7 Habits You Think Hurt Your Gynecological Health But Really Don't
Gynecological health can feel like a mystery. Even though that's largely the fault of a stigmatizing healthcare and education system, it's still the truth for many people. So when it comes to gynecological health concerns, a bunch of misconceptions still prevail. Luckily, sometimes this means that you don't have to worry as much as you may think.
Having good gynecological health starts with knowing what is actually good for your body and what isn't necessary. A person's gynecological health can be easily imbalanced, Dr. Adeeti Gupta, founder of Walk In GYN Care, tells Bustle. "I think the public knows that ... but they don't necessarily know how they may actually create more harm by trying to take 'extra care' of it unknowingly and create more problems in the process." This often means avoiding vaginal sprays or washes to purportedly ward off infections. But it also means that some things you've been avoiding aren't actually as harmful as you'd think. So it's important to break down some of your ideas about what is, and isn't, good for your health. You may actually be able to stress out a bit less once you find out the truth.
Here are eight habits you might think hurt your gynecological health but actually don't, according to experts.
1. Using Tampons
While there are all sorts of alternatives these days, it's important not to shame people who use tampons, or be ashamed of using them. Of course, there are rare health risks, but using tampons won't hurt your health in the long-run.
"Some people believe using tampons can be harmful," Dr. Daniel A. Skora, fertility expert with Fertility Specialists of Texas, tells Bustle. "There is something called toxic shock syndrome which can be caused by prolonged tampon insertion. This is exceedingly rare and most women can use tampons responsibly without an issue." Of course, there are safe ways to use tampons and ways not to, but using them isn't an innate risk.
2. Using Long-Term Birth
If you've been avoiding a birth control method that will assure pregnancy protection for a handful of years at a time because you fear it will affect your ability to get pregnant down the line, it's time to de-stress.
"Some women believe that using something like an IUD can negatively affect fertility," Dr. Skora says. "In fact, the intrauterine device and Nexplanon (that is placed in the arm) are the most effective forms of birth control. Upon removal, fertility returns to what it would be if the patient had not been using birth control." So, if your goal is to get pregnant in a few years, long-term birth control might actually be a good bet for you now. Using this method isn't going to hurt you, or your chances of a child.
3. Stopping Your Period With Birth Control
You may feel suspicious about using medicine to avoid having your period, but doing this is not harmful to your health. Of course, you may want to keep having periods for a variety of personal reasons, but it's important to understand that this alone isn't an unhealthy trend.
"One myth is that being on a form of birth control that eliminates your period is somehow harmful," Dr. Skora says. "In fact, any form of birth control that eliminates your period can improve your health! Being on a birth control pill can help to reduce your risk of ovarian cancer in the long-run." So if you're tempted to stop your period, ask your OB/GYN. It might be a better idea than you think.
4. Period Sex
Having sex on your period isn't any more risky than sex off your period. Doctors really want you to understand that.
"People think having sex on their period is dirty or dangerous — it's not!" Natasha Bhuyan, MD at One Medical in Phoenix, Arizona, tells Bustle. "While it's true that STIs, like HIV, can be spread through blood, you are susceptible to them with genital intercourse on or off your period. That's why it's always a good idea to wear a condom to prevent the spread of STIs. Some women find that period sex even benefits their cramping." In all, period sex is actually way more helpful than harmful.
5. Using Birth Control Causes Weight Gain
The myth that birth control makes you gain weight is pretty pervasive. But it's also not quite true.
"Birth control does not cause weight gain," Dr. Bhuyan says. "This includes the IUDs, Nexplanon, NuvaRing, the pills and the patch. The only exception is the Depo shot, which has shown to cause about five percent weight gain." If any changes are really concerning you, then it's important to go see your doctor.
6. Exercising During Pregnancy
If you're pregnant, or planning to get pregnant, you're probably used to all sort of people's unsolicited opinions. But if anyone has told you that it isn't healthy to exercise when you're expecting, doctors want you to know that isn't true.
"It is safe to exercise during pregnancy," Dr. Bhuyan says. "In fact, it's encouraged and good for the baby to do 30 minutes per day of activities like swimming, running, yoga, Pilates and strength training.” Obviously, do whatever works best for you, but know that a little bit of exercise won't harm your baby.
Another big one on the list of things people with vaginas are sometimes expected not to do: masturbate. But doctors think it's important that you know masturbating won't harm your health in the least.
"Women, specially if they have not had a healthy sex education or experiences growing up, believe that masturbation will lead to infections or loss of virginity," Dr. Gupta says. "[This is] not true at all. If all other genital hygiene measures are being followed then none of the above are any issue." So make sure you clean your sex toys, but have all the fun you want — your vagina will be quite alright.
Don't beat yourself up if you find yourself falling for myths about gynecological health. “Gynecological health is often viewed by the public as a mystery," Dr. Bhuyan says. "But gynecological health is a natural and important part of our overall well-being, like heart health or mental health. We should all feel comfortable discussing these issues openly with our doctors, as well as with our friends and family." So if you're curious, ask questions, and speak with your doctor. It's worth it for the sake of your health.