8 Really Easy Tips For Taking Care Of Your Sexual Health This Year

You probably get plenty of reminders to exercise often or eat your veggies (thanks, Mom). You probably haven't heard many sexual health tips because they can be harder to casually slip into conversation. Just because a reminder to get tested isn't slipped in with the eat your veggies advice, it doesn't mean it's any less important. Taking steps to be sexually healthy is easy to procrastinate when we have so much else going on in our lives — especially when fall rolls around. We're moving into a hectic time of year with back-to-school season, the holidays approaching, and more. While you're picking up new school supplies and laying out your holiday travel schedule, why not take some simple steps to be a sexually healthier you?

Having good sexual health practices may seem complicated, but it's actually simpler than you might think. If you make a few tiny adjustments right now, like setting an alarm on your phone, you're setting yourself up for a healthier year. Basically, set it and forget it — do a little work now so you can be safe and healthy all year long.

Get tested
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If you have an established relationship with a primary care physician or OB-GYN, you can and should talk with them candidly and honestly about your sexual activity. They can help you understand what testing you should be getting and with what regularity. If you don't have a primary care physician or if you don't have insurance, there may be a free or low-cost sexual health clinic or Planned Parenthood in your area.

The CDC recommends women under 25 should be tested for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia annually. They also recommend adults and adolescents should be tested for HIV at least once, but you can discuss frequency with your physician or clinician. If you've always wondered when and what you should get tested for, the answer is different for everyone. It can be based on gender, sexual orientation, and even your age — a clinician can better recommend what specific testing you would benefit from.

Set a calendar alert to remind you to schedule an OB-GYN appt

If you're not literally holding your phone right now as you read this, it's probably within reach. So, set another reminder on your phone to remind you to schedule an appointment with your OB-GYN, get tested for sexually transmitted infections, schedule a Pap smear, or simply to ask any questions you have about your sexual health. It's easy to put off physicals and regular exams in the blur of life's other responsibilities. Setting a reminder can help you check it off your list and be the healthiest you can be.

Stock up on condoms

If you use condoms, or any other barrier method of protection like dental dams, make sure to stock up so that you never find yourself without them. If you're a college student, chances are your campus health center gives out condoms for free! Place them in an accessible place in your room for the easiest access when you most need them.

Set a reminder on your phone to take you birth control pill

If you take a birth control pill, taking it at the same time everyday is vital. Carefully decide what time of day you'll be able to regularly take it. Check out your new class schedule and see what might work for you. You might consider taking it with a meal you have at the same time every day like dinner or breakfast. Sometimes a meal-time is a better alternative if you don't go to bed or wake up at the same time every day. Set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to take it. You can even set two for an extra reminder!

Buy emergency contraception ahead of time.
Jovo Jovanovic/ Stocksy

It's never fun to pay for things that you don't need right now, but consider ordering a box of emergency contraception, like Plan B from Amazon with your next paycheck. That way if you find yourself in a pinch, you can grab it out of your closet instead of hauling yourself all the way to the drugstore or finding yourself without the funds for it. Note that time is of the essence here, since emergency contraception is most effective when taken immediately. Planned Parenthood says morning after pills work best when you take them within 72 hours (three days) after unprotected sex, but you can take them up to five days after if necessary. It's always safe to have a plan b and, well, an extra box of Plan B.

It's important to note that the brand Plan B is not considered effective if your BMI is over 25. In that case, the brand ella is a safer choice. Planned Parenthood says, " Ella is the most effective type of morning-after pill. You can take ella up to 120 hours (five days) after unprotected sex, and it works just as well on day five as it does on day one." You need a prescription for it from a nurse or a doctor.

Get some new lube and make it accessible

Something that could make your life a lot easier is having lube ready to go. You may not always need or want it, but there's no harm in being prepared.

Set aside time to clean your sex toys
Vera Lair/ Stocksy

You may have heard it's important to clean your sex toys after using them each time, however you are also supposed to intensely sanitize sex toys every three months. According to Babeland, a sex toy company with a focus on sexual health, you should sanitize silicone dildos after every use with a body-safe sex toy sanitizer and boil them every three months or between each instance of oral, anal and vaginal sex. According to Babeland, you can boil sex toys without motors for 10 minutes whereas toys with a motor should not be boiled and instead placed on the top rack of your dishwasher.

Save other important numbers into your phone

Sometimes the reason people procrastinate making exam appointments is simply because they don't know the number to the office. To save yourself the hassle of hunting down your doctor's name, office, and phone number on the internet, simply save their number in your phone right now. In fact, save all the important health numbers you need including your doctor, pharmacy, specialists, and emergency numbers like your campus's office of victim services.

If you're taking steps to be sexually healthy, pat yourself on the back. This is vital part of your health and even taking small steps toward feeling healthy and in control of your body goes a long way.

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