What Does Mean?

Common Questions

Teens have a ton of questions about sex, their bodies, relationships and lots more. We collected questions from local teens and had the experts give answers!

If we haven’t answered your question, contact us to submit a question!

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Your Body

Your breasts, vulva (outside of the vagina) or penis may not look like pictures you’ve seen, because no two bodies are alike! Bodies come in different shapes and sizes, and genitals are no different. There is no such thing as the “right way” for breasts, vulvas or penises to look. Keep in mind that many of the images you see in the media have been photoshopped (edited or airbrushed) to look a certain way.

It’s up to you. Some people choose to shave while others don’t like to. Both are okay. As long as you clean your genitals well in the shower, both options are safe and healthy. Don’t use harsh soap in your genital area and don’t douche.

No, because the penis isn’t a bone; however, it can definitely be injured. The erect penis is engorged with blood. Forceful bending of the erect penis during aggressive or vigorous sexual play can lead to serious injury. If you hear a loud pop and the penis becomes flaccid (soft), it may be injured. What should you do if you think this has happened to you or your partner? Head to the Emergency Room!

There are three openings in the genital region of the vagina. Closest to the front is the urethra, where urine (pee) comes out. In the middle is the vaginal opening. Toward the back is the anus, where solid waste (feces) comes out. Learn more about both female and male anatomy here.

Puberty is the time during adolescence when you become physically sexually mature and become physically capable of reproducing (getting pregnant and causing pregnancy). Puberty can start anywhere from around age 9 to age 14 (on average), with males usually starting a little later than females. There are lots of signs that puberty may be starting. Some common changes in both males and females include increased body hair, body odor, growth spurts, and changes in emotions.

Puberty is a little different for males and females, but some symptoms are the same. Everyone regardless of gender can expect to experience new body hair growth in the armpits and pubic area, body odor, changes in emotions, acne, and growth spurts.

For males, you can also expect growth of the penis and testicles, hair growth on your chest, more frequent erections and nocturnal emissions, a deeper voice, and changes in the size and shape of your face and chest.

For females, puberty includes the start of menstruation, growth of the breasts, and widening of the hips.

The age females start their menstrual period varies from person to person. On average, females can expect their first menstrual period between 12 and 15 years old, though some may start before or after that.

The hymen is a thin membrane that stretches around the opening of the vagina. The hymen doesn’t “cover” the vagina and it isn’t a good indicator of whether or not a person is a virgin because it can change over time.

The amount of semen during ejaculation averages about one-quarter to one full teaspoon, but can be more if ejaculation hasn’t happened in a while. The clear liquid that leaves the penis before ejaculation (usually during sexual arousal) is called pre-ejaculate which can also contain sperm. (Source)

Penises can be many different shapes and sizes. If your penis is about 5 inches or about as tall as a regular soda can when erect, then you have an averaged sized penis. Lots of males worry that their penis is too small, when in fact it’s perfectly normal.

The length of a non-erect penis doesn’t predict the size it will be when it is erect. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns, but don’t trust “enlargement” products that make unproven claims. They might even do permanent damage to your penis. (Source)

When you’re ready for a sexual partner, their needs and desires will be more much important than the size of your penis, anyway.

A yeast infection is a common infection caused by an overgrowth of candida yeast, which is a type of naturally occurring fungus. Yeast infections aren’t sexually transmitted. Although they most commonly occur in vaginas, they can occur in in any warm, moist part of the body and also occur in the penis, scrotum or in the mouth or throat. Oral yeast infections are called thrush.

A yeast infection may not be noticeable or it might have symptoms like itching, a thick white discharge or pain when having intercourse or urinating. Yeast infections are easy to cure with the right medications but they’re also easy to confuse with more serious infections or even STDs. Talk to a healthcare provider if you think you might have a yeast infection.

While it’s normal to have a vaginal discharge at different points during your menstrual cycle, you should see a healthcare provider about any changes that don’t seem normal for you. These include unusual or bad-smelling vaginal discharge, pain, burning or itching. Only a healthcare professional can tell you for sure whether or not you have bacterial vaginosis (BV for short). BV is an infection caused by overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria. It isn’t an STD but having multiple partners can increase your risk of having it. BV can be treated with antibiotics by a healthcare provider. Left untreated, BV can lead to other problems and put you at higher risk of other STDs.

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Birth Control & STDs

Smart question! It is super important to use a condom every time you have sex and that you use it correctly. That means knowing how to put one on and take one off. Here’s what you need to know:

These are the steps to correctly put a condom (external) on an erect penis:

  1. First take a look at the condom package (or wrapper). It should be sealed, clean and dry and you should be able to feel a little air bubble when you squeeze it. If the wrapper feels dry, stiff or sticky, throw it away! Now check the expiration date to make sure it hasn’t expired.
  2. Open the package with your fingers. Don’t use your teeth or sharp objects like scissors or you could damage the condom.
  3. Look at which way the condom unrolls (before placing on the penis) – the rim should be on the outside so that it looks like a little hat. You can unroll it a little bit to make sure it’s right side out.
  4. Gently squeeze the tip of condom with your fingers and place the rolled condom on head of penis. Leave a half-inch space at the tip of the condom to collect semen.
  5. Now, roll the condom all the way down the entire length of the penis, as far as it will go. It should cover the entire penis. If the condom doesn’t unroll easily – it is probably upside down. If it is upside down, then remove the condom, throw it away and try again using new condom. That’s it!

It’s also important to remove a condom correctly.

Here are the steps to safely take a condom off:

  1. Withdraw from your partner’s body before loss of erection. It helps to hold the base of the condom while doing this.
  2. Pull the condom off slowly, away from your partner, so semen doesn’t leak out or spill.
  3. Throw the condom away in a garbage can. Do not flush down the toilet (it will clog it).
  4. Remember that you can’t reuse condoms. A new condom should be used with every new sex act. If the penis gets soft (loses an erection) during sex, you should also stop and put on a new one.

Before you actually use a condom for sex, it is smart to practice putting a condom on your penis or on another penis-shaped object (like a banana, cucumber or small bottle) to make sure you understand how to do it. Remember that any kind of lubricant that has oil in it can cause latex condoms to break so never use Vaseline, baby oil or any type of lubricant that isn’t water or silicone-based with a condom.

No. This is absolutely untrue. Plan B works by preventing sperm from fertilizing the egg. It doesn’t harm or affect a pregnancy that has already happened, and it can’t “end” a pregnancy.

First, don’t panic. The vagina is only 3-5 inches deep and the cervix prevents anything from entering the uterus, so it can’t go far. You should be able to find and pull the condom out of your vagina with your fingers. If you have trouble, ask your partner for help.

Remember, though, that if a condom comes off during sex, you could be at risk for STDs and pregnancy. If you’re not using another method of birth control, you may want to consider emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy. If you don’t know your partner’s STD status, you should both get tested.

Sometimes. Birth control pills are often prescribed to help some people have more regular periods, and sometimes they can also cause you to miss your period. If you are using a method of birth control containing only progesterone (such as Depo-Provera, Norplant, or mini-pills), you may miss or fail to have a period, or your period may be very short and light. However, if there is any chance you may be pregnant and you’ve missed a period while using any form of hormonal birth control, you should talk to a healthcare provider.

There is no age requirement to buy condoms. Condoms can be bought at most drug stores, grocery stores and gas stations. Free condoms are also often available at many healthcare providers and clinics.

Unfortunately, yes. STDs do not always show symptoms, especially in females. Some of these STDs can have negative health effects – some of them very serious – if left untreated for too long. This is why it is very important to get tested often if you have sex with more than one partner, have sex with a new partner, and/or if you don’t always use a barrier method for protection each and every time you have sex.

If you think you may have an STD, you should see a healthcare provider as soon as possible to get tested. Click here to find a healthcare provider near you.

Most of the time the results of your tests are confidential (unless you use your parent’s health insurance) and many times, the testing is low cost or free.

Consider talking about your situation with someone you trust, such as a parent (or another adult), your partner or a close friend. You can trust a healthcare provider to discuss your concerns and your options. Try to stay calm until you learn your test results but get tested right away.

It isn’t uncommon to get razor bumps, pimples or an ingrown hair around your genitals. Most of the time, they’re nothing to be worried about, but you should see a healthcare provider if you’ve had unprotected sex and if you have bumps that hurt or burn; feel hard and lumpy; are open or oozing or appear after you’ve had unprotected sex. In fact, anytime you have a health concern or worry, the best thing to do is to get it checked out by a healthcare provider.

At some point in their lives, almost all people will have sex. The best time to learn about sex is before you’re sexually active. Sex education can teach young people about the best ways and methods to prevent unplanned pregnancy and STDs and helps them better understand their bodies and how to take care of themselves.

That’s a great question. If you’re having sex and want to prevent unplanned pregnancy, you probably want to use the most effective and reliable birth control (contraceptive) possible. A healthcare provider can help you decide which birth control method is the best choice for you. The “right” choice for you may not be what is perfect for your best friend. This fun video (will give you some information about your choices and you can learn about all the advantages and disadvantages of the different methods here.

Remember that abstinence (not having sex) is the best way to prevent pregnancy and STDs and no birth control method is effective unless you use it exactly as directed. No matter what birth control you use, you should also use a latex condom each and every time you have sex to protect against STDs.

You’re asking about the intrauterine device (called IUD for short), which is a really effective birth control method. This very small “T-shaped” plastic device is inserted through the vagina and cervix into the uterus. IUDs work by changing the lining of the uterus to prevent sperm from reaching an egg to cause a pregnancy – and they can work for up to 10 years! Learn more about the IUD here.

The internal condom (sometimes called a “female condom”) is a method of birth control that is inserted into the vagina. Like external condoms (which are put on an erect penis), it is known as a “barrier” birth control method. The condom puts up a block (or barrier) to prevent bodily fluids from touching a partner. Learn more about the internal condom and how to use it correctly here.

Emergency contraception is the same thing as the morning after pill. Often called EC for short, it’s a hormonal birth control method to prevent a pregnancy before it starts. EC is most effective if taken during the first 72 hours, but some forms of EC work if taken up to 5 days after sex. You can get EC from a clinic or healthcare provider or at most pharmacies without a prescription. Just ask someone at the pharmacy if you don’t see it on the shelves near the condoms. Since you’ve had unprotected sex, don’t delay – and then get tested for STDs!

HIV and AIDS aren’t the same thing. HIV (short for Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the infection that causes AIDS (short for Aquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). No cure currently exists for HIV or AIDS but with early diagnosis and medical treatment, someone with HIV can live nearly as long as someone who doesn’t have it. Left untreated, HIV can progress to AIDS. Without treatment, people with AIDS typically survive about 3 years.(Source)

Depo-Provera is the brand name of a type of birth control “shot” that contains hormones to prevent pregnancy. It is given by a healthcare provider (in your arm or buttocks) every 12 weeks. It’s 97-99% effective at preventing pregnancy. Some people do experience weight gain or other side effects when using hormonal birth control, but not everybody does. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether Depo is right for you.

If you have a cold sore or fever blister on your mouth, you should see a healthcare provider within a couple days after you notice it. Cold sores and fever blisters can be symptoms of herpes. Even if you’ve never had sex, you can get herpes from an infected person by coming into contact with their saliva or touching any area infected with it.

Cold sores can sometimes resemble harmless canker sores, so check with a healthcare provider if you notice any new sores around your mouth.

Human papillomavirus virus, (HPV) is a very common sexually transmitted virus with more than 100 different types. Some types of HPV cause genital warts, while others don’t. Most HPVs are shed by your body naturally, but there are also some strains of HPV that can lead to cervical, penis, anal and oral cancers. The most important thing to know about HPV is that none of the strains can be cured, but the types that may cause cancer CAN be prevented with vaccines given by a healthcare provider. Learn more about HPV and how to lower your risk.

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Communications and Relationships

If you’re being pressured to have sex – whether your partner is asking for you to have sex indirectly – or trying to convince you do it in other ways – that’s not okay if you’ve already told them that you’re not ready. Healthy relationships require honest and open communication, so your partner should understand and respect that you don’t want to have sex. The only thing you should have to say is “I am not ready to have sex” or “No. I don’t want to have sex.” You should never, ever have sex because you feel pressured into it, or even just because you want to be “nice”. It’s your body so it’s your choice. There are a lot of resources to help you feel great about your decision. Click here for information about relationships and consent.

Communication is very important between kids and parents. Many parents and guardians are happy when their teens come to them with questions about sex, but others may find it awkward. If you haven’t ever talked with your mom, dad or guardian about sex, it might be because they feel funny talking about it.

If you are afraid, uncomfortable or unable to have this conversation with your parents about sex and you want birth control, minors 13+ can get birth control from clinics without parental consent if they can pay for it themselves. Some healthcare providers provide birth control to teenagers at low or no cost. Click here for some helpful advice.

Click to learn more about your rights and relationships. Click here to find a healthcare provider.

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Mental and Emotional Health

Depression can be different for everyone. Some signs of depression include feeling sad for days or weeks at a time, feeling numb, or overwhelmed, having trouble concentrating and not enjoying things that used to make you happy. Depression is a very real health condition but it is treatable. If you think you might be depressed, you should talk to a healthcare provider. Learn more about the signs and symptoms here.

Start by talking to a friend, trusted adult or a healthcare provider who will listen to your concerns and take your feelings seriously. Healthcare providers can give you resources for confidential (private) support. Learn more about resources for depression.

First, try not to judge your friend. Nobody chooses to be depressed. If your friend is hurting themselves, tell a trusted adult right away. Encourage your friend to talk to a trusted adult or a healthcare provider who can give them resources to get better. We have a list of 24/7 crisis resources that you can share with your friend.

If you have thoughts about hurting yourself or you are already hurting yourself, you need to talk to someone right away. Cutting and other acts of “self harm” are often due to depression and anxiety and a healthcare provider can get you the help you need. If you’re having thoughts about suicide, you need to get in touch with someone right now! You can either talk to a parent or other trusted adult or call a 24/7 crisis hotline for free help and advice. You are not alone.

Practicing self-care, getting enough sleep and living a healthy lifestyle can all help you protect your mental and emotional health. Physical health and emotional health are different but connected but taking care of your body can help you take care of your mind. Do things that make you happy, learn ways to reduce stress, eat healthy foods, get exercise when you can and you’ll be off to a great start. Learn more about how to reduce stress.

Self-care means to “take care of your mental, emotional and physical health.” This looks different for everyone. It means working to develop habits that are healthy for you and that make you happy, too. Try taking a walk, playing with a pet, taking a long shower, listening to music, drawing or any other healthy activity that makes you happy. Know your risk for depression and take care of you!

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Drinking & Drugs

No. Vapor products like e-cigarettes and hookahs still have nicotine, the dangerous chemical in tobacco. These products, even if they say they are “nicotine-free”, may not be and are still full of other chemicals that very bad for you and can be addictive.

If your friend is being dangerous or is at risk of harming themselves, talk to a trusted adult immediately. Encourage your friend to talk to a trusted adult or healthcare professional. Be supportive and nonjudgmental. Check out our resources here.

Smoking causes all sorts of serious health problems. It can cause lung, mouth and other cancers. It can cause major dental problems, breathing and heart problems. And it’s an expensive habit and very addictive. It makes your clothes and your hair smelly. It’s also illegal for anyone under 18 to purchase or smoke tobacco products like cigarettes. Learn more about the risks of drugs and alcohol here.

If you start relying on drugs or alcohol to get through the day, you may have an addiction. If alcohol or drugs are interfering in your ability to do well in school or has affected your relationships with your friends or family, you should seek help. If you don’t feel like you are able to quit on your own, there are lots of resources available. Check them out here.

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Pregnancy and Teen Parents

If you think you may be pregnant, you can take a urine pregnancy test available from most drug, grocery and dollar stores. If the test confirms you are pregnant, you should see a healthcare provider as soon as possible. Click here to find a healthcare provider near you.

Testing for STDs is low cost or free at many clinics. Results of your STD tests are confidential. Confidential means that your doctor cannot give out your personal information, health information, or sexual history – unless someone else is at risk (STDs, threat of violence), you are a risk to yourself (suicide), a court orders them to give the information, or you are being physically or sexually abused. If you are using your parents health insurance for STD testing the results are confidential- but when insurance is billed, your parent(s) may receive a letter showing what tests were run or what medication was billed. Title X clinics have special funding so that you don’t have to use your parents insurance.

Consider talking about your situation with someone you trust, such as a parent (or another adult), your partner or a close friend. You can trust a healthcare provider to discuss your concerns and your options. Try to stay calm until you learn your test results but get tested right away.

Yes. If she has a healthy pregnancy, there’s no reason why she and her partner can’t have sex. The thick mucus plug that seals the cervix helps to guard the baby against bacteria. The amniotic sac and the strong muscles of her uterus (womb) also keep the baby safe. Even though the mucous plug and amniotic sac are there to protect the baby, an STD can cause serious complications for both her and the baby during pregnancy. Obstetricians – medical doctors who take care of pregnant women – are terrific sources of information about what women should (and shouldn’t) do to keep themselves and their growing babies healthy during pregnancy.

Great question! That is totally false. Anytime you have vaginal sex (meaning penis-in-vagina sex) without using birth control, you take a chance on getting pregnant. It doesn’t matter whether it is your first time or your 100th time! You can even get pregnant before you get your first period. Getting pregnant is related to ovulation and because a female can ovulate (release an egg from her ovary) even before having her first period, it is possible to become pregnant. If you’re going to have vaginal sex, you must use birth control and a condom or risk getting pregnant or an STD.

That is totally false! It is possible to get pregnant, even while you’re on your period. Even though ovulation (the time when females are more likely to become pregnant) doesn’t usually happen during the menstrual period, it definitely can. Every day of every month, you can get pregnant if you have vaginal sex without using birth control.

Be as supportive as you can. Even if you two aren’t in a relationship, this affects both of you. Communicate with each other about telling parents and what options you want to pursue. Respect her opinions and know that she will have the final decision in what happens with the pregnancy. Encourage her to talk to a trusted adult and a healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Birth spacing is making sure you don’t get pregnant again right away after having a baby. There can be health risks to the baby when pregnancies are too close together (also called “repeat births” when babies are born less than two years apart). The best way to space births at least two years apart is to either not have sex (remaining abstinent), or use the most reliable form of birth control if you are having sex. Check out our top tips for teen parents.

Encourage your friend to talk to a trusted adult (this doesn’t have to be a parent) and a healthcare provider. Be as supportive and nonjudgmental as you can and check out our list of resources here. Offer to go to her healthcare provider appointment with her if she is nervous. Let her know that you care and are there for her. Then be there for her, whether she chooses abortion, adoption or parenting.

Absolutely not! Some teenage parents find it easier to switch to home or online schooling, or to a school specifically for teen parents, but you should talk to a school counselor and a parent or another trusted adult to find out what option is best for you. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to continue your education. Staying in school will help you take the best care of yourself and your baby in the future. Get some great tips for teen parents here.

Yes; however, in Ohio, if you are under 18 years old, the state requires that one of your parents give permission for your abortion. However, you can ask a juvenile judge for a judicial bypass to excuse you from these requirements. For more information, click here.

There are two reasons for this. The first reason is that some birth control methods are more effective and easier to use than others. The second reason is that birth control methods can fail if not used exactly as directed. Learn everything you need to know about birth control methods here. And remember, abstinence is the only 100% effective method of birth control but it also has to be used 100% of the time to work.

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No. Most vaginas have a hymen – a thin stretchy piece of skin tissue, sort of like a rubber band – that covers part of the outer rim of the vaginal opening. Some females have very little hymen tissue and some have a lot. Some hymens are very thin and others are thick. Any blood or pain that happens during first-time sex is because the hymen gets stretched or slightly torn. But not everybody experiences this. A hymen can stretch due to sports activities like riding a bike or gymnastics. Using tampons or even inserting fingers into the vagina can also stretch it. Bleeding or not bleeding the first time a female has sex isn’t a sign of whether or not she is a virgin. That is a myth. Another myth is that hymens can grow back. They can’t!

No – at least you shouldn’t. If you are having anal sex and you notice bleeding it is probably from tiny tears in the anus or rectum caused by friction. If you notice bleeding, you may want to stop having sex and try again later once the tearing is healed because those tiny tears make transmission of STDs like HIV more likely. To avoid tearing that may cause bleeding it is important to use plenty of lubrication (water or silicone based lubricants that are safe for condoms can be purchased at drug stores), make sure all the muscles are relaxed, and go slowly. Anal sex does not need to hurt or be uncomfortable if you take these steps.

Not really. Both males and females have special mechanisms that prevent this from happening. You may feel like you have to pee, but in females this is most likely caused by stimulation of certain spots in the vagina. You may leak some pee if this sensation is really strong, but it is unlikely that you will empty your entire bladder during sex. It is important to pee after sex to help prevent UTI’s (urinary tract infections) that are often caused by bacteria from the vagina or anus getting into the urethra.

No. A female cannot become pregnant by swallowing semen. The digestive system and the reproductive system are two different sets of organs that do not connect. Semen that is swallowed will be processed in the body the same way food or drink would be.

It is important to note, however, that STDs can be spread through oral sex, so always use a condom or other barrier method for oral sex if you and your partner have not been tested for STDs.

Yes, and maybe. Some people are definitely allergic to the latex found in condoms, dental dams and other items made of latex (such as gloves). Luckily, there are barrier protection methods made of alternative materials (such as polyurethane) that you can use instead.

It is possible to have sensitivity to semen in the vagina, but doctors and experts don’t agree on whether this sensitivity is actually a true allergy.

Only you can decide when you are ready for sex.

It’s normal for people to start thinking about sex in their teenage years. Puberty makes people curious and more aware of their sexual feelings and other people’s sexuality. But just because you think about sex doesn’t mean that you are ready to have sex.

Deciding to have sex is a very personal and important choice. You may find it helpful to talk with someone you trust, like a parent, friend, healthcare provider, youth counselor or another person who truly cares about you.

It is important to have a healthy, trusting and faithful relationship with a partner before you have any kind of sexual experience. It is also important to know how to protect yourself against pregnancy and STDs. The time to plan for this is before you start having sex.

Exploring your body is very natural and it’s ok to be curious. For many people, this comes in the form of masturbation, and many people watch or look at pornography to help with sexual arousal or because they are curious about sex. As long as what you are viewing is legal and safe and on a private device in your own home, you’re not doing anything wrong from a legal and healthcare point of view. What you do have to keep in mind is that porn isn’t really like real life at all and you should never compare yourself or anyone else to the actors you see in videos or movies.

While there isn’t a set amount of how much masturbation or pornography is “too much”, any habit that interferes with your daily life or relationships isn’t healthy. You may want to talk to a healthcare provider about it. Nothing you say is going to shock them.

Yes. Sexual orientation is very personal and natural, in any form! There are lots of resources on the internet for LGBTQ teens. Remember that regardless of your sexual orientation you are worthy of love, you are normal, you are awesome! Check out our LGBTQ tab for more information.

At some point in their lives, almost all people will have sex. The best time to learn about sex is before you’re sexually active. Sex education can teach young people about the best ways and methods to prevent unplanned pregnancy and STDs and helps them better understand their bodies and how to take care of themselves.

No, it isn’t. Different types of sex ed programs are taught but the most basic types of programs for teens are:

Abstinence-Only programs teach abstinence (not having sex) as the only 100% effective way of preventing pregnancy and STDs. They usually do not teach about ways to prevent pregnancy or STDs if you choose to have sex. These programs may have some information on anatomy and relationships. Often, they use “fear-based” ways to convince young people to not have sex until they’re married. Abstinence-only sex ed has not been proven to help teens prevent pregnancy or STDs.

Abstinence-Plus (sometimes called “abstinence-based” programs) may include some limited information about contraception and condoms but they still stress abstinence as the only moral choice for teens. They usually do not include LGBTQ topics or any sexual relationships outside of heterosexual marriage. Some also use “scare” tactics.

Comprehensive Sex Ed (also called “evidence-based” or “real” sex ed) teaches young people about abstinence and mutual monogamy (having sex with only one other person) as the best methods to prevent STDs and unplanned pregnancy, but they also teach about correct use of birth control and condoms using medically accurate information. Other information about things like sexual orientation and gender identity, healthy relationships, how mental health can affect sexual health – and more – is provided. 216Teens supports evidence-based, medically accurate comprehensive sex ed as the most effective type of program to help young people prevent unplanned pregnancy and STDs – now and in the future.