No matter how old you are or how well you know your doctor, asking certain questions will always be awkward. This is especially true when it comes to our sexual health and private areas. We feel embarrassed, ashamed, silly, or dumb, and because of this we don’t ask important questions and remain in the dark. Lucky for you, we’re here to cover all the awkward, nagging questions about sex, sexual health, and your genitals that you’ve been afraid to ask.
Question 1: Is it okay to have sex while on your period or pregnant?
The Myth: That having sex on your period is unsanitary or gross, and that having sex while pregnant will harm the baby.
The Answer: Having sex on your period is no less sanitary than having sex any other time of the month. In fact, many women find that having sex while on their period helps to relieve menstrual cramps, and many experience an increased libido during their monthly visit. As long as both parties are comfortable and okay with the small amount of mess that it can create, then have sex as much as you want!
It is important to note that you still must be vigilant about safe sex while menstruating. You have an increased chance of infection, so both you and your partner need to clean up properly afterward. Also, though the risk of becoming pregnant is low while menstruating, it could still happen, and your period also won’t protect you against STIs, so do not forgo your usual birth control method because you are on your period.
While pregnant, your baby is safely protected by the amniotic sac and other muscles and mucous membranes. The baby can’t feel anything and will not be disturbed. Having sex also will not cause early labor, provided you have a healthy, normal pregnancy. Many women even find it easier to achieve orgasm at this time because there is increased blood flow to the genitals and therefore heightened sensitivity. Again, as long as both partners are on the same page and remain in open communication, sex while pregnant can be just as enjoyable. If you have any qualms about your pregnancy, speak with your doctor.
Question 2: Why is it so dry down there, and what can I do about it?
The Myth: It’s dry because you just aren’t turned on by your partner, or there is something wrong with your body.
The Answer: Vaginal dryness is extremely common and can be caused by a variety of reasons. Most often, it has to do with a decline in estrogen levels in your body, especially during menopause. Estrogen helps to maintain the fluid responsible for keeping your vagina healthy and lubricated, so changes in hormone levels can cause you to dry up, leading to painful sex. This estrogen drop can be caused by:
- Menopause and perimenopause
- A hysterectomy
- Medications for endometriosis and uterine fibroids
- Some medications for allergies, colds, and depression
- Vaginal douching
- Some autoimmune disorders
You don’t need to let vaginal dryness stop you from having an enjoyable sex life. First, talk to your partner and make sure your needs are being met, particularly when it comes to foreplay. Most women need more warm-up time than men do, and not taking the appropriate measure can result in an uncomfortable experience. If you are on medications that you think may be causing a problem, voice these concerns to your doctor to find out if you can make any changes.
Also, no matter how old you are or how healthy you eat, there is nothing wrong with using lubrication. Unfortunately, many lubricants you will find on the shelf have chemical ingredients in them that you don’t want to put anywhere near your reproductive organs. Some resort to using common kitchen oils such as coconut, however any oil that remains in the folds of your skin after sex can go rancid and cause trouble for your genitals. Instead, look for a natural, organic lubricant made of plant-based ingredients.
Question 3: Why does my vagina smell bad and how do I wash it?
The Myth: Your vagina should not smell ever, and if it does there is something very wrong. To get rid of odor, you should douche or use vaginal deodorants.
The Answer: There are many reasons why your vagina may smell differently throughout the month, and vaginal odor is not necessarily a bad thing. Douching and vaginal deodorants are completely unnecessary and can even cause vaginal dryness, disturb the natural bacterial balance in your private areas, and cause yeast infections and other vaginal health problems.
To clean your vaginal area, water and a clean cloth (or even just your clean hand) will do the trick. Eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, and taking probiotics to keep the microbiota of your body healthy will all help in keeping your genitals functioning properly. As always, avoid processed foods and eat organically as often as you can.
Lastly, it is natural for your vagina to have a scent, and if you are maintaining normal hygiene practices you won’t have any issues. That being said, a strong or unusual vaginal odor could be a sign of other health problems, such as:
- Bacterial overgrowth
- Trichomoniasis (a sexually transmitted infection)
- Cervical or Vaginal cancer
- A rectovaginal fistula
If you have been washing your vagina as noted above and are still concerned about any odors coming from your private area, visit your doctor for a vaginal exam to rule out any dangerous health complications.
Question 4: How do I avoid a UTI?
The Myth: UTIs are unavoidable, every woman will experience at least one in her lifetime, and there’s nothing she can do about it.
The Answer: While UTIs are common and some women are more prone than others, they are not completely unavoidable. Some of the best ways to avoid getting a UTI after sex are:
- Drinking lots of water: Staying hydrated means you will urinate more often and flush out UTI-causing bacteria. You will also dilute your urine and decrease your risk of developing an infection.
- Empty your bladder before and after sex: This will ensure you flush all the unwanted bacteria out of your body.
- Wipe from front to back: Wiping the other direction increases the chance of bringing bacteria from your rectum in contact with your vaginal area. Wiping from front to back avoids this unfortunate carry-over.
- Avoid vaginal cleaning/deodorizing products: Douching and vaginal deodorants and sprays can irritate your urethra and lead to UTIs.
Question 5: How do I avoid a yeast infection?
The Myth: It’s impossible to avoid yeast infections, and once you have one it can’t be completely cured and will continue to come back.
The Answer: While it is true that seventy-five percent of women will get a yeast infection in their lifetime, it doesn’t mean that they are completely unavoidable. Yeast infections occur when a change or disruption causes the bacteria in your vaginal area to become overgrown. This can occur with pregnancy, diabetes, illness, antibiotics, certain birth control pills, and vaginal douching. While some of these are out of your control, there is plenty you can do to counteract them, including:
- Wearing breathable underwear and avoiding tight clothing.
- Don’t douche or use vaginal sprays and powders.
- Wipe front to back.
- Limit your use of hot tubs and baths.
- Change out of wet, damp, or sweaty clothes quickly.
- Change panty liners, pads, and tampons frequently.
- Use antibiotics only when absolutely necessary and take a probiotic, especially after a round of antibiotics.
- Manage your blood sugar levels by minimizing sugars and refined carbohydrates
Question 6: Why do I have a low libido, and how often is it normal to have sex?
The Myth: Other people are having sex all the time, and there’s something wrong with me because I don’t or don’t want to.
The Answer: In reality, most couples have sex from once or twice a week to even only once a month. While most therapists and experts agree that couples who have sex at least once a week are usually happier, this doesn’t mean that you can’t or don’t have a healthy sex life if this isn’t you. Barring things like illness, diseases, injuries, and sexual problems such as pain during intercourse, there could be a number of reasons why you have a lower sex drive:
- Hormonal changes (Menopause, pregnancy, and breastfeeding)
- Mental health problems
- Low body image and self-esteem
If you find your low sex drive is becoming a problem, there are a number of things you can do to give it a boost. Regular exercise boosts your mood, improves your stamina, and increases feelings of body confidence. Too much stress is also a libido-killer, so finding ways, whether that’s through exercise, meditation, or some other healthy way of relieving your stress will help you to get in the mood. Quit bad habits such as smoking and other drugs, and avoid over-consuming alcohol. Lastly, set aside time, communicate with your partner, and find ways to spice up your sex life that you will both enjoy.
Question 7: Is masturbating okay for women to do, or is it bad for your health?
The Myth: Masturbating is bad and not something women should do. It could harm our health and make having actual sex less enjoyable.
The Answer: On the contrary, masturbuating is actually quite good for women and will help improve their sexual experiences with their partner. It increases blood flow throughout your body and releases endorphins to your brain, which helps to boost your mood. Masturbating allows you to discover more about your own body and what you enjoy, which can then be communicated to your partner to make for a better sexual experience for both of you.
The Bottom Line
Many women are uncomfortable talking about sex and sexual health problems with their doctors for fear of being judged or sounding silly. In reality, we should all be talking about these issues to make sure that the right information is out there and that all women don’t have to feel ashamed. If you are truly uncomfortable speaking with your doctor about any of the above problems, or anything else, you should consider looking for a new doctor who makes you feel more at ease.
Help us spread the word about these female health problems by sharing this article with all the women in your life.
- Reviewed by the BabyCenter Medical Advisory BoardLast updated: December 2015. (2015, November 01). Sex during pregnancy: How to stay safe and have fun. Retrieved October 03, 2017, from https://www.babycenter.com/sex-during-pregnancy-overview
- Vaginal Dryness: Causes and Moisturizing Treatments. (n.d.). Retrieved October 03, 2017, from https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/vaginal-dryness-causes-moisturizing-treatments#2
- Vaginal odor Causes. (2017, April 28). Retrieved October 03, 2017, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/vaginal-odor/basics/causes/sym-20050664
- Urinary tract infection (UTI). (2017, August 25). Retrieved October 03, 2017, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-tract-infection/manage/ptc-20344437
- 10 Ways to Prevent Yeast Infections. (n.d.). Retrieved October 03, 2017, from https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/10-ways-to-prevent-yeast-infections
- Not interested in sex? (2015, August 28). Retrieved October 03, 2017, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/low-sex-drive-in-women/basics/lifestyle-home-remedies/con-20033229
- Female Masturbation: 5 Things You May Not Know. (n.d.). Retrieved October 03, 2017, from https://www.webmd.com/women/features/female-masturbation-5-things-know#1
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