Ah, lady parts. Seeing how all of us women folk are born with them, surely we would know all there is to know about our female genitalia, right? Well, not necessarily. For starters, if we did, there would not be as many misconceptions about our reproductive organs floating about as there are now. So, how well do we actually know ourselves ‘down south’?
Pregnancy cures endometriosis
You may have come across women (especially those who have kids) vouching for this. However, experts say that endometriosis does not always go away with pregnancy. During pregnancy, progesterone hormone levels increase significantly. Studies have found progesterone to effectively suppress the development and growth of endometrial tissue, resulting in a temporary decrease – or in some cases, an absence – of endometriosis symptoms e.g. pain during pregnancy. Symptoms typically recur after giving birth.
Having sex when menstruating ups my health risk
A woman’s risk of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) is higher when she has intercourse during her period for several reasons. Firstly, the cervix dilates during menstruation to allow blood to flow through – making it easy for germs to enter deep into the pelvic cavity. Secondly, period intercourse increases the likelihood of blood-bourne diseases like hepatitis and HIV, even with the practice of safe sex. Also, the vagina’s pH reduces in acidity during menstruation so yeast infections can develop more easily.
Vaginal discharge is a sign that I’m unhealthy
Is your discharge green, yellow or grey in colour? Does it smell bad? Is it clumpy? If so, you should get it checked by your gynaecologist. But if your vaginal discharge is normally odour-free and transparent or white, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about.
Post-menopausal bleeding is normal
Although common, post-menopausal bleeding (even if it’s merely spotting) is by no means, normal. While the bleeding can result from something minor like polyps, inflammation of the womb lining or vaginal dryness, it can also be a symptom of cancer.
Douching keeps my vagina healthy
It actually does the opposite. Douching can cause an imbalance to the vagina’s normally acidic environment – something which not only increases your risk of STDs but can make it difficult for you to become pregnant. Remember, the vagina is self-cleaning so there’s no need for douching.
I’ve had the HPV vaccine so I don’t need pap smears
You may have been vaccinated against HPV but you still have to be tested for cervical cancer regularly as the vaccine does not protect you from all HPV types. Screening is recommended every three years for women aged 21 to 65, commencing at 21.
1. American Cancer Society. Available at www.cancer.org
2. Cleveland Clinic. Available at www.health.clevelandclinic.org
3. Endometriosis.org. Available at www.endometriosis.org
4. Family Health Online. Available at www.familyhealthonline.ca
5. Living with Endometriosis. Available at www.livingwithendometriosis.org
6. NHS Choices. Available at www.nhs.uk
7. SheKnows. Available at www.sheknows.com
8. WebMD. Available at www.webmd.com