Myths and facts about your sexual health

All Woman

THERE are many myths that exist about sexual and reproductive health. Some of them are not very far from the facts, while others are purely based on speculation, with no medical information to back them up. As we learn more about our bodies through science, it is important that we become educated with the facts to take better care of our bodies.

Internist Dr Samantha Nicholson-Spence helps All Woman to debunk some common myths about sexual health.

Myth: If your period doesn't come every month you will have 'back blood' inside your body.

Fact: If you miss a period, there is not blood stuck inside you that didn't get to come out. Menstruation happens when hormonal changes cause the lining of the uterus to thicken for ovulation, then break down and gets expelled through the vagina. This might not happen sometimes for reasons such as pregnancy, stress, certain birth control methods, and hormonal changes.

Myth: You need to wash inside your vagina with products to keep it clean.

Fact: Contrary to what the cosmetic industry would have you believe, your vagina is perfectly capable of cleaning itself. You only need to take care of the exterior. Doctors actually warn against douching with soaps and cleansers, which could upset your delicate balance.

Myth: You cannot get pregnant if you douche or urinate immediately after sex.

Fact: Not only is douching unnecessary, but it is ineffective in protecting you from pregnancy. No product that you squirt up there can cross the cervix into the uterus, which is where the millions of sperm cells will be by the time you make it to the bathroom and grab your product. It is even more unlikely that passing urine will prevent a possible pregnancy, since your urine comes from your urethra, which is not connected to the vaginal opening.

Myth: STIs always have symptoms.

Fact: Most sexually transmitted infections (STIs) only show symptoms after a few days of exposure. Some might even take years before the infected person notices anything. For some, too, the symptoms flare up from time to time, but the infection is always present. This means that you will not always be able to tell whether someone has an STI and should always use a condom during sexual intercourse, no matter how healthy the person looks. This is why chlamydia screening is recommended in young, sexually active women because they may not have symptoms and left untreated it can lead to blocked tubes and infertility.

Myth: The tightness of your vagina is related to the number of sexual partners you had.

Fact: The vagina is an amazing organ that stretches to accommodate things going in and out of it, but it bounces back pretty soon afterwards. While some amount of elasticity might be lost with time, hormonal changes and from childbearing (a full-term baby is quite large), it is not likely that a penis, or any number of them, will permanently alter the tightness of the vagina.

Myth: Birth control or morning after pills can cause an abortion.

Fact: Birth control and emergency contraceptive tablets contain a hormone that triggers changes in a woman's body similar to those that happen when she becomes pregnant. The hormone in these pills has not been shown to have a significant impact on an existing pregnancy, and if inadvertently taken while pregnant, there is usually no harm.

Myth: You cannot get pregnant while breastfeeding.

Fact: While exclusive breastfeeding is very likely to delay the return of your cycle for a few months after childbirth, it is not foolproof. Ovulation will happen about 14 days before your period (whenever it comes) so it is not impossible for you to get pregnant again before your cycle returns.

Myth: Vaginal discharge means you have an infection

Fact: Vaginal discharge is normal, as are changes in its colour and consistency throughout your cycle. It may be cloudy today, and clear tomorrow, and that is normal, as your cervical mucus changes based on the uterine environment. The discharge is also the waste matter from your vagina's efforts to clean itself, so it is absolutely necessary. You should only be alarmed if your discharge is heavier than normal, is a different colour from those which you are used to, has a strange odour, or is tinged with non-menstrual blood.

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