Doctor Debunks Feminine Health Myths

Feminine Health Myths Debunked

We've all heard myths about feminine health and reproduction issues. An OB/GYN debunks some of these myths and shares some facts.

Your Health

For women, issues below the belt can be confusing. And that's especially the case when you're listening to friends, family and the Internet to self-diagnose your symptoms and issues.

We spoke with Alyssa Dweck, MD, assistant clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and author of the newly released book, The Complete A to Z for Your V. She told us about some common myths you can stop believing right now—and the truths behind them.

Don't be embarrassed; we thought many of these were true, too. Always speak to your own health care provider if you have any questions.

Using the pill may make it harder to get pregnant in the future.

"We're all born with a finite number of eggs. And our eggs age with us," says Dr. Dweck. "By the time you come off the pill, you've aged. So, it's not the pill that makes it harder to get pregnant, but aging in general," says Dr. Dweck. She adds that women go on the pill for various reasons, such as to regulate irregular periods or manage severe pain. "These underlying issues might make fertility challenging," she says. If you want to get pregnant after coming off the pill, speak with your health care provider. You in most cases may be told it's fine to try for pregnancy immediately or your provider may suggest you wait to try to conceive until after you have your first period so you'll know when you're ovulating.

You can't have your period and a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis at the same time.

"You can have yeast while on your period," says Dr. Dweck. Many women get vaginal yeast infections just before their period because of hormone changes. The pH balance of the vagina normally prevents yeast infections. But when the vagina's acidity changes, yeast can grow. So, it's not uncommon to get yeast infections before or after your period because your vagina's pH balance is changing. Periods also can sometimes trigger BV, an imbalance of the vagina's usual bacteria and yeast. A healthy vagina needs to be slightly acidic to control the growth of the organisms that can cause BV. "The less acidic your vagina is, the more you're prone to imbalance," says Dr. Dweck.

If you have an IUD, you can't use tampons.

Yes, you can still use tampons with an intrauterine device. Dr. Dweck explains that the strings of the IUD are cut short and come from the cervix. The vagina is where the tampon is. "It would be highly unlikely—next to impossible—to remove an IUD when removing a tampon," says Dr. Dweck. "It's 99.99 percent not a problem. Never be afraid to use them together."

Eating yogurt or inserting a yogurt-dipped tampon can prevent or cure yeast infections.

Foods like yogurt with live cultures contain good-for-you bacteria that help promote vaginal health. However, no convincing evidence has been found between yogurt and yeast infection prevention or cures. Yes, applying some cold, plain yogurt to a tampon and inserting it can soothe an itchy, swollen vagina, Dr. Dweck says. But it won't cure a yeast infection, she says. While eating yogurt with live cultures can't hurt and might help in prevention of yeast, it isn't treatment, says Dr. Dweck. She does recommend that you take a probiotic or eat food with live cultures like yogurt.

Using lubricant will help you get pregnant.

Certain lubricants aren't sperm friendly, meaning they can make it harder for sperm to reach the egg or can damage the sperm. So, if you're trying to conceive and having some difficulty, and you want a lubricant, look for Pre-Seed, which is well-known to be a sperm-friendly lubricant, says Dr. Dweck. The best lubricant? Foreplay. Slowly work up to intercourse to help you get in the mood.

If you're monogamous, an HPV diagnosis always means someone has cheated.

Yes, the more sexual partners you have over your lifetime, the higher your risk of human papillomavirus (HPV). That's because the more sexual partners you have, the more likely you are to have a partner who knowingly or unknowingly has HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). However, you can test positive for HPV even if you're in a monogamous relationship, says the American Sexual Health Association. That's because you can test positive for HPV years after you have sex with someone who is infected, which makes it hard to know when you first became infected. "The virus can lay dormant after initial exposure and factors such as stress or illness can cause activation." And since it's a skin-to-skin transmitted virus, you don't have to have intercourse to get it.

Condoms prevent transmission of all STDs.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention says that consistent and correct use of latex condoms reduces the risk of any sexually transmitted diseases that are transmitted by genital fluids such a gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis. However, condoms provide less protection against STDs spread through skin-to-skin contact like genital warts, genital herpes and syphilis, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "A condom can only cover so much," says Dr. Dweck. When condoms don't protect against STDs, it's usually because they're being used inconsistently or incorrectly, not because they failed. For example, some people use a condom just during ejaculation or sometimes have intercourse without a condom, Dr. Dweck says. She adds that you should put a condom on sex toys because certain infections can be transmitted on them. Clean toys with soap and water if the product allows.

You shouldn't exercise with your period.

You have no excuse to skip that workout. "In fact, exercising with your period will help control the amount of your flow and the intensity of your cramps," she says. Unless you're completely debilitated by your period, she pushes people to exercise before and during it. She adds that some people do get clumsy before their period. So, they may want to be cautious and use a stationary machine like a bike. Otherwise, she advocates for exercise at this time. "Exercise naturally helps the body produce endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals in the brain," says Dr. Dweck. "That's why cramping will be improved with exercise." Read more about Natural Ways to Relieve Period Pain.

You need a myriad of products and perfumes to keep your vagina clean.

"This myth is the bane of my existence in my practice," says Dr. Dweck. "People think the vagina is the dirtiest place on the planet. More bacteria are in our mouth than in our vagina." She says that the vagina has particular smells, which vary from person to person, influenced by your clothing's material, your diet or how much you're hydrated. Some women can use products to mask the smell and do fine with them. Other women experience itchiness, rashes, dryness and irritation from product ingredients. "If you're one of these women, one of the first things we think about is what products you're using. If it's not an infection or hormone issue, a product may be the issue," she says. Stick with warm water and mild soap on the vulva, she says. "You don't need to clean the inside of the vagina," says Dr. Dweck.

If you have a vaginal discharge, it's most definitely a yeast infection.

"So many women think everything is a yeast infection," says Dr. Dweck. A yeast infection typically has a thick white discharge, itching and no real foul odor, she says. But, vaginal discharge is linked to various causes like bacterial vaginosis, gonorrhea or trichomoniasis. It could be hormonally related.


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