Take Control of Your Health With an STI Screening

Would it surprise you to hear that you can have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and not realize it? Many STIs don’t have symptoms, so most people who have an STI do not have a clue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This news can be frightening to hear, but knowledge is power, and it allows you an opportunity to protect yourself and get proper treatment if needed. All STIs are treatable, and most are curable with antibiotic medication.

Read on to learn how you can take control of your health with an STI screening.

What Is an STI Screening?

We understand that the thought of a STI screening can feel a little scary or embarrassing, but there is no reason to be worried. Infections passed through sexual contact are very common and easily contracted, and the only way to know for sure if you have been infected is to be tested — also known as STI screening.

STI screening is confidentially conducted at a physician’s office or clinic. The most common STIs screened for are gonorrhea and chlamydia because the number of cases keeps rising, and there are 2.3 million newly diagnosed cases each year in the United States.

Most STI testing can be done with a quick and simple urine sample. Sometimes a swab or blood test is needed. Home STI testing kits are also available, but drawbacks include cost and reliability in reading results.

Do You Need an STI Screening?

If you have never had sexual contact of any kind, you do not need an STI screening. If you have ever had sex, you do need an STI screening, even if:

  • You have only had sex one time.
  • You have never had vaginal sex, but you have had anal or oral sex.
  • You have only been with one partner.
  • You believe you are in a mutually monogamous relationship.
  • You used a barrier-type of protection.

Undiagnosed and untreated STIs can lead to severe consequences for your reproductive health. It can cause you to suffer from future chronic pain, infertility, increased cancer risk, and more. The CDC provides STI screening guidelines for women to help protect you. The recommendations include:

  • All sexually active women under age 25 should be tested yearly for gonorrhea and chlamydia.
  • Women aged 25 and older should also be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia yearly if they have changed sexual partners, have multiple partners, or a partner diagnosed with an STI.
  • All pregnant women should be tested for syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B starting early in pregnancy to prevent complications.

Take Control of Your Health With an STI Screening Today

At Willow Womens Center, we can help you get answers to protect your health with a no-cost, confidential STI screening. Our licensed healthcare professionals offer STI testing services for chlamydia and gonorrhea. We will review your test results with you, listen to your concerns, and answer your questions. If your test is positive for chlamydia, you will be given a prescription. We can also provide you with referrals for the treatment of gonorrhea and/or for additional testing if needed. Contact us today for a confidential appointment.


Whose Choice Is It for an Abortion?
whose choice is it for abortion

When you discover you are unexpectedly pregnant, it may seem like a no-brainer that you are the one who gets to choose whether you opt for an abortion or not. However, once you start telling your partner, parents, or friends that you are pregnant, you could discover that everyone has an opinion about what you should do. It can cause your decision process to become very confusing.

The pressure of people trying to impose what they think is best onto you can feel overwhelming. Quite frequently, the pressure women experience when facing an unplanned pregnancy is to have an abortion. But what if you are not sure yet? Whose choice is it for an abortion anyway?

You can get through this. Keep reading to learn about the pressure pregnant women face and why the choice you make about your pregnancy is yours.

Whose Choice Is It for an Abortion?

When someone pressures you, manipulates you, or threatens you because they want you to make a particular decision about your pregnancy, it is called coercion. It may sound harsh or hard to imagine, but anytime you are coerced regarding your pregnancy, it is abusive.

Research by the Elliott Institute reveals that 64% of women felt pressured by others to choose abortion. Most women felt rushed and uncertain about their abortion decision, with 67% receiving absolutely no counseling beforehand. They say it did not feel like a choice at all because, in reality, it was coercion.

Women who had abortions they felt pressured into were more likely to suffer from clinical depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders, and suicidal behavior after their abortions. For your overall health, it is critical that you receive information about all of your pregnancy options, have an opportunity to weigh them in an unbiased environment, and make a choice that you can feel confident about.

How do you manage when people in your life think they know what is best for you? Set strong boundaries. For example, you can say, “I have already made my decision, and I will not discuss this anymore.” Taking a stand like this can feel uncomfortable, but it is healthy for you and others when your personal boundaries teach them where they end, and where you begin.

Fortunately, you are here and learning that you are the one who has the authority to choose about your unexpected pregnancy. Whether you choose abortion or not is your decision to make. Next, we will talk about if this is still true if you are a minor.

Can My Parents Make Me Have an Abortion?

What if you are under the age of eighteen and your parents have strong opinions about your pregnancy choice? Can your parents make you have an abortion if you do not want one just because you are a minor? The answer is, “NO. Your parents cannot force you to have an abortion even if you are under the age of eighteen.”

The only time there could be an exception is if your parents convince a judge that it would threaten your life medically to continue your pregnancy.

Coercion by your parents to have an abortion is so serious that they can be charged with child abuse – that is how much your choice is protected.

Why would a parent pressure you to have an abortion you do not want to have? Sometimes this happens because they are dysfunctional people and do not want anyone to find out about your pregnancy because they are embarrassed or are afraid they will become responsible. In this case, they are putting their needs before yours.

Other parents are well-meaning and genuinely have your best interest at heart. They might be worried about your future or want to see you fulfill your educational and career goals before having a child. Whatever the reason to pressure you, it is not ok.

Teens have experienced parental threats to remove financial support, disown them, or kick them out of the home if they do not have an abortion. If this kind of coercion happens to you, help is available.

Can My Partner Make Me Have an Abortion?

In addition to parents, your partner may also pressure you into having an abortion. He might be afraid of the responsibility of being a parent, or he does not want the financial obligation. Or perhaps he does not want anyone to find out he is sexually active.

No matter the reason for a partner pressuring you to have an abortion, it is wrong. Nobody has the right to pressure you towards any decision about your pregnancy choice. Ways a partner might try to coerce you into an abortion may include:

  • Begging, crying, or pleading
  • Offering to pay for the abortion
  • Threatening to break up with you if you do not have an abortion
  • Threats to harm you
  • Threatening to kick you out if you live with him
  • Telling you that he will not help you financially
  • Telling you he will not help you during your pregnancy or afterward
  • Emotional manipulation by saying things that do not sound like direct threats but plant doubt into your mind

Trust your gut. If you feel like your partner is coercing you into an abortion either blatantly or covertly, get somewhere safe to get the support you deserve.

It is illegal in all 50 states to force a woman to have an abortion. There are resources available to you, including the Justice Foundation, if you feel you are being pressured into abortion. Willow Womens Center is also here to support you.

Do You Need Help With Your Choice?

When you visit Willow Womens Center, you will receive all of the facts you need to make an informed decision about your pregnancy. You will be empowered with accurate information, but you will never be coerced into any particular decision. Our licensed professional healthcare team and skilled advocates offer compassion. We believe you are capable of making the pregnancy decision that is best for you.

If you think you might be pregnant or need help processing your thoughts about your unexpected pregnancy, contact us today for a no-cost and confidential appointment. We are here to help you each step of the way. You are not alone.


When To Take the Morning-After Pill and When Not To
when to take the morning after pill and when not to

You have heard about the morning-after pill, but you feel that you need more information before you consider taking it. How does the morning-after pill work? Is it different from the abortion pill? What are the possible side effects? How do I know when to take the morning-after pill and when not to? These are common questions women ask, and you deserve accurate answers, which you will find here.

How Does the Morning-After Pill Work?

The morning-after pill is a high dose of the progestin hormone (levonorgestrel) that a woman can take to try to prevent pregnancy. A common brand name is Plan B One-Step. A woman might take it right after having had unprotected sex, missing multiple doses of birth control pills, or experiencing failed birth control such as a condom breaking.

The morning-after pill is different from the abortion pill. The abortion pill is used after a confirmed pregnancy has already occurred, but the morning-after pill prevents pregnancy from happening. The morning-after pill won’t cause an abortion once a fertilized egg has already implanted into the uterus.

According to Mayo Clinic, the morning-after pill works in one of three ways:

1. It can prevent ovulation.

Ovulation occurs each month around the middle of your menstrual cycle. It is when your ovary releases a mature egg. The main way the morning-after pill works is by preventing ovulation, an egg from releasing from the ovary.

2. It can prevent an egg from becoming fertilized.

Another way the morning-after pill works is by changing the movement of the released egg or sperm, which can prevent fertilization.

3. It can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

If fertilization has already occurred, it is possible that the morning-after pill can prevent the fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine lining. This is the least common way the morning-after pill works.

When To Take the Morning-After Pill and When Not To

The morning-after pill is available at drug stores without age restriction, identification, or a prescription. Since guidance from a healthcare provider is not required either, it is common for women to have unanswered questions about when to take the morning-after pill and when not to take it. We will offer only general guidelines here. Please ask your pharmacist or doctor about specific questions you may have.

First, we will look at when you might consider taking the morning-after pill. As we discussed above, women take it when they have had unprotected sex or when birth control fails for any reason.

It is designed to be taken as soon as possible after sex – within 12 hours provides the highest chance of preventing pregnancy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the morning-after pill for up to 72 hours; however, research reveals it can prevent pregnancy, although less effectively, up to 120 hours after unprotected sex.

How effective is the morning-after pill? If it is taken within 24 hours, there is a 95% chance that it will prevent pregnancy. If it is taken within 72 hours, the effectiveness drops to about 75-89%. It is only 25% effective if five days have passed. The closer it is taken to the time of unprotected sex or failed contraception, the higher the chances that it will prevent pregnancy. Timing is important.

If you take the morning-after pill and discover you are pregnant, studies show that the medication does not harm the pregnancy if you choose to continue it. Research also indicates that if you take the morning-after pill while you are breastfeeding, it may decrease milk production. The pill’s hormones are passed through to breastmilk but don’t appear to cause harm to the development or health of the breastfeeding infant.

We have talked about when to take the morning-after pill. Are there situations where it would be less effective, or when should you not take the morning-after pill? Yes, do not take the morning-after pill if:

  • It has been more than 120 hours (5 days) since you had unprotected sex.
  • You know you are pregnant, or you think you might be pregnant.
  • You are experiencing unexplained spotting or pain, which could indicate an ectopic pregnancy (a medical emergency of a pregnancy outside of the uterus).
  • You have a hypersensitivity or allergy to its ingredients.
  • You are using it as a regular form of birth control.
  • You already took one dose. Doubling up the dose does not work better or lessen the chance of pregnancy.

The morning-after pill is less effective if:

  • You wait to take it. The chance of an unintended pregnancy increases as time passes after unprotected sex.
  • You take certain drugs or medications, such as barbiturates or St. John’s wort, that metabolize the progestin hormone.
  • You are overweight. There has been conflicting information about the morning-after pill being less effective if a woman has a BMI over 35.

What Are the Possible Side Effects of the Morning-After Pill?

Side effects of the morning-after pill typically don’t last more than a few days and can include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Breast tenderness
  • Bleeding between periods or heavier menstrual bleeding
  • Lower abdominal pain or cramps

If you vomit within two hours of taking the morning-after pill, notify your healthcare provider for further instructions.

What If I Don’t Get My Period After Taking the Morning-After Pill?

If you took the morning-after pill and your period hasn’t started within three weeks, make an appointment for an evaluation to determine if the morning-after pill worked or not. Willow Womens Center offers confidential, medical-grade pregnancy testing at no cost to you.

If your pregnancy test is negative and your period still doesn’t start, we are here to repeat the pregnancy test for you – also at no cost.

If your pregnancy test is positive, our compassionate healthcare professionals will provide the information you need to make a decision about your pregnancy. We will offer you a no-cost ultrasound to determine if your pregnancy is viable. We know that knowledge is empowering. You will also be given information about each of your pregnancy options so you can make an informed decision about what is best for you.

If you think you might be pregnant, make an appointment at Willow Womens Center today, and receive the caring support you deserve.


Can Chlamydia and Other STIs Make You Miss Your Period?
Can Chlamydia and Other STIs Make You Miss Your Period

Most women miss their periods due to pregnancy; however, other underlying health conditions can also cause menstrual irregularities. If you have missed your period, but you know you are not pregnant, you might wonder if a sexually transmitted infection (STI) could be the cause.

The most common STIs do not typically cause noticeable symptoms. Because of STIs’ prevalence and their symptomless nature, they are often called the “silent epidemic,” and millions of people are unknowingly infected with them.

So how would you know if you have contracted an STI? Can chlamydia and other STIs make you miss your period? STIs usually do not cause missed periods until they have progressed to a severe infection called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which we will discuss in this article.

We will also examine the most common STIs, symptoms, and how they can impact your period.

Sexually Transmitted Infections Are Common

 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the incidence of STIs is at an all-time high. There are 20 million new STI cases in the United States each year. Half of those new cases are in sexually active people between the ages of 15-24, even though that age group only makes up one-quarter of the population.

You have probably heard about chlamydia and gonorrhea, but did you know that there are other STIs that are much more common? In fact, human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STI, with over 79 million infected Americans, most of them in their teens or early twenties.

The second most common STI is genital herpes, followed by trichomoniasis. Among the STIs required to be reported to the CDC, chlamydia is the most commonly reported, and gonorrhea is the second most reported. The CDC does not require that HPV, genital herpes, or trichomoniases cases be reported, but some states might still require reporting.

It is essential to understand that any sexually active person can contract an STI. It is impossible to really know another person’s sexual history, so even if you have been committed to one partner, STI screening is crucial for your health. It can help you detect an STI before it leads to PID or other life-threatening health problems.

What Is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)?

PID is a serious infection of a woman’s reproductive system that can be caused by an untreated STI. It happens when sexually transmitted bacteria travel up your reproductive tract from your vagina on to your uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries. Long-term complications from PID can include:

  • Scarring in fallopian tubes
  • Ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy in a fallopian tube)
  • Infertility (inability to conceive a child)
  • Chronic pelvic pain

PID is treatable with antibiotics, but the damage it caused can remain. If the PID infection is not treated and spreads to the bloodstream, it becomes life-threatening, so it is critical to accurately diagnose PID and STIs before they progress further.

STI Screening and Symptoms

The insidious thing about STIs is that they usually do not cause noticeable symptoms, so STI screening is critical. The CDC recommends that all sexually active women under age 25 be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea every year. Women aged 25 and older should also get tested yearly if they have risk factors such as new or multiple partners.

Chlamydia is called the “silent disease” because most people do not experience symptoms. Less than 25 percent of women notice an abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when they urinate. Chlamydia typically does not make you miss your period.

Unfortunately, when chlamydia is left untreated, it can cause serious and permanent damage to a woman’s reproductive system. Untreated chlamydia can travel up the reproductive tract and progress to PID, which sometimes makes women miss their periods.

The good news is you can test for chlamydia simply with a quick urine sample. If the infection is caught early, a course of antibiotics will cure it. Having chlamydia does not make you immune; you can catch it again.

  • Gonorrhea: Like chlamydia, gonorrhea can be cured with prescription medication. It is also easy to test for with a urine sample. Gonorrhea is also spread through sexual contact, and the only way to prevent it is not to have sexual contact with another person.

Most women do not have symptoms with gonorrhea. If they do, they are mild and often mistaken for a bladder or mild yeast infection and do not usually cause missed periods, unless the STI progresses to PID.

If you have gonorrhea, it is dangerous to leave it untreated because it can spread to your blood or joints. It can also cause permanent pain and damage to your reproductive system and increase your risk of contracting HIV. It can also lead to heart valve damage.

  • HPV: HPV is so common that over 80% of women will get at least one of the more than 100 types of HPV viruses. There are 14 million new cases of HPV each year.

HPV typically does not cause any symptoms and goes away on its own. It does not make you miss your period, but it can cause spotting between periods. It can cause cervical cancer, genital warts, and other health problems if it does not go away. Pap tests can detect HPV because they identify cellular changes on the cervix.

The way to prevent HPV is not to have sexual contact with another person or consider getting the HPV vaccine.

Can Chlamydia and Other STIs Make You Miss Your Period?

Hopefully, the information we presented here has helped you understand STIs, symptoms, and how they can impact your period. To summarize, STIs usually won’t make you miss your period, but it is more likely if an untreated STI has progressed to PID. In addition to missed periods, PID can also cause spotting between periods.

Reach Out to Willow Womens Center

If you have missed your period, Willow Womens Center can help. We care about your health and are committed to providing quality medical services at no cost. We understand that the thought of pregnancy or STI testing can be scary, but you can rest assured that we will compassionately guide you each step of the way. Get the answers you deserve by making a confidential appointment today.


How Soon Is Too Early to Test for Pregnancy?

When you think you might be unexpectedly pregnant, it can feel like torment waiting to know for sure. You might have sore breasts, mild cramping, and other signs of early pregnancy that could also be premenstrual symptoms, and it causes you to waver back and forth, thinking you are pregnant and then thinking you are not. That can leave you feeling more confused and wondering how soon you can get the answers you need. You have seen ads for pregnancy tests that claim to detect pregnancy five days before your expected period. So, should you test that early? And how soon is too early to test for pregnancy? We will answer those questions here.

When Is It Too Early to Test for Pregnancy?

If you take a pregnancy test before you have missed your period, you increase your chances of getting a false negative result. This means the test will read negative when you actually are pregnant, so experts recommend waiting until you have already missed your period to prevent false-negative test results.

Why Wait?

As hard as it is, it is best to wait so that if you are pregnant, your body has enough time to produce human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the hormone that a pregnancy test will detect in your urine. Your peace of mind in knowing your result is accurate is worth it!

How Do Pregnancy Tests Work?

After sex, an egg is fertilized with sperm (fertilization). The fertilized egg travels to the uterus and attaches into the uterine lining (implantation). Implantation occurs about 7-14 days after you have had sex, and it triggers your body to start producing the pregnancy hormone, hCG. Your hCG levels will double every 48-72 hours after implantation, and it is important to give those levels time to climb.

What About Early Pregnancy Tests?

Early pregnancy test manufacturers market to your desire to get answers as early as possible. It is not hard to see the advertising on the box and read the claims of 99% accuracy along with the ability to detect pregnancy six days before your missed period.

But let us take a closer look, so you do not test too early for pregnancy. The first thing to consider is that the percentage provided on the front of the package is only accurate when you take the test on the day of your expected period — and in a laboratory setting by professionals. The same goes for the the instructions printed inside the pregnancy test kit; the claims of accuracy are elevated because they do not reflect real-life testing in real-life situations.  The results from a University of New Mexico study reveal the chances you can anticipate getting the right answer from an early home pregnancy test:

  • One day past your expected period: 100% of pregnancies detected
  • On the day of your expected period: 96% of pregnancies detected
  • On the day before your expected period: 93% of pregnancies detected
  • Two days before your expected period: 81% of pregnancies detected
  • Three days before your expected period: 68% of pregnancies detected
  • Four days before your expected period: 42% of pregnancies detected
  • Five days before your expected period: 33% of pregnancies detected
  • Six days before your expected period: 25% of pregnancies detected

When Is the Best Time in Your Cycle to Test?

Although your body begins to produce hCG 7 to 10 days after fertilization, waiting provides the most accurate results. In order to give your body enough time for hCG to build up to a detectable level in your urine by a pregnancy test, it is best to take a pregnancy test about 14 days after fertilization. For a woman who has a 28-day cycle and ovulates 14 days after her last period, this would mean testing on the day you expect your next period if you suspect you are pregnant. For the most accurate results, take a pregnancy test a couple of days after your missed period.

If your test is negative and your period does not start, you still might be pregnant, but your hCG levels are just not high enough to register on the test. Most testing kit instructions recommend you wait one week to take another test; however, many women test a few days later. Contact a healthcare professional if you still have a negative pregnancy test or have further questions.

When Is the Best Time of Day to Take a Pregnancy Test?

The best time of day to take a pregnancy test is first thing in the morning because at that time your urine  contains the highest concentration of hCG. This is particularly important the earlier you are taking your pregnancy test. You can test later in the day, but you will have a higher chance of seeing a false-negative test result because your urine will be diluted. Tips for testing include:

  • Use first-morning urine (or after you haven’t urinated in at least four hours).
  • Don’t drink a lot of fluid that could dilute your hCG levels before your test.
  • Check to make sure the pregnancy test is not expired, which can provide inaccurate results. Checking the expiration date is particularly important if you keep pregnancy tests at home “just in case.”
  • It is understandable that once you have the pregnancy test in your hands, you want to get to the answers quickly. Plus, it seems like a no-brainer because they are designed to be easy to use. Take time to read all of the instructions and follow them precisely. Even if you have taken pregnancy tests before, little variances between them can be the difference between a result you can count on and a wrong one.
  • We all know how easy it is to lose track of time, so do not try to estimate when to read your results. Set a timer so you can read your test results exactly at the time directed in the instructions. Do not read the test window after that set time because a faint “evaporation line” can appear, which makes your test appear to be positive when it is really negative.

Hopefully, this information is helpful to understand the value of not testing too early for pregnancy, so you can have peace of mind knowing your results are accurate.

If you think you might be unexpectedly pregnant, Willow Womens Center is here for you. We offer medical-grade pregnancy testing at no cost to you. Our licensed healthcare professionals provide other no-cost services that empower you to make informed decisions that you are comfortable with. Make your appointment today by calling 608-312-2025 or use our online scheduler.