junior high sections.

It is extremely unlikely for a tampon to get stuck in the vagina. Tampons are attached to a string a few inches in length that hangs through the vaginal opening. The tampon is removed by pulling gently on the string. If a tampon did get stuck, it is important to seek medical attention, as there is a risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) if the tampon is left in too long.

TSS stands for Toxic Shock Syndrome, and is typically caused by a bacterial infection.

Early on, researchers found that more than 90% of TSS cases were associated with the use of tampons during menstruation.  Public health efforts have led to changes in tampon absorbency and composition and better habits for using them. The result has been a big decline in the number of cases of TSS.

Some symptoms of TSS are: headache, sore throat, sudden fever, vomiting, diarrhea, achy muscles and a sunburn-looking red rash. To prevent TSS, tampons should be changed every 3 to 4 hours, no matter how light the bleeding is. Because tampons should never be left in for longer than 8 hours, some women choose to wear a pad at night.

Menopause occurs when a woman has had no menstrual period for 12 consecutive months. Perimenopause is the time period leading up to this. Symptoms may occur earlier, but most women experience the physical and emotional changes of perimenopause in their late 40s or early 50s when:

  • Their monthly cycle begins to change
  • Estrogen and progesterone production becomes unpredictable
  • The number of stored eggs in the ovaries decreases

No two women experience menopause in the same way. Some may have difficulties, while others may be symptom-free.

If a person thinks they are pregnant, it is important to take a pregnancy test. Getting pregnant while you are on the pill does not increase the risk of birth defects or miscarriage.

A person’s weight gain and growing uterus cause the underlying connective tissue of the skin to stretch in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. Stretch marks usually appear in the skin covering the abdomen, breasts, thighs and buttocks.

Asexual is a term used to describe a person who does not have sexual attraction or desire to have sex. They may or may not experience emotional/romantic attraction.

For more information: LGBTQ Students: A guide for counsellors

Demisexual is a term used to describe a person who only feels sexual attraction if they already have a close emotional bond with that person.

For more information: LGBTQ Students: A guide for counsellors

Pansexual is a term used to describe a person who feels sexual attraction to people of any sex or gender.

For more information: LGBTQ Students: A guide for counsellors

Polyamory is a term used to describe having more than one sexual loving relationship at the same time with consent of all partners involved. 

‘Coming out’ is a term used to describe the process of revealing one’s identity as LGBTQ to themselves and then, if that person wants, to other people.  Each person and their situations are different, so there is not one right way to come out to others.  Some people will ‘practice’ coming out to people that they know will have a positive or neutral reaction before telling people who may have a more emotional reaction.  Other people tell those closest to them first, even if they are not expecting a positive response.  If a person is worried about their safety when telling someone, it is important to speak with a professional support person, like a guidance counsellor, to come up with a safety plan for this conversation.  A safety plan may include having the discussion in a public location.  Here are some additional tips that some people might find useful when coming out to parents:

  • Choose a calm time to talk (e.g., not during or after an argument)
  • Let your parent(s) know you have something important to talk about
  • Ask if now is a good time to talk. If it is, go ahead.  If it is not, set up a planned time to talk
  • Tell your parent(s) why you want to tell them this information (e.g., is it about wanting to stay close, being honest and authentic, being respectful, honoring the relationship etc.)
  • Say what you want to say and let your parents know what you want/need from them
  • Remind your parent(s) that you have not changed from the person you are
  • Stay calm
  • Remember that you have had time to process this, but this may be very new to your parents. Sometimes parents already suspected you may identify as LGBTQ* but were waiting for you to tell them out of respect for your own process.

Contacting an LGBTQ support service may help to offer additional ideas, resources and supports related to coming out to parents.

For more information: LGBTQ Students: A guide for counsellors

Being healthy is about being a whole person and for a health care provider to be able to know what your health needs are, it is important for them to understand your sexuality.  Because adolescence is a time of sexual development and emerging sexuality, some doctors may believe that any sexual expression may be part of sexual exploration as opposed to orientation. When a person identifies as gay, they are gay. You are an important part of your health care team. If you feel comfortable, it may be helpful to let the doctor know your concern. You may also consider finding a doctor that is more open to accepting your sexual identity.

Trans is a shortened version of the word transgender, which is a person whose gender identity or expression is different than what they were assigned at birth.  For example, a person with a penis who is a woman. Being transgender is neither good or bad…it just is how some people are.

In Alberta, students who request to form a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA)/Queer-Straight Alliance (QSA) club are guaranteed the right to start the group in their school, have regular meetings in a safe space, have an adult supervisor/sponsor and name the club.  Steps to starting a GSA or QSA may include:

  • Finding a teacher or staff sponsor. They can get information about how to support you from the Alberta Teachers’ Association or Alberta Education.
  • Talking with the school administration
  • Finding other students who may want to help start up the group
  • Pick a meeting space
  • Advertise the group and plan your first meeting
  • Set up ground rules/group agreements
  • Plan for the future and think about possible activities like hosting guest speakers, holding events with other school groups, writing articles for the school newspaper or website, etc.

It’s normal to have disagreements from time to time. Disagreements give you a chance to explore things that you disagree about, and it can help you get your feelings across. Disagreements that often turn into fights that include yelling, criticism or harsh words are signs of an unhealthy relationship. It’s a problem if you’re fighting all of the time, or if you say cruel things when you’re arguing. And remember, physical fighting (punching, hitting) is NEVER okay. Signs of a healthy relationship are:

  • Respect
  • Honesty
  • Communication
  • Being yourself
  • Feeling safe
  • Trust
  • Equality
  • Support

Take some time to think about what these fights are about and if these differences can be worked out in a positive and constructive way. It is often helpful to discuss relationship issues with a parent, trusted adult or counsellor.

There are rules around the age of consent, but this question also relates to personal values and may vary from person to person. It is important to examine the relationship to determine if it is healthy or not. Keep in mind that any healthy relationship, regardless of age, has the following qualities: respect, trust, honesty, fairness, equality and good communication. Often, when a large age gap exists between partners when one person is a teen, the necessary components of a healthy relationship such as equality can be missing. More sexual pressure may also be present in these types of relationships. For more information about the age of consent to sexual activity visit http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/other-autre/clp/faq.html

When people feel comfortable with each other they start exploring ways to be intimate with each other and this may include kissing, sexual touching and sexual intercourse (e.g., oral, anal, vaginal).?? This is a very personal choice and only you can decide what is right for you.

No matter what you decide you have the right to give consent and NEVER feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to do. Consent means that both partners agree to the sexual activity and everyone understands what they’re agreeing to.

Consent is:

  • Needed for every sexual activity?
  • Understanding what you’re saying yes to
  • Asking your partner if they understand what they’re saying yes to
  • Checking in with your partner and accepting that either of you can change your mind at any time

People cannot give consent if they’re:

  • High or drunk
  • Forced, threatened, bribed, intimidated, or offered rewards to do something sexual

Sexual activity without consent is sexual assault. If you are having a difficult time deciding whether you want to have sex or not, talk to an adult you trust.

Every person is different with regards to how old they are when they start to think about sex. Some people have sexual thoughts at an early age, whereas others hardly think about it at all. Any of these responses are considered normal. There is no magical age when it is suddenly okay to think about or to want to have sexual intercourse. When it comes to actually having sexual intercourse, only you can decide when you are ready. When considering having sex at any age, it is important to think about the potential consequences. Ask yourself:

  • What are my reasons for wanting to have sexual intercourse?
  • Do I feel lonely? Am I being pressured? Do I love my partner?
  • Will my moral, religious and family values be affected by my decision?
  • Will I feel guilty or bad afterwards?
  • How will I protect myself from pregnancy and STIs/HIV?
  • Do I trust my partner? Is he or she pressuring me? Are we close?
  • Can we talk about safer sex and birth control?
  • If birth control fails, are we ready to deal with a pregnancy?

Stalking is a crime called criminal harassment. The following examples are only some of the possible signs of stalking. Trust your instincts and get help if you feel you or someone you know is being stalked, particularly if you see any of the following behaviours:

  • Following someone around or parking close by and watching where they live or work
  • Excessive or unwanted texts, emails, phone calls or visits
  • Contacting friends, relatives or co-workers and asking them questions about someone’s actions or whereabouts
  • Threatening behaviours, like leaving notes on someone’s vehicle windshield or the door to their home or workplace

Yes. Sexual assault can happen to anyone and is against the law. All sexual activity without consent, regardless of age or gender is a criminal offence. This applies to all forms of sexual activity, ranging from sexual touching (e.g., kissing) to sexual intercourse.

Oral sex is when a person stimulates their partner’s genitals with their mouth.

Anal sex is when a person puts their penis into another person’s anus.

With unprotected anal sex there is a chance of pregnancy if sperm gets on or in the vagina.

As long as sperm does not get near or in the vagina there is no risk of pregnancy. There is a high risk for STIs, so it is important to use a condom or dental dam every time to decrease the risk.

The birth control pill is 99.7% effective with perfect use (following the exact instructions all the time). The timing of intercourse does not affect the effectiveness of the pill if the pill is being taken correctly. The pill is 91% effective with typical use (not following the exact directions). Most pregnancies happen because people forget to take their pill. Keep in mind that an illness that includes repeated vomiting and severe diarrhea can decrease the absorption of the hormones in pills, making it important to not have sexual intercourse or use condoms as a back-up method.

IUDs are considered generally safe and are an effective form of birth control. Like all birth control methods, there are risks associated with IUD. Some women have the following side effects from the copper type of IUD: cramps and increased menstrual bleeding. Some women experience the following side effects with the hormone type of IUD: irregular bleeding or spotting, headache, breast tenderness, acne, weight changes or mood changes. With both types of IUDs, there is a small risk of the IUD falling out. IUDs don’t provide protect you from STIs and HIV. It is still important to use a condom every time you have sex to protect your from STIs and HIV.

A dental dam should be referred to as an oral dam. An oral dam is a barrier made out of latex or a condom that will help reduce the spread of bodily fluids during oral sex. These can be used when performing oral sex on the anal or vaginal area. It’s very simple to make an oral dam out of a regular male latex condom: simply cut the closed end of the condom leaving a latex tube, then cut down the length and unroll it to make a rectangle. Click here for an oral dam demonstration video.

There are a variety of birth control methods including barrier methods (e.g. male and female condoms), hormonal methods (e.g. pill, patch, IUD, injection, ring), and non-hormonal methods (e.g. IUD, fertility awareness). It is important to talk to your doctor or visit a sexual health clinic to find out what birth control method will work best for you.

The cost of contraceptives depends upon where they are purchased and the type of method being used. To get more information on cost contact your health care provider or sexual health clinic.  Many sexual health clinics offer some types of birth control for no cost for people who qualify.

There are times in your cycle when it may be less likely to become pregnant, but these times are very difficult to predict especially with irregular periods. It can take several months of tracking to become familiar with your menstrual cycle. It is recommended that birth control be used at all times throughout the menstrual cycle to prevent a pregnancy. Timing of the menstrual cycle has no impact on the likelihood of contracting an STI. STIs can be spread through oral, anal and vaginal sex. Use a condom every time you have sex (anal, oral or vaginal).

Making any difficult life decision can bring up both positive and negative feelings. It is important to allow yourself to express your feelings, even the negative ones. It might be helpful to talk to a trusted friend or adult about what is going on or to seek non-judgmental counselling for extra support around this decision. The decision to have an abortion is made because a person feels that at that time their life, it is the right thing to do. At another time in their life, decisions may be different. Some people feel sad or emotional for a few days or weeks after an abortion, but in general they feel relief. Serious, long-term emotional problems are uncommon after abortion. Emotional problems are more likely if:

  • Abortion is against religious or moral beliefs
  • The pregnancy was wanted but the health of the woman or fetus were at risk
  • Having an abortion was related to disturbing life events
  • Serious relationship problems
  • Pre-existing mental health concerns

During a surgical abortion a numbing medication (local anesthetic) is injected into the cervix, similar to the way a dentist freezes gums.  Medicine for pain or sedation, in addition to the local anesthetic, may be given by mouth or through a vein. During the procedure you may experience menstrual-type cramps. These cramps are caused by the uterine muscles contracting. You will not be asleep, but you will be very drowsy.

This can be a sign of an STI—see a doctor or visit a sexual health or STI clinic.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, be sure to visit a sexual health or STI clinic and get tested as soon as you can.

  • Discharge from the vagina, penis or anus
  • Pain or discomfort when urinating
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Lumps or bumps on genitals
  • Pain in scrotum or testicles
  • Genital sores
  • Genital itching
  • Genital irritation or pain
  • Rash on the genitals

If you notice just one symptom, get tested. If left untreated, STIs can have lasting effects on your health and fertility.

Yes, there is a high risk for STIs from oral sex. Use a condom or dental dam every time to decrease the risk. Completely avoiding sexual contact (abstinence), including intercourse or oral sex, is the only certain way to prevent an infection.

Sexually transmitted infections (STI) can be spread by:

  • Sexual contact involving the genitals, mouth, or rectum, and can also be spread
  • From a pregnant woman to the baby before or during delivery:
  • Skin-to-skin contact (i.e., kissing, non-penetrative sex, body rubbing)
  • Mixture of infectious body fluids (blood, semen, vaginal secretions)
  • Sharing of needles and other drug paraphernalia and needle stick injuries
  • From a pregnant woman to her unborn fetus, or to infants during vaginal delivery or through breast milk
  • Infestations (scabies and pubic lice) can also be transmitted through shared clothing, bedding, linens etc.

Use a condom or dental dam every time to decrease the risk. Completely avoiding sexual contact (abstinence), including intercourse or oral sex, is the only certain way to prevent an infection.

A Pap test is one part of a pelvic exam. A pelvic exam is when female reproductive organs are examined by a health care provider to make sure they are healthy.  During a pelvic exam you might be checked for:

  • The health of the reproductive organs
  • Sores and lumps on the genitals
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Infections in the vagina (e.g., yeast or bacterial vaginosis)

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a very common virus that affects most women and men at some point in their lifetime. HPV can cause a number of serious health issues, including many kinds of cancer. HPV is responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancers in women, and approximately 100% of head and neck cancers in Albertan men under the age of 40. Anal and genital warts are also caused by HPV. There are over 100 types of HPV.  Most are harmless and go away on their own. About 45 types of HPV can be spread through sexual contact. About 15 of these are considered high-risk and can cause abnormal cells that can lead to cancer. There is no treatment or cure for a HPV infection. The HPV vaccine is given to all Grade 5 students and any Grade 9 students who didn’t receive it in Grade 5.

Using condoms every time you have sexual intercourse lowers the risk of HPV. Keep in mind that the virus may be on skin that isn’t covered by a condom, so HPV can still be passed on even if condoms are used.

The HPV vaccine protects against 9 of the most common and harmful types of HPV. The vaccine works best when given before sexual activity begins, before any exposure to HPV. But people may benefit from the HPV vaccine even if they have been sexually active. This is because the vaccine may offer protection from the types of HPV they haven’t yet been exposed to. There is a vaccine for HPV that is offered to Alberta students in Grade 5. The vaccine is also offered to students who have not received all 3 doses of the vaccine in grade 9.  Public health nurses give 3 doses of HPV vaccine in the arm over 6 months.

Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal cells on the cervix grow out of control. Abnormal cervical cell changes rarely cause symptoms. But you may have symptoms if those cell changes grow into cervical cancer. Symptoms of cervical cancer may include:

  • Bleeding from the vagina that is not normal, such as bleeding between menstrual periods, after sex, or after menopause
  • Pain in the lower belly or pelvis
  • Pain during sex
  • Vaginal discharge that isn’t normal

Cervical cancer can mostly be prevented with screening and follow-up care. Having Pap tests regularly can detect any abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix-before they have a chance to become cancer.

HPV causes almost all cases of cervical cancers in women. The HPV vaccine protects people against HPV infection.  The HPV vaccine is given to all grade 5 students and any grade 9 students who didn’t receive it in grade 5.

The incidence of prostate cancer increases with age. It is rare before age 40, but it is seen in some males in their 40’s and increasingly after age 50. Testicular cancer, however, is most common in males between age 15 and 29.

All men should know what is normal for their testicles. Many men discover testicular cancer by noticing changes in their testicles. The best time to feel the testicles is just after a warm bath or shower. The heat from the water makes the testicles descend and the scrotum relax, which makes it easier to feel anything that is abnormal.

Carefully feel each testicle for any changes, such as a lump or any tenderness. At the back of each testicle there is a tube (called the epididymis) that collects and carries sperm. It is normal to feel this tube as a soft cord or a small bump. It is also normal for one testicle to be larger than the other. Comparing the 2 sides for differences may be helpful.

If you find a change, talk to your doctor right away. The doctor may order tests to find out what the change could mean.

 
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