8 Pieces Of Common Yet Dangerous Health Advice Your OB/GYN Wishes You’d Ignore
It's perfectly fine to get a few words of health advice, or some moral support, from friends, family, or even folks online. But when it comes to certain issues relating to women's health, there are definitely a few things OB/GYNs want you to know aren't true — no matter what people say.
Whether it has to do with period pain, pregnancy, or your general gynecological health, "inaccurate health information, sometimes from friends or the internet, can cause worry, delay in care, or mismanagement," Diana Ramos, MD, Chair of the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative, tells Bustle. So when it comes to treating an illness, or getting solid healthcare advice, it's best to turn to the experts.
"Your doctor will provide care specific to your history and exam findings," Dr. Ramos says. "[They] will have a baseline knowledge of you so that when you need care, they can provide recommendations specific for you." Of course, this involves getting annual checkups. But it also means going to your doctor between visits if new symptoms crop up — instead of relying on word-of-mouth advice, or trying to treat issues on your own.
It's not uncommon for false or dangerous health advice to get passed around as fact, so with that in mind, here are a few pieces of common health advice that's either straight up wrong, or needs to be updated, according to experts.
1. You Need To Push Through Period Pain
While it's common to have mild cramps during PMS or once your period starts, don't ignore severe pain — no matter what others say about "pushing through" or soldiering on.
"Painful periods are not normal," Dr. Iris Orbuch, MD, FACOG, tells Bustle. "They could be a sign of endometriosis. About 12 percent of women have endometriosis ... Signs of endometriosis can include some or all of the following; painful sex, painful periods, constipation, diarrhea, painful bowel movements, heavy bleeding, pelvic pain and infertility."
So if you're in agony each and every month, don't be afraid to speak up. "If you have even one of these symptoms absolutely talk to your doctor about the possibility of you having endometriosis," Dr. Orbuch says.
2. Taking Birth Control Will Impact Your Fertility
Many women worry that taking birth control pills today may affect their fertility down the road. But there's currently no evidence to support that birth control, once stopped, will negatively impact your chances of getting pregnant.
"There is no research to date that demonstrates that birth control pills or any form of birth control has a negative impact on a woman’s fertility," Brian Levine, MD, founding partner and practice director of CCRM New York, tells Bustle. "In fact, being on birth control for five years or more can help reduce a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer by nearly 50 percent." So in many ways, there are more positive impacts.
Of course, if you're concerned about hurting your chances of getting pregnant in the future, you should talk with your doctor. They can help you weigh the pros and cons, and figure out what's best for you.
3. You Need To Get A Pap Smear Every Year
Even though we've all been told it's necessary to get a pap smear — which screens for cervical cancer — every single year, that is no longer the recommendation. As Dr. Ramos says, "The recommendation is [that] women aged 21–29 years should have a pap test alone every three years. You should still be going to an annual well visit though."
Women ages 30 to 65 "should have a pap test and an HPV test (co-testing) every five years," Dr. Ramos says. "It also is acceptable to have a pap test alone every three years. Again, still be sure to get your annual check-up!"
4. It's Important To Clean Out Your Vagina
The idea that it's necessary to keep your vagina clean with douches has been passed around for decades. But doctors warn against it, not only because it's unnecessary to "clean out" your vagina, but also because doing so can be detrimental.
"For the most part, the vagina should not be douched as there are microscopic organisms that normally reside in there and promote low pH levels," Dr. Bryan Tran, DO, of DrFormulas, tells Bustle. "Douching disrupts the balance of these organisms, which can lead to problems. These vaginal probiotics compete against other potentially pathogenic organisms such as Candida, the cause of yeast infections; E. coli, the cause of urinary tract infections; and Gardnerella vaginalis, the most common cause of bacterial vaginosis."
5. You Need To Have Sex Before Getting An IUD
There's a myth floating around that it's necessary to have sex before getting an IUD, or intrauterine device form of birth control. But this is false.
"Any [person with a vagina] can get an IUD regardless of whether they have had sex before," Alison Macklin, vice president of education and innovation at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, and author of Making Sense of "It" tells Bustle. "The insertion process might look different if you have not had penetrative sex before, but it is not a barrier to getting an IUD."
If you want to use this form of birth control, but have yet to have sex, don't feel like you have to wait.
6. The Idea That Abortions Lead To Cancer
There are still some myths swirling around regarding abortions leading to infertility or cancer, but these have not been proven. As Macklin says, "Abortion is a safe and legal procedure that does not impact a woman’s ability to become pregnant later in life. Abortion does not cause cancer."
7. Birth Control Pills Cause Abortions
Birth control actually "prevents a pregnancy from occurring," Macklin says. "Barrier methods (like a condom) prevent the sperm from meeting the egg. Hormonal methods prevent the [person with a vagina] person from releasing an egg."
And morning after pills don't cause abortions, either. "Emergency Contraception, or EC, is a hormonal birth control method that works by preventing the [person with a vagina] from releasing an egg," Macklin says. "If the egg has already been fertilized by sperm, EC will not cause a [person with a vagina] to have an abortion."
So don't let this myth prevent you from getting EC, if you need it.
8. It's Possible To Tell Someone Has An STI
While some STIs are visible, not all of them are super obvious. So a quick glance at someone's genitals shouldn't be your go-to way to figure out if someone has an infection or not. "The only way to know whether someone has a STI is through testing," Macklin says. And from there, keeping an open dialogue with a trusted partner.
If you have any questions, it's always helpful to speak with your doctor directly. They can get to the bottom of any concerns you might have, and help debunk myths, so that you make good decisions and keep yourself safe.