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

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–,

It can certainly be nerve-wracking when your body is out of whack, and not disclosing your sexual activity to your parents can make it more challenging. You can rest easy knowing there are ways to get the relief you're looking for without disclosing your sex life to your parents. You have the options to think through how you'd like to speak with your parents about your health concerns (whether or not you tell them about your sexual activity) or to explore other resources that don't require that type of conversation with your parents. Whatever is causing your symptoms, whether associated with your recent sexual activity or not, getting diagnosed and treated as soon as possible can help to alleviate your physical discomfort and give you peace of mind. 

Considering your situation, there are a few approaches you may try when bringing it up with your parents. You might be direct and let them know that you think you have a vaginal infection and need to see a provider right away for treatment. If that's too bold of an approach, you could try explaining to them that something isn't right down there and that you aren't sure why, but it's really uncomfortable, so you'd like to see a health care provider. Either of these options will allow you to speak with your parents directly without disclosing your sexual activity.

Keep in mind that there are a wide range of possible causes for your discomfort and discharge, such as yeast infections, that aren’t associated with sexual activity, so they don't necessarily need to know if that's the cause. They may have also experienced something similar in the past, so they may be able to provide some guidance. As most parents simply want their children to be healthy, they may not even think to start asking about your sexual history. Ultimately, disclosing your sexual activity is your choice. If you feel that telling your parents about it will relieve a burden, then tell away! Otherwise, you may choose to keep this detail private. 

If the parent route isn't a road you want to take, you could try talking with another adult you trust, such as a relative, a friend's parent, a neighbor, or the school nurse. If you're able to secure transportation without your parents, the local Planned Parenthood health center might be an option. They’ll be able to help you out with testing for sexually transmitted and other infections, provide you with condoms and birth control if desired, and answer any lingering questions you may have. Additionally, you many want to contact them or another health care provider of your choice in advance to learn more about their privacy policies and disclosing information to parents if you're under the age of 18. 

Whomever you talk to, it's vital to talk with someone in order to get to the bottom of what's ailing you (and get treated if necessary) — just think how good it will be to feel comfortable again.

Take care,

Last updated Mar 09, 2018
Originally published Apr 30, 1999

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