Students learn about sexual health, safety


Thomas J. Yang

Dr. Marni Greenwald (left) and Dr. Elizabeth Wettick (right) discuss the details of the Mollyschum contagiosum virus at Student Government Board’s Sexual Health Q&A event Thursday. (Photo by Thomas Yang | Visual Editor)

“Birth Control Methods” is not a category a contestant would typically encounter on “Jeopardy!” But about 20 students were presented with it and other categories revolving around sexual health Thursday night in the Cathedral of Learning.

These students were participating in a Q&A session about sexuality and women’s sexual reproductive health with Dr. Marni Greenwald and Dr. Elizabeth Wettick from Pitt’s Student Health Service. Student Government Board hosted the event as part of Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week. The students played a game reminiscent of “Jeopardy!”  that asked them questions related to sexually transmitted diseases, contraceptive care and maintaining a healthy sexual lifestyle. They were encouraged to ask questions about the topics presented during the game.

Wettick and Greenwald displayed images of emergency contraceptive care like the Plan B pill and ella, another morning-after alternative with a higher percentage of effectiveness after 72 hours of unprotected sex. Student Health is able to write prescriptions for ella, and Plan B does not require a prescription.

“People get all judgmental about people having unprotected sex,” Wettick said during the game. “But we’re not here preaching abstinence.”

Wettick and Greenwald also passed around a flyer containing information about feminine health items available through Student Health, including pregnancy tests for $6.

One student selected “Birth Control Methods for 200,” revealing the question “Birth control pills make you gain weight, fact or fiction?” Greenwald said this myth comes from the 1960s and 1970s, when birth control pills used to have higher doses of hormones.

“Weight gain is definitely one of the most common concerns that patients have when they come in to talk about contraception,” Greenwald said. “We know that there have been dozens and dozens and dozens of studies done on this, that taking modern birth control pills do not cause weight gain.”

Dr. Marni Greenwald (left) and Dr. Elizabeth Wettick (right) educated students about sexual health via a game of “Jeopardy!” at SGB’s Sexual Health Q&A event Thursday. (Photo by Thomas Yang | Visual Editor)

After discussing proper tampon use, a student from the audience asked if toxic shock syndrome — a life-threatening bacterial infection predominantly caused by superabsorbent tampons — happens frequently.

Wettick said she’s only seen one case of toxic shock syndrome during her practice, and she immediately recognized the symptoms, instructed the girl to remove her tampon and sent her to the emergency room for expedited treatment.

“I’m a big fan of the DivaCup,” Wettick said. “No one ever gets toxic shock from those.”

Although the only completely effective way to not get pregnant is to abstain from sex, Wettick said, she and Greenwald discussed the effectiveness of different measures to reduce the risk of pregnancy. They focused on both preventative contraception and emergency contraception, strongly advocating for intrauterine devices and ella. Women with access to these resources have a better chance of utilizing them, Greenwald said.

“Women who have emergency contraception on hand tend to use it,” she said.

The doctors also addressed the confusion many women have figuring out whether or not they have a STD. Often, women associate vaginal discharge with an STD, which is not always the case.

“Vaginal discharge, for sure, is the most common [symptom],” Wettick said. “[But] some discharge can be normal — that doesn’t necessarily indicate an STD.”

But often, women who have an STD are completely unaware because of its dormancy or invisible symptoms, meaning the STD is virtually undetectable. Greenwald and Wettick reminded the attendees of the resources Student Health has for people to safely get tested and encouraged they do so at least once a year.

“Mostly, we just want to make sure students understand that Student Health Service is here to serve them,” Wettick said. “We really do have very robust women’s health [services.]”

Maddie Guido, an SGB board member who helped organize the awareness week, agreed with the importance of knowing what services are available on campus, and said conversations about sexuality and sexual health are important too.

“If we can have 10 students who are more comfortable talking about sexual health or 10 students who walk away with sexual health resources that they didn’t have or didn’t know about before, then it will have been a success,” she said.