Need to see a doctor, but I don't want my parents to know I've had sex

Originally Published: April 30, 1999 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: April 10, 2009
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Dear Alice,

I recently had sex with a guy, and now I suffer extreme vaginal itching and white cottage cheese-ish discharge. This is driving me crazy! I'm afraid it might be Cervicitis, but I'm not sure. Also, I can't ask my parents to take me to a doctor because there is no way I'm telling them I've had sex! Is this even sex-related? PLEASE answer my question because I'm tired of sleepless nights worrying what this is. Please respond! Thank you so much!

-sick & tired-

Dear –sick & tired –,

Talking with your parents about an urgent health concern that may be connected to sex can be really difficult, no doubt about it. Whatever is causing your symptoms, whether associated with your recent sexual activity or not, getting diagnosed and treated as soon as possible will be best for your overall health (and prevent you from resorting to steel wool).

Considering your family and cultural values, think about what communication approach would be easiest for you, keeping in mind that it's often challenging for many of us to talk about health concerns when we think or know they're related to sex. Maybe you can be direct with your parents, letting them know that you're sure you have a vaginal infection and that you need to see a provider right away to get treated. If that's too bold an approach for you, how about, "Something is wrong down there. I don't know why, but I'm really uncomfortable, and I need to see a doctor right away to take care of it." Or you can say, "I've been having a lot of (vaginal) itching. It's not getting better so I want to see a doctor as soon as possible."

Even though you are nervous about disclosing intimate details of your life to your parents, most parents want their children to be healthy at all times, and are likely to be more concerned about seeing you get better than start interrogating you about your sexual history. Plus, they may very well have had past experience just like yours and know exactly how to handle your discomfort.

If the parent route isn't a road you'll take, you might try talking with a teacher, school nurse, an aunt, a friend's parent, a neighbor, or someone else with whom you feel close. You can also go to a local Planned Parenthood health center, an organization which serves thousands of teens confidentially at a relatively low cost.

Whomever you talk to, it's vital to talk with someone — just think how good it will be to feel comfortable again.

Alice