Senior High FAQ

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

Peri-menopause is the time leading up to menopause. Most women will notice the physical and emotional changes of peri-menopause in their late 40s or early 50s when:

  • their monthly cycle begins to change
  • estrogen and progesterone production changes
  • the number of stored eggs in the ovaries decreases

Menopause is when a woman has no menstrual period for 12 months in a row.

No two women go through menopause in the same way. Some have no symptoms while others have many physical and emotional symptoms.

TSS stands for toxic shock syndrome, which is caused by a bacteria. More than 9 out of every 10 cases of TSS cases are linked to using tampons during menstruation. Better teaching about how to use tampons has helped decrease the risk of TSS.

Some symptoms of TSS are headache, sore throat, sudden fever, vomiting, diarrhea, achy muscles and a rash that looks like a sunburn.

To prevent TSS, change tampons every 3 to 4 hours, no matter how light the bleeding is. Because tampons shouldn’t be left in longer than 8 hours, some women choose to wear a pad at night.

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.

The stretch marks happen because of the weight the person gains and because their uterus is growing. This causes the connective tissue under the skin to stretch in the second and third trimesters. Stretch marks are usually on the skin covering the abdomen, breasts, thighs and buttocks.

The first thing to do is to take a pregnancy test. If the pregnancy test is negative, keep taking the Pill as normal. If the pregnancy test is positive, see your health care provider. Taking the Pill when you’re pregnant doesn’t increase your risk of miscarriage or that your baby will have a birth defect.

In Alberta, students who ask 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. Below are steps to starting a GSA or QSA:

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

Trans is a shortened version of the word transgender, which is a person whose gender identity or expression is different from their biological sex (for example, a person with a penis who identifies as a woman. Being transgender is neither good nor bad—it’s just how some people are.

For a health care provider to know what your health needs are, it’s important that they understand your sexuality. Because the teen years are a time of sexual development and emerging sexuality, some people, including 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 help to talk to your doctor about your concern. You may also think about finding a doctor who is more open to accepting your sexual identity.

‘Coming out’ is the process of revealing one’s identity as LGBTQ to themselves and then, if that person wants, to other people. Everyone and their situation is different, so there’s not one right way to come out.

Some people will ‘practice’ by first coming out to people they know will have a positive or neutral reaction before they tell people who may have a more emotional reaction. Other people tell those closest to them first, even if they’re not expecting a positive response.

If a person is worried about their safety when they tell someone, it’s important they speak with a professional support person, like a guidance counsellor. Together they can come up with a safety plan for this conversation. A safety plan may include telling someone in a public location.

Here are some tips that might help 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 want to talk to them about something important.
  • Ask if now is a good time to talk. If it is, go ahead. If not, set up a time to talk.
  • Tell your parent(s) why you want to tell them this information (e.g., it could be about wanting to stay close, being honest and authentic, being respectful or honouring the relationship).
  • Say what you want to say and let your parents know what you want and need from them.
  • Remind your parent(s) that you are still the same person.
  • Stay calm.
  • Remember that while you’ve had time to process this, it may be very new to your parents. Sometimes parents already suspected you may identify as LGBTQ* but were waiting for you to tell them.

An LGBTQ support service may have other ideas, resources and supports related to coming out to parents.

For more information: LGBTQ Students: A guide for counsellors

Polyamory is having more than one sexual loving relationship at the same time and with consent of all partners involved.

Pansexual describes a person who feels sexual attraction to people of any sex or gender.

For more information: LGBTQ Students: A guide for counsellors

Demisexual is a term 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

Asexual is a term to describe a person who doesn’t feel any sexual attraction or desire to have sex. They may or may not still feel emotional/romantic attraction.

For more information: LGBTQ Students: A guide for counsellors

Yes. Sexual assault can happen to anyone. Sexual assault is against the law. All sexual activity without consent, no matter the age or gender is a crime. This includes all forms of sexual activity, ranging from sexual touching (e.g., kissing) to sexual intercourse.

Yes, stalking is a sign of abuse. It’s also against the law. The examples below are some of the signs of stalking. Trust your instincts and get help if you feel you or someone you know is being stalked, especially if you see any of these behaviours:

  • following someone around or parking close by and watching where they live or work
  • too many 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 where they work

Every person is different when it comes 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: Both are normal. There’s no magical age when it’s 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 thinking about having sex no matter what your age, it’s important to think about the possible consequences.

Ask yourself:

  • Why do I want to have sexual intercourse? Do I feel lonely? Am I being pressured? Do I love my partner?
  • Will my decision affect my moral, religious and family values?
  • Will I feel guilty or bad afterwards if I have sexual intercourse?
  • How will I protect myself from pregnancy and STIs?
  • Do I trust my partner? Are they pressuring me? Are we close? Can we talk about safer sex and birth control?
  • If the birth control fails, are we ready to deal with a pregnancy?

Talking to a parent or a supportive adult can help you decide if you are ready to become sexually active or not.

When people start exploring ways to be intimate with each other, 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 always have the right to give consent first 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 agreeing that either of you can change your mind at any time

People can’t give consent if they’re:

  • high or drunk
  • forced, threatened, bribed, intimidated, or offered a reward to do something sexual

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

 

A 16 year old can legally consent to sexual intercourse, unless the other person is in a position of authority (e.g., a coach, teacher or employer) or the sexual activity will take advantage of the person (e.g., pornography, prostitution, trading sex for safety).

This question also relates to personal values and is different for everyone. It’s important to decide if the relationship is healthy or not. Any healthy relationship, no matter what the age, has respect, trust, honesty, fairness, equality and good communication.

Often, when there’s a big age gap between partners, especially when one person is a teen, some elements of a healthy relationship can be missing. There may also be more sexual pressure in these types of relationships. To learn more about the age of consent to sexual activity, see Consent.

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 make your feelings clear.

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. Remember—physical fighting (punching, hitting) is NEVER okay.

Signs of a healthy relationship are:

  • respect
  • honesty
  • communication
  • being able to be yourself
  • feeling safe
  • trust
  • equality
  • support

Take some time to think about what these fights are about. Can they be worked out in a positive and constructive way? It can help to talk about relationship issues with a parent, an adult you trust or a counsellor.

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

  • to make sure the reproductive organs are healthy
  • for sores and lumps on the genitals
  • for a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • for infections in the vagina (e.g., yeast or bacterial vaginosis)

Every person is different when it comes 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: Both are normal. There’s no magical age when it’s 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 thinking about having sex no matter what your age, it’s important to think about the possible consequences.

Ask yourself:

  • Why do I want to have sexual intercourse? Do I feel lonely? Am I being pressured? Do I love my partner?
  • Will my decision affect my moral, religious and family values?
  • Will I feel guilty or bad afterwards if I have sexual intercourse?
  • How will I protect myself from pregnancy and STIs?
  • Do I trust my partner? Are they pressuring me? Are we close? Can we talk about safer sex and birth control?
  • If the birth control fails, are we ready to deal with a pregnancy?

Talking to a parent or a supportive adult can help you decide if you are ready to become sexually active or not.

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

Yes, because when you have unprotected anal sex a pregnancy is still possible if sperm gets on or in the vagina.

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

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

There are times in your cycle when it may be less likely to become pregnant, but these times are very hard to predict, especially if your periods aren’t regular. It can take several months of tracking to become familiar with your menstrual cycle. It’s always better to use birth control at all times during the menstrual cycle to prevent a pregnancy. Where you are in your menstrual cycle doesn’t affect how likely you are to get an STI. STIs spread through oral, anal and vaginal sex. Use a condom every time you have sex.

The cost depends on where you buy it and the type of method. To find out about the cost speak with your health care provider or go to a sexual health clinic. Many sexual health clinics offer some types of birth control for no cost for people who qualify.

There are many kinds of birth control methods. They include:

  • barrier methods (e.g., male and female condoms)
  • hormonal methods (e.g., pill, patch, IUD, injection, ring)
  • non-hormonal methods (e.g., IUD, fertility awareness)

It’s important to talk to your doctor or go to a sexual health clinic to find out what birth control method will work best for you.

The right name for a dental dam is an oral dam or latex barrier. It is a barrier made out of latex or a condom. It helps reduce spreading bodily fluids during oral sex. Use it when having oral sex in the anal or vaginal area. It’s easy to make an oral dam out of a regular male latex condom:

  1. Cut the closed end of the condom so that you end up with a latex tube
  2. Cut down the length of the tube.
  3. Unroll it to make a rectangle.

The video Latex Barrier Demonstration shows how to make an oral dam.

IUDs are a safe form of birth control that works very well to prevent pregnancy. Like all birth control methods, there are risks.

Some women who have the copper type of IUD may have cramps and heavier periods.

Some women with the hormone type of IUD may have:

  • irregular bleeding or spotting
  • headaches
  • breast tenderness
  • acne
  • weight changes
  • mood changes

With both types of IUDs, there is a small risk of the IUD falling out. IUDs don’t protect you from STIs and HIV—that’s why it’s still important to use a condom every time you have sex.

The birth control pill works 99.7% of the time when the exact instructions are followed all the time (perfect use). The timing of intercourse doesn’t affect how well the Pill works when taken correctly. The Pill works 91% of the time when the directions aren’t followed exactly (typical use). Most pregnancies happen because people forget to take their pill.

The Pill works to prevent pregnancy by changing the hormone levels in your body over a whole month. It must be taken every day to provide protection. It does not work like a condom, preventing pregnancy for that episode of sexual intercourse.

Remember—when a female is sick and throwing up or has bad diarrhea, the Pill may not work as well. It’s important to either not have sexual intercourse until the next cycle of pills are started or to use condoms as a back-up method until then.

Some people may feel some menstrual-like cramps, but shouldn’t feel any pain. The cramps are caused by the uterine muscles contracting.

During a surgical abortion, a numbing medicine (local anaesthetic) is injected into the cervix, something like the way a dentist freezes the gums. Medicine for pain or sedation is sometimes given by mouth or through a vein. The person having an abortion is usually awake but sleepy during the procedure.

Having to make tough decisions about your life can bring up both positive and negative feelings. It’s important and okay to express your feelings, even the negative ones. You might find it helps to talk to a trusted friend or adult about what’s going on.

A person makes the decision to have an abortion because they feel that at that time in their life, it’s the right thing to do. At another time in their life, they may make a different decision. Some people feel sad or emotional for a few days or weeks after an abortion, but many just feel relief.

It’s not common to have any serious, long-term emotional issues after an abortion. Emotional issues are more likely if:

  • the abortion is against religious or moral beliefs
  • the pregnancy was wanted but the woman’s or baby’s health were at risk
  • the abortion was related to an upsetting life event
  • the person was having serious relationship problems
  • the person had mental health concerns even before becoming pregnant

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

  • to make sure the reproductive organs are healthy
  • for sores and lumps on the genitals
  • for a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • for infections in the vagina (e.g., yeast or bacterial vaginosis)

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.

HPV (human papillomavirus) is a virus that can lead to certain types of cancer. You can get HPV by having skin-to-skin contact with the genital area of an infected person.

No, the Pap test only looks at the cells from the cervix. The doctor would have to collect samples of the fluid around the cervix to test for other STIs.

STIs spread through sexual contact involving the genitals, mouth or rectum. They also spread:

  • by skin-to-skin contact (e.g., kissing, non-penetrating sex or body rubbing)
  • by mixing infected body fluids (such as blood, semen or vaginal secretions)
  • by sharing needles, other drug paraphernalia and through needle stick injuries
  • from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby as the baby’s being born during a vaginal delivery, or through breastmilk

Infestation-type STIs (e.g., scabies and pubic lice) can be spread when sharing things like clothing, bedding and linens.

Use a condom or dental dam every time to decrease the risk. The only way to prevent an STI is not have any sexual contact (abstinence). This includes intercourse and oral sex.

Yes, you’re at a high risk for STIs even from having oral sex. Use a condom or dental dam every time to decrease the risk. The only way to prevent an STI is not to have any sexual contact (abstinence). This includes intercourse or oral sex.

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

If you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to go to your doctor, a sexual health or STI clinic as soon as you can to be tested.

  • discharge from the vagina, penis or anus
  • pain or discomfort when urinating (peeing)
  • pain during sexual intercourse
  • lumps or bumps on genitals
  • pain in scrotum or testicles
  • genital sores, itching, irritation or pain
  • a rash on the genitals

Even if you have one symptom, get tested. If not treated, STIs can have lasting effects on your health and fertility.

Yes, testicular cancer is most common in males between 15 and 29 years.

All males should know what their testicles normally feel like. Many people find the cancer by noticing a change in one or both 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 deeper into the scrotum and the scrotum relax.

Carefully feel each testicle for any changes, such as a lump or any tenderness. At the back of each testicle is a tube (called the epididymis) that collects and carries sperm. This tube feels like a soft cord or a small bump. While one testicle is usually a bit bigger, it may help to compare the two sides for differences.

See your doctor right away if you find a change. The doctor may order tests to find out what the change could mean.

Prostate cancer is rare before age 40. The risk of prostate cancer goes up with age. While some males in their 40’s do get it, the risk is higher after age 50.

Cervical cancer happens when some of the cells on the cervix become abnormal, then grow out of control. Abnormal cervical cells rarely cause symptoms. A person may have some of the symptoms below if those cell changes grow into cervical cancer:

  • bleeding from the vagina that’s not normal (e.g., bleeding between menstrual periods, after sex, or after menopause)
  • pain in the lower belly or pelvis
  • pain during sex
  • vaginal discharge that’s different than usual

Cervical cancer is mostly prevented by screening and follow-up care. Regular Pap tests will find any abnormal cell changes in the cervix early—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.

 
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