Almost all of us have read something on the internet or heard something from a friend that turned out to be untrue, especially when it comes to our health. There are plenty of common women's health myths floating around, and figuring out which ones are true and which are just hearsay can get confusing, especially if you don't have a doctor by your side helping you navigate through the facts.
If you're out of school, you're definitely not getting any more sex-ed classes, and you probably rely on information from your friends and from health bloggers or magazines to learn more about what's going on in your body. Although these sources can be helpful at times, unfortunately, the information that's spread isn't always true.
Not everyone has the time to look up everything they hear on the internet or scour through medical journals, which is why I consulted with a variety of health experts to help set the record straight. Even though I write about health all the time, there were still plenty of facts that took me totally by surprise, and I'm sure other women will feel the same. Here are 11 common women's health myths debunked, once and for all.
1You Can Prevent UTIs Using Cranberry Juice
Many women turn to cranberry juice to help with their urinary tract infections, but it turns out drinking the fruit doesn't do much as far as prevention goes. Cranberry juice does contain an active ingredient that can help prevent adherence of bacteria to the bladder wall, but cranberry juices and supplements unfortunately don't contain enough of this ingredient to make a difference, according to the Cleveland Clinic. It can't hurt to drink it, but don't rely on it to fight off any infections.
2Having Sex Causes A Yeast Infection
According to a survey by Monistat, 81 percent of women believe sex is a primary cause of yeast infections. Risk factors for yeast infections include taking antibiotics or birth control pills, wearing tight fitting pants, or using scented products near the vaginal area, says WebMD. Yeast infections are not vaginally transmitted, although it's possible that sex with a new partner can disrupt your vaginal flora and increase your risk of a yeast infection.
3Breast Cancer Is The Number One Killer Of Women
There's so much talk about breast cancer, that many women neglect protecting themselves against the actual number one killer: heart disease. "Some 43 million women are living with cardiovascular disease and might not even be aware," says Dr. Ryan Neinstein over email. "Woman need to see their primary care physicians for screening tests and live a healthy balanced lifestyle even when they have no symptoms and have no family history of heart disease"
4You Can Get Paralyzed From An Epidural
"Many patients are hesitant about getting an epidural in labor for fear of becoming paralyzed," says Dr. David Ghozland over email. "I’m not sure where this stems from, but I hear it all the time. There is no risk of being paralyzed by having an epidural placed during labor."
5The Vagina Needs To Be Cleaned
"There are many products using 'health language' to try to suggest some scrubbing is a necessary part of vulvar or vaginal health," says Nicole Prause, Ph.D. over email. "In truth, cleaning the vulva skin with soaps often causes dyspareunia, or pain during sex, because soap actually irritates those tissues. Similarly, vaginal cleansing, such as with douches, can elevate bacteria and increase HIV risk."
6Wearing Sunscreen Prevents Vitamin D Absorption
Many people dangerously believe that wearing sunscreen will prevent the absorption of the much-needed vitamin D. However, a study published in the journal Archives of Dermatology found that wearing sunscreen does not cause vitamin D deficiencies. "It is easy and inexpensive to achieve your recommended daily vitamin D dose through food and/or supplements," says dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse MD, FAAD over email. "Moreover, eating your vitamin D will prevent you from the known risks of UV radiation, including skin aging, and skin cancer."
7Your Vagina Becomes "Loose" From Regular Sex
Many women believe that they were "tight" as a virgin and become more "loose" when they have more frequent intercourse. However, this is thankfully not the case. The muscles in the vagina relax when aroused, and then return back to normal afterwards. Unlike childbirth, sex does not cause the vagina to permanently stretch out, according to Psychology Today.
8Your Period Syncs Up With Whoever You're Living With
It's widely believed that your period begins to sync up with other women in your household due to pheromones in close proximity, dubbed the McClintock effect. However, these coexisting periods may be due to chance more than any hormonal affects. Multiple studies show that the synchronicity effect is not actually real. What's really going on is that women have cycles that range from 5-7 days, and since this is a decently long time period, their periods tend to coincidentally overlap.
9You Can't Get Pregnant On Your Period
Some people use their time of the month as a free pass for unprotected sex, believing that they can't get pregnant. If this is you, think again. Although the odds for pregnancy are lowered during your period, there's still a risk, according to Healthline. Vaginal bleeding doesn't always indicate menstruation, and sperm can also live in a woman up to 72 hours after ejaculation, meaning the sperm could still be alive once your period ends and you start ovulating.
10Birth Control Pills Need To Clear Out Of Your System Once You Want To Get Pregnant
It's common for women to think they need to wait a few months after getting off the pill before they conceive. However, the second you stop taking birth control, your body is able to get pregnant. In fact, a study from Obstetrics & Gynecology found that 20 percent of women were able to get pregnant just once cycle after stopping birth control.
11Cellulite Is Fat
Many women cringe at the cellulite on the back of their legs, believing it has to do with their fat cells, but that's not the case. "Fat is not what’s making everyone dimply and dented," says Ashley Black in her book, The Cellulite Myth: It’s Not Fat, It’s Fascia. "In fact, there is absolutely no chemical difference between the fat cells where you see cellulite and the fat in any other area of the body." So what causes cellulite? It's actually the connective tissue between fat cells called fascia that causes the appearance of cellulite, which is why women of all sizes can have it, regardless of how much fat they have.