My boyfriend and I are talking about having sex, and I want to start taking birth control. I’m really scared about the pelvic exam though—will I need one?

Good news—you do NOT need a gynecological exam to start birth control! In fact, you don’t even necessarily need to see a gynecologist.

It’s great that you’re taking charge of your sexual health and thinking about birth control before you start having sex. There are a lot of birth control methods out there (not just the pill!) so it’s worth exploring what method might be right for you. Your healthcare provider can answer any questions you have and talk you through the pros and cons of each method.

Any doctor or nurse practitioner can prescribe you the birth control pill. However, for some methods of birth control you may need to go to a gynecologist, adolescent medicine specialist, or family planning clinic. If you’re not sure about where to get a method of birth control you’re interested in, just call your provider’s office to ask!

Your healthcare provider may perform a gynecological exam if you’re having abdominal or pelvic pain, irregular bleeding, or think you might have a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Otherwise, you shouldn’t need a pelvic exam until after you turn 21 years old.

It’s completely normal to be nervous about your first pelvic exam. Here’s a step-by-step guide to what to expect at your first exam, and some tips for making it a little less nerve-racking.

In the meantime, make sure you understand how to be sexually healthy. Talk to your boyfriend about STIs, pregnancy prevention, and what you want in bed. Remember that consent is ESSENTIAL when it comes to ANY physical activity, not just penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex.

And, of course: even when you’re using birth control, it’s still a good idea to use condoms. They’re a great back-up birth control method, and protect you and your partner from many STIs. Keep in mind that oral and anal sex—not just PIV sex—put you at risk for STIs. Get tested routinely, and (we’ll say it again, because it’s super important) always use condoms.

If you’re 10-22 years old and live in NYC, you can come by Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center for free, confidential reproductive health services, including birth control and STI testing and treatment.