This article was written by Lynn Joseph on behalf of Sherley Altidor.
It’s so important to educate ourselves on personal hygiene because our bodies keep us alive. Our bodies make up the sum of the parts of our health. Our bodies are strong and weak and the state of our health shapes which way the pendulum swings on that. This includes feminine hygiene.
We must educate ourselves on the things that we have control over when it comes to our bodies so that we can wake up everyday and be the best versions of ourselves. We must pay attention to the signs that our bodies give us everyday because those signs can save our lives. Those signs can keep us healthy and out of the hospital. Preventive care is the best care.
We should not be ashamed about feminine hygiene or make the youth ashamed of wanting to learn about their bodies. The more they know as their bodies are growing and evolving, the more preventive action can be taken for what they can control. By talking about these issues loudly on a regular basis, we normalize what it means to have agency over our bodies. So what exactly needs to be normalized, you ask
Go to the Gynecologist
The first time going to a gynecologist can be nerve wracking but that’s normal. Do your research. Ask loved ones for recommendations. Decide if you feel comfortable with a female or male doctor. That is your choice. You must feel comfortable going to the practitioner that you will be visiting on a regular basis. It’s important to have that trust and be comfortable with someone you will be exposing yourself to. Let them know if you prefer small talk or not if you find that one or the other is more calming during your visits. Establish a healthy relationship with your practitioner from the get go so that everyone is on one accord and the anxiety of visiting the gynecologist dwindles.
Do Your Research
I’m not just talking about Google searches and YouTube videos. Read a book. Go to the library or bookstore (or in the case of stay at home orders, check out ebooks from your library) about your body. Feeling overwhelmed in your search and don’t know where to start? Try The Vagina Bible: The Vulva and the Vagina: Separating the Myth from the Medicine by Jennifer Gunter. If you know a doctor or nurse, ask them if they know someone who specializes in what you have questions about. Talk to a professional.
Get To Know Your Body
Self exams and going in for tests can save you a lot of pain and medical bills in the long run. Early detection saves lives. Whether it’s a breast exam, a visit to the gyno, or other doctor’s check up, it’s important to make sure that everything is working as it should and nothing in your body is working against you.
Even healthy bodies can get infections. A yeast infection, for example. Yeast infections are very common, actually. Every vagina has healthy yeast in their vagina but when too much is present, it can create some irritation (itching, burning, redness, a thicker discharge). If your vaginal chemical gets thrown out of whack (due to a weak immune system, changes in hormone levels like say during your menstrual cycle, antibiotics, diabetes, and vaginal sprays, for example), it’s okay. You can get rid of a yeast infection. With anti-fungal medicine, your yeast infection can be gone in a matter of days.
Men can get yeast infections as well, though it’s not as common. It’s important to note here that while your body chemistry may have a bad reaction to your sexual partner’s natural yeast, and this may cause your yeast to over-grow, yeast infections are not contagious nor are they STDs.
Also read: Why Are Women Labeled Strong
Also not an STD, bacterial vaginosis. There seems to be a pattern here that too much of anything not being good for you. In this case, too much of a certain type of bacteria in the vagine typically occurs with women who are sexually active. The CDC states that research does not yet show the cause of BV, only a commonality in the people who have it. The imbalance between good and bad bacteria can be thrown off when having sex with a new partner or multiple partners.
BV rarely occurs among people who have never had sex. While BV is not an STD, it can certainly increase your chances of getting one. While it’s unclear how BV spreads, the CDC encourages limiting sexual partners, not douching, and proper use of latex condoms. BV symptoms come and go and can be mild. They include itching and burning including burning while urinating, a thin white or grey discharge, and a strong fish-like odor following sex. The CDC states that BV will sometimes go away without treatment, but you should still get checked out by a healthcare provider who can provide medicine. Untreated BV can lead to an increase in getting STDS such as HIV and delivering a baby earlier than the due date if you have BV while pregnant.
Also read: Why You Should Use Luvena Prebiotic
These are just two examples of what can go on in your vagina and can have drastic effects on your health, your life if you are not educated on the matter and take action to treat these issues. This is why going to the gynecologist is so important. Yes, it might be awkward and uncomfortable at first exposing yourself to a stranger who will poke and prod you. But these are medical professionals. Their job is to look out for you. They can see things that you can’t because they have been educated on the matter and have a better view than you do. So find a gynecologist near you so that you can walk tall knowing that everything is indeed okay down there. Do your research so that you know what signs to look for when it comes to anything out of the ordinary. The more you educate yourself on the female body and pay attention to your body in particular and how it reacts, the better prepared you will be for preventive and treatment measures.
If you’ve gone to the gynecologist before, what’s something that you learned about the vagina that you didn’t know before?
If you’ve never gone to the gynecologist, what’s something that you want to learn about the vagina but are perhaps too embarrassed to ask? Put it in the comments so that it’s out there and you can take the first step in building the confidence to ask the hard questions.
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