Sex Edition: What to do after unprotected sex

By Marissa Meredyth

Wake up. Where am I?

Roll to the right. Who is that?

The regrettable and unwelcome… Wake up. Where am I?

Roll to the right. Who is that?

The regrettable and unwelcome realizations that often come the morning after unprotected sex can be overwhelming for some students. Whether a crime was committed, inhibitions were lowered, there was poor planning or a regular birth control method failed, figuring out what needs to be done can be confusing and frightening.

But that does not always have to be the case. Katie Clark, health center manager at Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, said there are many resources available to help both women and men help after unprotected sex.

A senior at Pitt, who wished to remain anonymous because he feared being stigmatized, talked about the fears felt after having unprotected sex during a threesome.

“One of the girls insisted on going downstairs to get a condom,” he said. “The other girl didn’t and jumped right on me.”

“I was definitely worried in the morning,” he said. “I asked her if she was on birth control, and she said she was.”

A common concern for both sexes is unwanted pregnancy. Pitt health-care providers said emergency contraception is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse.

Emergency contraception is not an abortion pill — instead, it is made from one of the hormones commonly found in birth control pills, progestin. The hormone keeps a woman’s ovaries from releasing eggs. If there is no egg to join with sperm, then pregnancy can not occur.

Dr. Elizabeth Wettick, medical director of Pitt Student Health Service, said there are currently four FDA-approved products available for emergency contraception.

“Three of these products are approved for preventing pregnancy when taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex, though they can be used up to 120 hours after unprotected sex, albeit with decreased efficacy,” Wettick said.

Wettick said one product available, Ella, can be taken up to five days after without any loss of efficacy.

Some emergency contraception pills, like Plan B One-Step or Next Choice, are available without prescription to women and men 18 and older. Ella is only available with a prescription.

Local pharmacies, such as Rite Aid and CVS, carry emergency contraception pills that range from $39.99 to $49.99. Pitt’s Student Health Pharmacy offers an emergency contraception pill for $34.

Clark said Planned Parenthood charges $25, and if a student is willing to stay and meet with a clinician it can be even cheaper, depending upon the student’s income.

While some birth control pills also contain progestin — a hormone found in emergency contraceptives — normal birth control pills don’t make an adequate substitution for emergency contraception..

Unless they are under direct supervision of a physician, Clark suggested that students purchase a pill designated for emergency contraception, rather than take multiple doses of their regular birth control.

“We generally don’t recommend that patients do that,” Clark said.

In addition to pregnancy, many students also worry about becoming infected with a sexually transmitted infection. Clark noted that running to a clinic to be tested the morning after unprotected sex might not reveal STIs because some take longer to show up on a test.

The anonymous student said he was lucky and had scheduled a doctor’s appointment for a few weeks after the unprotected sex. He said his test came back clean.

Clark said the two most common STIs are gonorrhea and chlamydia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2008 that there are between 1,000 to 3,000 chlamydia cases per 100,000 people aged 15 to 24 in Allegheny County. There are more than 600 gonorrhea cases per 100,000 people for the same age group in Allegheny County.

“If there is any concern the sexual partner had an STI, then it would be a good idea to make an appointment for STI testing,” Wettick said.

Clark said suggested students get tested about two weeks after unprotected sex, unless they experience symptoms sooner.

Gonorrhea can take between two and seven days to show on a test, whereas chlamydia takes one to two weeks.

According to, three out of four women and half of all men with chlamydia have no symptoms, and four out of five women and one out of 10 men with gonorrhea have no symptoms.

For men fearing a swab test, which would collect samples by swabbing inside the penis, Clark said that Planned Parenthood normally uses urine testing instead.

Another thing to keep in mind is HIV, which can take up to three months to show on a test. Clark suggested that, in addition to getting tested two weeks after, students also get tested three months after unprotected sex.

Pennsylvania ranked seventh in the United States and its territories for cumulative number of AIDS diagnoses in 2008, with 38,217.

The Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force offers free and anonymous HIV testing and counseling. Its office, located on 5913 Penn Ave. in East Liberty, is open for testing six days a week.

An oral swab test is generally administered and yields results in seven to 10 days. Rapid testing is also offered certain days of the week, giving preliminary results in less than 30 minutes.

Students who pay their student health fee have most testing covered at Student Health, Wettick said. HIV testing is done separately in the Office of Health Education with a rapid oral swab.

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