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Please review our list of
frequently asked questions
before contacting us.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Publications and Materials

How can I order free copies of your publications?

We do not have any free printed copies of our publications. Most of our health publications are available in a PDF format that you can print at your own location.

How can I order the women’s health calendar?

We no longer create or print women’s health calendars. If a printed calendar is something that would be useful to you in the future, please tell us how you would use it and how it helps keep you healthy. If you are willing to be contacted about this, please provide an email address when you complete the Contact Us form.

Using Content from womenshealth.gov and Working with OWH

May I use text from womenshealth.gov or from Office on Women’s Health (OWH) health publications?

Yes! Most of the content on womenshealth.gov and in our PDF health publications is in the public domain because it is created by the federal government using taxpayer resources. Our health content is free of copyright restrictions and may be copied, reproduced, or duplicated without special written permission.

We cannot give anyone permission to use OWH or other federal government logos. We also ask that you do not use text from Spotlight interviews prior to February 2014.

May I use pictures from your website in my own work?

Sometimes. We have two types of artwork on our website: photographs and illustrations (drawings). Because of licensing arrangements and privacy policies, we cannot give permission for reuse of any photograph. However, most of the illustrations (drawings) on the website are in the public domain unless they have a copyright mark on them. You do not need our written permission to use illustrations from our site that do not have a copyright mark.

May I add your logo on my website or in my organization’s materials?

No. Only authorized agents of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office on Women’s Health (OWH) may use the HHS and OWH logos for official purposes.

If you would like to electronically add your own logo to any material or publication from womenshealth.gov or OWH, you must first remove or cover up any HHS, OWH, womenshealth.gov, or girlshealth.gov logos. We request that you cite OWH as the source of the content.

How do I cite the Office on Women’s Health (OWH) when I use your information?

OWH and womenshealth.gov content can be cited as follows:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office on Women’s Health. [Title of page.] Washington, DC. Available at [specific URL]. Accessed on [date page was viewed].

This does not include content we link to from other organizations. Please contact the author or producing organization directly for the preferred citation.

Do not use the OWH or U.S. Department of Health and Human Services logos in your citation.

May I translate information from womenshealth.gov or girlshealth.gov for use on my website or in my organization’s materials?

Yes! But if text is translated, it cannot have the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health (OWH), womenshealth.gov, or girlshealth.gov logos on it. That is because we do not have the resources to review and approve the translation. However, you do not need our written permission to translate and use the text. Please cite OWH as the source.

Where do you get the information on womenshealth.gov?

Womenshealth.gov content is written and updated according to the most reliable current information in each topic area. Womenshealth.gov relies on current recommendations on health issues from the federal government and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Subject matter experts across the government review the text before the content is published.

How can my organization be added as a resource on womenshealth.gov?

We do not accept link or product submissions for inclusion on our website. During the regular, ongoing process of updating our health information, we include the latest federal government resources and, as appropriate, nonprofit resources for our users.

Does the Office on Women’s Health (OWH) review or endorse products related to women’s health?

No. OWH does not review or endorse products, content, or other websites. Any reference to products, medicines, or organizations on womenshealth.gov does not represent an endorsement by OWH or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Pregnancy

What you need to know about pregnancy

I had sex without using a condom or any other birth control. Could I be pregnant?

Yes. Most women do not ovulate (release an egg from the ovary) on the same day each month, so you can get pregnant after having sex without using birth control. Some types of birth control work better than others at preventing pregnancy, so if you do not want to be pregnant, you should use a highly effective type of birth control any time you have sex.

My boyfriend says he pulled out in time. Could I still be pregnant?

Yes. Even if your partner “pulls out” (takes his penis out of your vagina before he has an orgasm or ejaculates), sperm can still be on his penis. When a man’s penis first becomes erect, pre-ejaculate fluid may be on the tip. This fluid has sperm in it. You can get pregnant from this fluid. Although it doesn’t happen often, it is also possible to get pregnant if a man ejaculates (“comes”) on the outside of your vagina.

Can I get pregnant if I have sex during my period?

Yes, you can get pregnant if you have sex during your period. It is possible to ovulate (release an egg from the ovary) while you are having your period. Therefore, it is possible to get pregnant if you have vaginal sex during your period.

I think I might be pregnant. How early can I take a home pregnancy test?

A missed period is often the first clue that a woman might be pregnant. The earlier (before a missed period) you take a home pregnancy test, the harder it is to get an accurate result.

My home pregnancy test says I’m not pregnant, but I think I am. What should I do?

Home pregnancy tests are highly accurate, but the accuracy of the test you take depends on how and when you use it. If the pregnancy test says you are not pregnant, wait a few days and take another test. If this test says you are not pregnant, but you think you are pregnant, call your doctor.

I’ve been trying for months, but I’m still not pregnant. Should I call my doctor?

Most experts suggest trying to get pregnant for at least one year before seeing your doctor. However, if you’re 35 or older, you should see your doctor after six months of trying.

If you’re trying to get pregnant, it may help to learn more about the changes in your body that happen during your menstrual cycle. You can also learn different ways to track the times of the month when you’re the most fertile.

I am pregnant and have a medical question. Who can I talk to?

You should talk to your doctor, nurse, or midwife. We cannot give medical advice.

I’m pregnant. Do I need to see a doctor?

Yes. Medical checkups and screening tests help keep you and your baby healthy during pregnancy. This is called prenatal care.

Vaginal Bleeding and Menstruation

What you need to know about your menstrual cycle

I’m having some unusual vaginal bleeding that is not my period or is unusual for my “normal” period. What should I do?

Vaginal bleeding that is different from your normal menstrual period is considered abnormal (unusual) and should be checked out by your doctor or nurse. Abnormal bleeding can have many causes, but only your doctor will be able to tell you whether something is wrong.

My period doesn’t come at the same time every month. Is something wrong with me?

Your period may not be the same every month. It may also be different from other women’s periods. Most of the time, your menstrual cycle (the amount of time between the start of one period and the start of the next) will be between 21 and 35 days long. If your cycle is shorter or longer, talk to your doctor.

My period is usually regular, but not this month. Is something wrong?

Because an irregular period (a period that comes earlier or later than normal, or stops for a month or two and then comes back) could be caused by many things, we suggest you talk with your doctor. The reason for these changes may not be serious, but the changes may be caused by a health problem. Only your doctor can tell you for sure.

My period is really painful, and over-the-counter medicines don’t help. What can I do?

If you have painful periods, including severe cramps, talk to your doctor. Having painful periods is called dysmenorrhea. The pain may be caused by a health problem such as uterine fibroids or endometriosis, but only your doctor can tell you for sure.

Heart Attack and Stroke

What you need to know about heart disease, heart attack, and stroke

I think I’m having a heart attack, but I don’t have insurance. What should I do?

It is important to call 9-1-1 or get to a hospital right away if you are having heart attack symptoms. Most hospital emergency rooms must treat you in the event of an emergency regardless of whether you have insurance or can afford to pay.

The most common symptoms of a heart attack for women are:

  • Unusually heavy pressure on the chest, like there’s a ton of weight on you
  • Sharp upper body pain in the neck, back, and jaw
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Cold sweats, and you know it’s not menopause
  • Unusual or unexplained fatigue (tiredness)
  • Unfamiliar dizziness or light-headedness
  • Unexplained nausea (feeling sick to the stomach) or vomiting

How do I know whether someone is having a stroke?

The most common symptoms of a stroke include:

  • Numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of the body
  • Confusion or trouble speaking or understanding
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
  • Severe headache with no known cause
If you have or see someone having any stroke symptoms, call 9-1-1 right away. Every minute counts!

Even if symptoms don’t last long, the person still needs treatment. Even if symptoms are caused by some other health problem (like diabetes or dehydration), it’s best to call 9-1-1 if you have any stroke symptoms.

Ovarian Cysts and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

What you need to know about ovarian cysts and polycystic ovary syndrome

I get ovarian cysts. Can I still get pregnant?

Maybe. Some types of ovarian cysts can affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant. Talk to your doctor or nurse about your personal medical situation.

I was just diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. Can it be treated?

Because there is no cure for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), it needs to be managed to prevent other health problems like heart disease and diabetes. Treatment is based on your symptoms and whether you want to become pregnant. Many women will need different treatments at different times in life.

I have polycystic ovary syndrome. Can I still get pregnant? Will it cause problems during my pregnancy?

You may have a harder time getting pregnant with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This is because you may not always ovulate (release an egg from the ovary). Talk to your doctor to learn what you can do to help increase your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby.

Birth Control

What you need to know about birth control

My boyfriend says he pulled out in time. Could I still be pregnant?

Yes. Even if your partner “pulls out” (takes his penis out of your vagina before he has an orgasm or ejaculates), sperm can still be on his penis. When a man’s penis first becomes erect, pre-ejaculate fluid may be on the tip. This fluid has sperm in it. You can get pregnant from this fluid.

I’m on the pill, and…
  1. I missed a couple of days.
  2. I had diarrhea.
  3. I threw up.
  4. I’m also taking antibiotics.
What do I do?

Every pill is slightly different. If you missed a few pills, follow the instructions from the company that made your pill about using back-up birth control (such as a condom). If you’ve been sick or taking antibiotics, talk with your doctor about whether you should use a second type of birth control like condoms.

Where can I get birth control?

Where you get birth control depends on what type of birth control you want to use and where you live. In some states, some types of birth control are only available with a prescription from a doctor. You can buy other forms of birth control, such as condoms, at a store without having to visit a doctor.

Find a free or low-cost family planning clinic in your area.

I heard that birth control is now free under the Affordable Care Act. Is that true?

All health insurance Marketplace plans (from www.healthcare.gov) and most other health insurance plans must cover Food and Drug Administration–approved birth control methods, sterilization procedures (permanent birth control), and patient education and counseling as prescribed by a health care provider for women who can get pregnant. These plans must cover birth control without charging you a copay, coinsurance, or deductible. Learn more about your benefits under the Affordable Care Act, or contact your insurance plan.

Breastfeeding

What you need to know about breastfeeding

If I’m breastfeeding, does my baby need other food, like water, cereal, or juice?

That depends on the age of your baby. If your baby is younger than 6 months, your breastmilk provides all the nutrition your baby needs. If you’re worried that your baby is not eating enough, talk to your doctor.

I’m having trouble breastfeeding. What can I do?

Breastfeeding can be hard for some women, especially at the beginning. But it is important to remember that you are not alone. Start with these tips. If you’re still having trouble, call the OWH Helpline toll-free at 800-994-9662 Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET, to talk to a trained breastfeeding peer counselor in English or Spanish.

I need to be away from my baby and won’t be able to breastfeed. Should I give her formula instead?

When you’re away from your baby, you can pump and refrigerate (or freeze) your milk. This is important for both you and your baby. She will still get the nutrition she needs, and your body will continue to make milk for her.

I need a breast pump, and I heard the government would pay for it. How does that work?

The Affordable Care Act requires most health insurance plans to provide breastfeeding equipment and counseling during the time you are breastfeeding. If you have private health insurance, contact your insurance company to find out what kind of pump is covered and what you need to do to get one.

If you have Medicaid, contact your Medicaid insurance company to ask whether they cover breast pumps for breastfeeding mothers. If not, you may be eligible for one through your local WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) program. Contact your WIC State Breastfeeding Coordinator for more information.

Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Sexual Assault

What you need to know about domestic violence, abuse, and sexual assault

Get help! If you have been hurt by someone you know or love, or you have been attacked by a stranger, you are not alone. Find hotlines and suggestions that can help.

My partner has never hit me, but sometimes she or he gets angry and scares me.
Is that abuse?

It can be hard to know whether you’re being abused. You may think that cruel or threatening words are not abuse. They are. Learn the signs of emotional abuse and how to get help.

I don’t know how to get out of my abusive relationship. Is there someone who can help me?

Yes! Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline online or at 800-799-SAFE (7233), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls and online chats are confidential, anonymous, and free.

My friend is being abused, and I don’t know what to do. How can I help her?

It can be really hard to know a loved one is being hurt. Here are some ways you can help her.

I was raped, and I don’t know what to do. Is there someone I can talk to?

Yes! Contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline online or at 800-656-HOPE (4673), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls and online chats are confidential, free, and secure. If you are in immediate danger call 9-1-1.

I had too much to drink, and I think I had sex, but I don’t remember. What do I do?

Contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline online or at 800-656-HOPE (4673). The hotline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and all calls and online chats are confidential, free, and secure.

Health Insurance

I need to see a doctor, but I don’t have health insurance. What do I do?

Find a free or low-cost health clinic at the Health Resources and Services Administration or the Office of Population Affairs.

How do I get health insurance through the Marketplace?

Find out whether you or your child qualify for lower-cost health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace or through Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) at HealthCare.gov.

Menopause

What you need to know about menopause

I haven’t had a period in 5 years, but I’m suddenly having some bleeding. What should I do?

Any vaginal bleeding after menopause is not normal and should be checked out by your doctor or nurse. Women may bleed after menopause for many reasons; some are not serious and are easy to treat, while others can be more serious.

My menopause symptoms are really uncomfortable. I have hot flashes, trouble sleeping, mood swings, and no interest in sex. Is there anything I can do?

Yes! There are many ways you can help relieve your menopause symptoms, from medicines and hormone therapy to natural alternatives. Also, get tips for dealing with specific symptoms.

I’ve started menopause, but I still get my period sometimes. Can I get pregnant?

Yes. If you’re still having periods, even if they are not regular, you can get pregnant. Talk to your doctor about birth control.

Mental Health

What you need to know about mental health

If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

I think my friend might be suicidal. What can I do to help?

If your friend is suicidal, she or he needs to see a doctor or mental health professional right away. If you think your friend may hurt herself or himself right now, call 9-1-1. Learn how to spot the warning signs of suicide.

Lately, I’ve been getting really depressed and crying for no reason. I don’t know what to do.

First, visit your doctor or nurse to rule out any physical illnesses or medicines that may be causing your symptoms. Your doctor or nurse can also do a short mental exam and refer you to a mental health professional if needed. Treatment, either medicine or counseling or both, works for most people with depression. If you need help finding a doctor, therapist, or counselor, find one at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

I’ve tried everything to feel better, but nothing seems to work. I just want it to be over.

If you are thinking about hurting yourself or someone else, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) right away. The hotline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also talk to someone online. All calls and chats are free and confidential. If you are in immediate danger call 9-1-1.

I need to see a counselor or therapist, but I can’t afford it. What can I do?

If you have health insurance, call to find out what type of mental health treatment your plan covers. Most insurance plans must cover mental health services at similar levels as medical services. All state Medicaid programs provide some mental health and substance use disorder services.

If you do not have health insurance, you can find a mental health provider at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Some providers offer services based on what you can afford to pay (sliding scale or sliding fee).

Sexually Transmitted Diseases or Infections

What you need to know about sexually transmitted infections (diseases)

I love my partner and know she/he is clean. Do I still need to get tested for sexually transmitted infections?

Yes. You can’t tell whether a person has a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or disease (STD) just by looking. Many people who have STIs don’t know they are infected. The only way to find out is for both you and your partner to get tested. Talk to your doctor about getting tested or find a testing site near you.

I have an unusual discharge or odor coming from my vagina. Do I have a sexually transmitted infection or disease?

Talk to your doctor about whether you need to be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Unusual vaginal discharge can be caused by many things. Only a doctor or nurse can tell you for sure what is going on.

My vagina itches, and it hurts when I go to the bathroom. Do I have a sexually transmitted infection or disease?

Talk to your doctor about whether you need to be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Vaginal itching and burning when going to the bathroom can be caused by many things. Only a doctor can tell you for sure what is going on.

I messed around with someone, but we didn’t have sex. Can I still get a disease?

It depends on what kind of contact you had — where you touched and how. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are spread during vaginal, anal, or oral sex or during genital touching. It is possible to get some types of STIs without having sex. Talk to your doctor about getting tested or find a testing site near you.