Practicing “safe sex” by using birth control only protects you from becoming pregnant. Birth control methods, such as IUDs or the implant, do not protect you from the risk of getting STDs. Therefore, it is important to add precautions beyond the realm of birth control to protect your body from contracting an STD. We have listed out 5 facts about STDs that are very important and not talked about enough.
STD Can Be More Common and Harmful for Women
It is the simple anatomical structure that makes women more susceptible to getting STDs and men more likely to transfer them. Also, STDs can have more detrimental effects on women versus men. Some STDs, if gone untreated, can cause severe inflammation and sometimes even infertility for women. Also, if a woman contracted syphilis or herpes while pregnant, these diseases could be deadly to the infant.
You Can Contract an STD Without Having Intercourse
STDs can easily, and are actually often, transmitted through oral sex since sexually transmitted infections are carried in semen and vaginal fluids. It is very important to take precautions before engaging in oral sex.
There is Not a Cure For All STDs
Unfortunately, not all STDs can be cured. They can, however, be treated. It is important to get tested regularly for STDs because an early diagnosis and early treatment can significantly lessen the severity of the STD’s effects on your health.
Not All STDs are Painful or Visible
Many times, STDs are present without any warning signs. Since all STDs don’t show evident symptoms, you should go to a gynecologist for a pap smear annually.
Condoms Don’t Prevent STDs 100% of the Time
It is a wise idea to use condoms to lower the chances of contracting an STD, but condoms are not a guarantee preventative of STDs. Essentially, you can never be fully protected from contracting an STD from a person who has one, but you should take all preventative measures to protect your health.
At A Step Ahead East Tennessee, we are dedicated to educating and helping women who need birth control resources but cannot afford them due to circumstance, lack of insurance, or financial need. Visit our website to learn more information about our services. If you would like to support A Step Ahead East Tennessee by volunteering or donating, visit the “Get Involved” tab on our website.
There have been many discrepances in the past between the technicalities of birth control and abortion to not address the definitive differences. Abortion is fundamentally defined as the termination of a pregnancy, whereas contraception is defined as methods used to prevent pregnancy from occurring. With that being said, let us dive deeper into how contraception is vastly different from abortion.
Nexplanon is an implant that is inserted just under the skin on the bicep area. This implant releases hormones so that ovulation does not occur, meaning that the ovary does not release any eggs into the uterus. Therefore, the sperm cannot reach the egg for fertilization to occur. Put into other words, Nexplanon does not allow for the two sex cells to merge to begin forming a fetus, so there is no interruption or termination of a pregnancy.
Liletta, Kyleena, and Skyla are all types of hormonal IUDs. These act similarly to the implant since they release hormones that prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs during what would typically be the ovulation period. The main difference is that a hormonal IUD is a “T” shaped device placed in the uterus instead of the small bar placed in the arm. Again, since the egg is not released, no fertilization starts or ends - it is simply prevented.
Non-Hormonal IUDs, such as Paragard, do not release hormones, so ovulation still occurs. However, this method still does not allow the egg and sperm to meet because this IUD is covered in copper which acts as a spermicide. This type of IUD kills the sperm before it can reach the egg. Even though there are no hormones involved in this method, the act of a spermicide prevents pregnancy, meaning there is no chance of terminating a pregnancy.
Birth control prevents pregnancy - it does not end it. In simple terms, you cannot terminate what does not exist. This is just a brief overview of an abundance of research that has been conducted on this topic. We hope this explanation has brought light to the truth about this common misconception. If you have more questions on this topic or think that we can help you in any other way, please feel free to reach out to us. We’d love to help you however we can.
Long-acting birth control is sometimes referred to as LARC, which stands for “long-acting reversible contraceptive.” Aside from being extremely effective, these birth control methods have many benefits ranging from convenience to limited side effects. Take a look at the benefits of the specific long-acting birth controls methods we offer.
IUD (Intrauterine Device)
IUDs are small T-shaped devices that are placed in the uterus to prevent fertilization of the eggs. These devices, once inserted, can remain in the uterus for 3 to 10 years, depending on whether it is a hormonal or copper IUD. Therefore, IUDs are extremely low maintenance as you can essentially forget about it once it is inserted. The effectiveness rate of IUDs are over 99%, so you can rest assured knowing you have the utmost protection when choosing one of these devices. These devices have been known to lighten the flow of periods and relieve severe cramps in many women. Plus, if you ever decide you want to try to get pregnant, you can have the device removed at any time, and you regain fertility very quickly.
The contraceptive implants are small devices about the size of a matchstick, that are inserted underneath the skin near the bicep. It releases progestin into the body that prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs. The benefits of this device are very similar to those of the IUD. The implant’s effectiveness rate is over 99%, it can lighten periods and cramps, can easily be removed, and you can regain fertility very quickly. The implant can stay in your arm for up to 3 years, so it is also very low maintenance and manageable.
The Depo-Provera shot is a quarterly injection that prevents pregnancy. The shot is typically administered by a doctor or nurse, but in some cases, the shots can be sent home with you to administer yourself which maximizes its convenience. Many women have reported lighter periods when using the shot. If you decide to try for a baby, you will regain fertility fairly quickly after stopping the shots, but it may take between 9 and 10 months for your body to fully readjust. Since you only have to get the shot 4 times per year, it is also considered a very low maintenance birth control method.
At A Step Ahead East Tennessee, LARC birth controls methods are the only methods we offer coverage for, due to their high effectiveness rates, the little maintenance they require, and the health benefits they offer. Contact us today or visit our website for more information on how we can help you get the birth control you need at this time in your life.
At A Step Ahead, we cover all costs of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) for any woman. Our mission is to maximize women’s potential in society, so we offer amazing resources to help women reach their goals. The LARC methods we cover the costs for are IUDs, Depo-Provera shots, and sub-dermal implants.
Since we are a nonprofit organization, we significantly benefit from volunteers in our community. It is simple to get involved and trust us when we say that you will love the feeling of making such an impact on so many women’s lives. You can find more information about the volunteer opportunities we offer by emailing email@example.com or visiting our website and clicking the “Volunteer Sign Up” link under the “Get Involved” tab.
Our entire organization is funded by donors, and they are the only reason so many women’s lives are changed daily. This community is filled with kind people who share the same passion we do, and for that, we are so grateful and proud to represent East Tennessee. If you or your business or organization would like to make a donation to help us carry out our mission, you can do so on our website by clicking the “Donate Now” link under the “Get Involved” tab. You can choose to either make a one-time donation or a recurring donation. Any donation, big or small, means so much to us as we see each donation as changing a woman’s life.
You can also join fundHER by donating $25 a month for 12 months. By choosing to join fundHER, you will be supporting medical services, health provider training, education programs, and transportation for all women who need it. Once you become a donor, you will receive a welcome box, a quarterly progress update, recognition on fundHER platforms, and you could also receive personalized thank you cards from actual patients whose lives changed thanks to your donation.
Our mission is to remove barriers to LARC and provide women a step ahead to maximize their potential in East Tennessee. No matter how you choose to get involved, know that you are helping to change women’s lives for the better.
Katie Heatherly has a passion for connecting women from all walks of life and in all stages of
their journey to A Step Ahead East Tennessee. She is a valuable asset on our Development
Committee. Now a stay-at-home mom, but previously a Surgical First Assist for a Neurosurgical
group, Katie has been heavily involved in making sure our events are a success. Learn more
about Katie below!
My dear friend Robyn Askew introduced me to an A Step Ahead at a meeting in February 2016.
Fundamentally, empowering women appeals to me. For so long, women were not given the
opportunity to see their dreams realized. In 2019, there are still so many women who could
offer so many of their talents, but are unable to because of an unplanned pregnancy.
Our need at ASAFET is great, and in order to meet that demand we need the funding to help
women in need. I would ask people to consider joining fundHer an amazing way to give the gift
of 5 years of birth control to any woman that wants it -for just $25 a month. Someday, I’m
confident that would lead to a headline raving about how ASAFET has served thousands and
thousands of women!
We love being able to share our board member stories to provide a window into our organization and why we all feel passionately about LARC, our patients, and our mission. Without further ado, meet Erica Lyon, CCE, MPH! She’s a published author (The Big Book of Birth), a health educator, and a maternal child health and parenting expert. This multi-hyphenate is our interim president who has been on the board for more than three years now, from the point when A Step Ahead was first getting started in East Tennessee. Given her background in maternal child health, it was a perfect fit. Learn more about Erica and her passion for our mission and vision in her own words.
To date, LARCs are one of the best birth control options to be developed. I am a big believer in equalizing health opportunity and creating equity in life’s playing field. Not every female gets the same chances or support in life and when it comes to carrying the cost of reproduction I have seen too many times in my career how simple timing of a pregnancy, or cost of birth control, or lack of access to healthcare affects newborn and maternal outcomes. Every parent deserves the joy of a supported pregnancy and parenting experience; birth control access is a key to healthy babies and moms. I will always be an advocate for mothers to have what they need because if we take care of mothers, we take care of babies. This means taking care of women before they become mothers, too.
I originally joined the education committee, as I am a huge believer in people having solid information and support to make decisions by. I don’t want to make peoples decisions for them-I want them to take responsibility for their own decisions by having the full information and support to do so. One thing I really want to achieve is uniting the community around this service. There is so much division, misunderstanding and polarization around women’s health right now. The reality is preventing unwanted or mistimed pregnancy, in the narrow focus we provide, is a point of unification and healthy focus for everyone. Following reproductive justice concepts of support for all women is the way forward. We are doing one small thing -in the whole spectrum of what can be done-that is powerful for women’s health and that everyone can agree on.
Most people do not realize how many barriers there are for women to get effective safe birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Things that most folks take for granted are serious barriers to health care for many.
For example, privacy in rural areas is a problem. If you are a 19-year-old working after high school but were raised in heavily religious environment, you may not want anyone seeing you go to the local health clinic as you may see someone you know.
Distance is an issue if one person in a relationship needs the car for work and the other can’t get to a health care provider. Distance is shown to even just be a psychological barrier.
Cost is serious problem as LARCs, while being cheapest long term, can have significant upfront cost for most-a few hundred out of pocket is a real barrier for many East Tennesseans. Cost can be barrier just because someone doesn’t know what their benefits include. We have many clients that are actually eligible for free birth control via their benefits, but they don’t know.
Once they hear from us, they can get free birth control, the psychological barrier is gone and then it turns out they could have gotten for free all along. We facilitate access in many ways whether it be transportation, privacy, cost, literacy level, or psychological barriers.
Basic information is an issue as there are many false perceptions about how LARC works and how safe and effective it is. A key point in this is that women focused interventions are one of the few we know that are effective long term.
My long-term goal with this organization is that we can see significant drops in the NAS rates in our area as a result of our hard work. NAS babies are taking a huge toll on families and the community at large and will need extensive financial and physiological support and resources. We need to focus on prevention for the benefit of our whole state economy. I think the missing piece in our states focus on education; which is great-is that there is a second "leg" to supporting a strong economy. People must be healthy. Once you have a healthy educated population you are unstoppable. I am a true believer that all of us are interconnected in our functioning in society-like a human chain- and that all of us are only as strong as the weakest link in that chain of existence.
There are so many ways to help. If you work in a facility where your staff or client base needs to know about us, have us come do an education session or training. If you can be a Founding member and pledge at a Founders level for 4 years this gives us an ability to serve more women. If you can’t financially contribute at that level, then becoming small donor is vital to our continued service. Helping us table at events or helping us reach anyone who may benefit from our service is good. Providers can help by contracting with us to provide services in ways that meet the needs of financially challenged or at-risk populations.
Imagine your donation money of $300 concretely changing someone's life for the better for five years just by buying them time to grow and learn? It is a very practical tangible intervention that really works and as we see from multiple studies throughout our country and around the world.
An IUD is a T-shaped device that is only about an inch long and wide. IUD stands for intrauterine device, which is a form of long-acting, reversible, contraception. If you were to get an IUD, your doctor would perform a small procedure while you are awake to insert this device into your uterus. This application should not take more than five minutes. So what does an IUD do, and what are the different types to choose from?
A hormonal IUD is a device that, once inserted into the uterus, releases progestin. Progestin is a hormone that essentially tells your body that you are pregnant. Therefore, it prevents your ovaries from releasing an egg when you are scheduled to ovulate. A perk to this specific type of IUD is that it can lighten your period and cramps or even stop them altogether. However, some women report having heavy periods at first and some frustrating period irregularities to follow. This IUD can remain inserted for up to five years, so there is no time-consuming keep-up. It has a pregnancy prevention rate of over 99% so it is just as effective, if not more, than other birth control options.
Non-hormonal or Copper IUD
This particular IUD is inserted the same way and in the same place as the hormonal IUD but uses different tactics to prevent pregnancy. The copper that is on this IUD acts as a spermicide because it is lethal to the sperm. Since this IUD does not contain hormones, you should not experience many changes or irregularities in your menstrual cycle. However, some women report having more severe cramps and heavier periods for the few months following the IUD application. It has the same pregnancy prevention rate of over 99% as the hormonal IUD. Plus, this particular IUD can remain inserted for up to ten years.
If you have an IUD and decide you are ready to get pregnant, the removal process is quite simple. You do NOT have to keep the IUD in for the full-time they are advertised to last. Keep in mind that both types of IUDs do not prevent STDs or HIV. If you think an IUD would be right for you at this time in your life, consult your doctor and call us at 865-657-8372 to schedule an appointment, or fill out our appointment interest form to learn more about how we can cover the cost of your IUD.
It may not sound like a logical fit for an advertising CEO to sit on the board for A Step Ahead, and though her path to us was not linear, Courtney Herda is a passionate member of the board, assisting in a wide variety of marketing roles. Meet Courtney below!
When people ask me how I ended up on the board, I always have to say, “Well, it’s kind of a funny story.” My marketing agency, Smarter Searches, has done a number of promotions and projects with the Health Department. So when A Step Ahead was getting off the ground and wanted to learn how to use social media more effectively, I was connected with Wendi, our executive director through some friends at the Health Department. My team leads social media training sessions (in addition to a number of other services) so we set up a session for A Step Ahead.
During the course of that social training, I learned a great deal about the organization and loved everything I heard. Even though my background isn’t medical, I married into it. My husband is a physician and I like to tell people I’m at least 25% of a doctor since I was his study partner all throughout medical school and residency. Wendi and I hit it off and she invited me to a board meeting to see more about the organization. It seemed like fun so I agreed. I’m not sure if I knew what I was in for in terms of work, but it’s all a labor of love.
I work closely with the team - mostly Wendi and Alison - to help them strategically frame social media campaigns, administer Google Ad Grants, answer questions on marketing for non-profits (Venmo? Facebook Payments? Invitations for an event? Analytics?), and take my decidedly un-medical perspective and try to help frame our mission for the masses.
We joke that most of the board isn’t particularly savvy about social media. Cue everyone looking at me, where I sheepishly have to admit that I spend almost as much time on Instagram as I do sleeping. But hey, that’s the job, right? I love that I can share something I love - marketing and advertising - and bring it to the organization at large for a larger, greater, more powerful platform.
If you could help me in the organization, I would ask you to like our posts, share our stories, spread the message. Invite your friends to like our pages. Read the emails we send out.
The mission of removing barriers is a powerful one. That’s what we do. No insurance? No problem. No transportation? No problem. Not sure if LARC is right for you? No problem. Afraid about privacy and confidentiality? No problem. No access to a regular provider? No problem. We tear down all the barriers that block a woman from claiming ownership of her body and her reproductive health. And it’s pretty amazing that I can do that with an Instagram post.
Long-acting reversible contraception is growing in popularity because it is
highly safe and effective. If you are considering starting birth control, we suggest
using a LARC method. There are several different types including: IUD, IUS,
injection, and implantation. Consult your doctor to find what type fits your needs the
best. Check out the benefits below to see why many women are choosing LARC.
By: Erica Lyon
Pregnancy, childbirth and early parenthood health educator and Advocacy Board Chair of ASAFET
One concern I get from parents in regards to talking about birth control with their teenagers is that perhaps, by talking about birth control, it will imply condoning early sexual activity. As a pregnancy and parent educator for over 20 years, sadly I have seen more harm come from avoiding the topic rather than having a transparent conversation about birth control options. The value of the birth control conversation is it gives you a platform to instill your values into your kids, while being fully honest about what they may encounter from their peers and the world at large. Failure to discuss a pertinent topic with our teens, which will be discussed with their peers regardless, leaves our teens vulnerable to serious misinformation and possibly challenging outcomes. In my work with pregnant teens (ages 12-17) I have heard the following: “I heard you couldn’t get pregnant the first time”, “I heard you couldn’t get pregnant if you were drinking”, “I heard you couldn’t get pregnant if he withdrew…” the list of bad information goes on and on.
Trust is a key part of faith and family. If you want to explain to your kids why your faith wants a teen to wait for sex, then you need to be honest about all the options your kids will hear about from the world around them. This includes reviewing various forms of birth control so they know the true process in addition to the why, as a parent, you likely want them to wait to engage in sexual activity. By failing to acknowledge a reality, we risk losing the trust of our children. They may wonder why we have only told them half the story or not told them anything at all about what they are hearing about in the world. One critical value of a conversation about birth control is it brings home the key point that being sexually active comes with responsibility. It requires adult planning and forethought in terms of relationships, intimacy and child planning.
We live in a world where our kids are inundated with innuendo, over-commercialized sexuality and ever-changing perception of cultural norms. It’s a dangerous time to be parental ostriches and stick our heads in the sand claiming we cannot talk about sex and birth control because it will condone sexual activity. Respectful conversation about sex and birth control is important because it teaches our kids at a vulnerable age about healthy relationships. Which conversation would you prefer as a parent to have with your teen: “Um, mom, I was thinking maybe I could get the pill?” or “Um mom, I’m pregnant”. As a parent, I have little input necessarily on the latter if I don’t, as a parent, take responsibility for educating my kids about the former. It is important to address the teen elephant in the room to prevent the distrust or silence a teen may begin to have with their parents as they normally begin to mature and separate from us.
The age of puberty is a time of new thoughts, new insecurities, new pressures and new feelings. Consider that the teen brain is wired for risk taking. Just 3 generations ago our 16-year-olds would have been likely married or preparing for marriage. Their “taking risk” brain would have been fully satisfied by leaving home, marrying, starting their own family and working a 16 hours day to put food on the table side by side with their spouse. Not so in the modern era. Our kids have a long extended leisurely adolescence-plenty of time for finding new ways to take risk. Sex being the oldest, first and foremost possible experimentation. This age is an opportunity for teaching and arming a teen with the truth about choices and our own family values to empower them to feel they know what is going on and that they can make the right choices for themselves in the world. Regardless of my personal belief about when my teens should be sexually active, I would far prefer he or she (this is a conversation for sons as well as pregnancy and potential parenthood is an equal burden in a young person’s future) could come to me to discuss rather than avoid my counsel.
Ultimately, what we all hope for with our kids, as they grow into adults, is to be able to achieve and maintain loving adult relationships. Teaching about sex and birth control with the emphasis on relationship, respect and responsibility furthers that message. I suggest, as parents, we stop birth control from being a taboo subject, otherwise we create license for misunderstanding, deception, hurt and serious consequences in the teen and parenting world.
Erica Lyon is a pregnancy, childbirth and early parenthood health educator and is on the Board of ASAFET. The views expressed are hers and may not necessarily reflect the views of all ASAFET members or supporters.
Coming soon: how to talk to kids about sex and birth control by age appropriate developmental stage