What is an annual exam and pap smear? When should I have an exam done?

An annual exam consists of a review of your medical history with a physical exam that includes a breast and pelvic check. A pap smear is a screening test that may be indicated to check for the presence of abnormal cells on the cervix (the portion of the uterus that extends into the vagina).A woman should start having annual exams when she begins having intercourse (regardless of age).  If a woman has never had intercourse it is generally recommended that she have her first exam at age 21. Refer to the handouts, The Gynecological Exam and Pap Test and Colposcopy: Questions and Answers for more information.

I am interested in birth control but don't know much about the methods available. How do I learn more?

The online Birth Control Education program  provides a thorough review of the birth control methods available. Information is available online at Birth Control Education Class.

What do I need to do to start using a hormonal method of birth control (pills, the patch, IUDs, vaginal ring, or shot)?

Birth Control Education is recommended if you have never used a hormonal method of birth control. This education is available online using McKinley's Online Birth Control Class. If you have used hormonal birth control in the past you are not required to complete the birth control education class, however you are welcome to do so if you would like to learn more about the different options available.  It is more convenient if you complete the birth control education prior to your appointment.You are required to have an annual physical exam (including breast exam.) If you have had this done at your home doctor's office you should contact them and request that a prescription be faxed to our pharmacy. It is not necessary to have a repeat exam at McKinley. Please refer to the handout, Transferring Outside Contraceptive Prescriptions to McKinley. If you have never had an exam or if your exam was more than one year ago, you may schedule an appointment at McKinley by calling  217-333-2701.

I am ready to start my first pill pack. How do I start taking them?

You have a choice of when to start your first cycle of pills.  Review these instructions below and decide which is best for you.  Pick a time of day that will be easy to remember.Day 1 start:

  1. Take the first active pill of the package during the first 24 hours of your menstrual period.
  2. You will not need to use a backup method of birth control, since you are starting the pill at the beginning of your period.

Sunday start:

  1. Take the first active pill of the package on the first Sunday after your period starts, even if you are still bleeding.  If your period starts on Sunday, you may start your pills the same day.  If you have intercourse, use a backup method of birth control until you have taken the first seven pills in the pack.
What if I want to stop my birth control pills or switch to another type of hormonal birth control?

Unless instructed by a healthcare provider, it is recommended that you finish a package of pills before discontinuing them.  If you are stopping because you are having unpleasant side effects, you should talk to your healthcare provider.  Switching to a different brand or dosage of pills may eliminate side effects.  You can usually switch to a different method of birth control at the end of a pill pack and will not have any loss in contraceptive protection.

I understand that there are birth control shots available. What are they?

Depo Provera® contains only the progestin hormone. Depo Provera® is given every three months, and bleeding is unpredictable.  A woman will often skip periods when using Depo Provera®.  A handout is available on Depo Provera® for additional information.

I am currently receiving Depo Provera® from my health care provider at home. How do I get started using it at McKinley?
  • Request that your healthcare provider send a copy of your most recent annual exam and pap smear result to McKinley Health Center as soon as possible.
  • You must have written confirmation of the date of your last injection when you come for your appointment.
  • Call  217-233-2701 and schedule an appointment in Women's Health to get your injection.
I am interested in starting Depo Provera® for the first time. What do I need to do?

You must have a current physical exam and pap smear and will need to meet with a health care provider for screening and instruction.  The first injection must be given during the first five days of your period, or within the first five days after childbirth (unless you are breast-feeding) or termination of pregnancy.  Talk with your clinician about scheduling the first injection if you are currently using another prescribed method of birth control.

How do I get the emergency contraception (Morning-after After) pill?

Emergency contraceptive pills (Plan B) are available through any pharmacy for individuals age 18 and over for a charge. If you are under 18 you must see a healthcare provider for a prescription. To obtain a prescription or consult about the use of Plan B, you can be seen during Women's Health walk-in hours: Monday through Friday 2:45-4:15 pm. Call 217-333-2701 to schedule an appointment with your primary care provider's nurse or (217-244-2501 for the Women's Health office nurse). On Saturday, Plan B is available through the East 1 clinic from 8am - 4:30pm. The sooner that the medication is taken the more effective it is. You may want to refer to the handout, Plan B Emergency Contraception (Morning After Pills) for additional information. If you are out of town and/or McKinley services are not available, most national pharmacies have Plan B available for purchase.

How do I get a pregnancy test?

You can obtain a home pregnancy test kit in the Health Resource Center, located as you enter the main lobby (walk-up window) at McKinley Health Center, or the Health Resource Center located at Illini Union, Room 40, lower level. There is no cost to you.

How soon can I do a pregnancy test?

Even though pregnancy hormone levels may be detected on the first day of a missed period, the accuracy of the test is greatly improved when it is done one week after missing your period.  If you have irregular menstrual cycles, the test can be done 36 days after the first day of your last period.  Waiting until the period is one week late allows for a natural delay in onset of the period or a date miscalculation, reducing the need to repeat a test.If you have had unprotected intercourse within the previous two weeks, a test result may not be reliable yet.  Use a consistent method of birth control and wait at least two weeks before doing a test.  Please refer to the handout, Home Pregnancy Testing for more information.If you have had unprotected intercourse or a contraceptive failure within the past 72 hours, you are a candidate for emergency contraception. Please refer to the handout, Plan B Emergency Contraception (Morning After Pills) for more information.

I have a positive home pregnancy test. What do I do?

A Women's Health Clinic nurse is available to answer any questions you might have.  Test results are confidential, as is your decision regarding the outcome.  No attempt will be made to influence your decision.You can make an appointment by calling the Women's Health Clinic at 217-333-2701.  You are encouraged to make an appointment as soon as possible.  If you plan to continue the pregnancy, early prenatal care is very important.  If you are planning a termination, fewer complications are associated with terminations done early in pregnancy.  Resource lists are available.  You may wish to review the handout, Pregnancy: A Guide to Decision Making.

How do I obtain prenatal care?

No prenatal care is available at McKinley Health Center. An information packet including community resources for prenatal care is available through Women's Health. You may make an appointment to talk with a Women's Health nurse by calling  217-333-2701. Medically appropriate multivitamins are available in the pharmacy. For additional information, you may refer to the handout, Prenatal Care Information and Resources.

I think I have a yeast infection. What do I do?

If you are experiencing vaginal itching and a thick white discharge and have no visible sores or excessive discomfort, you may go to the Health Resource Center, located in the main lobby (walk-up window) at McKinley Health Center, or the Health Resource Center located at the Illini Union, Room 40, lower level, and request medication to treat a yeast infection. If you are not sure you have a yeast infection, call 217-333-2701 and speak with a Women's Health nurse or the Dial-A-Nurse for assistance.