NEW HAVEN, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--In light of Sexual Health Month, Mary Jane Minkin, MD, OB/GYN, and Clinical Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the Yale University School of Medicine, says that now is the time for women to be emboldened, take control of their sexual health, and create healthy habits that positively impact their sexual health routines.
“It’s not just a nice thing to do, but a must do for women to be in touch with their own bodies and sexual health,” says Dr. Minkin. “In fact, a recent survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of RepHresh of 2,000 American women between ages 24 and 34 reveals the gaps in care and knowledge around sexual and vaginal health, with 54% admitting they didn’t take their sexual health seriously while in school, over half wished they were taught more about female pleasure, female anatomy, and that they had a better understanding of the menstrual cycle as well.”
Accurate information, awareness, and meaningful conversations about one’s health is critical; whether addressing sexual pleasure and function, fertility and pregnancy, infection or other vaginal issues, it’s important to consider how one currently cares for her sexual health and wellness to feel empowered to make the necessary changes, as well as get information from a trusted source, such as an OB/GYN or healthcare provider.
Below are some of Dr. Minkin’s top tips for women to take control of their sexual health:
Become best friends with your OB/GYN provider:
At a yearly checkup or when visiting with an OB/GYN for a specific issue, make sure to have an open, honest dialogue so that your provider can assist you as best as possible. No topic should be off limits, such as how to have safer sex, any pain or discomfort you feel during sex, complaints about your birth control affecting your mood, strange symptoms, and more. The more questions answered by a trusted source, the more confident you can feel addressing issues when they arise and take control of your health, both physically and mentally.
Get in touch with your unique cycle:
Whether or not you are trying to get pregnant, it’s important to keep track of your menstrual cycle to know when to expect your period and timing of ovulation. When you are familiar with your cycle, you are better equipped to recognize when something might be wrong or irregular, which can be an early sign of a larger health issue. You can do so by using a tracking app or an old-fashioned calendar. Keeping accurate, reliable pregnancy tests nearby is also a good idea and will come in handy when you think you might be pregnant. Using a test that gives accurate results up to six days before the day of a missed period, like the First Response Early Result pregnancy test, found in the First Response Comfort Check pregnancy test kit, is the best-case scenario. For added reassurance, use the EasyRead App, which scans the analog test result on First Response tests and converts it into a simple ‘Pregnant’ or ‘Not Pregnant’ answer.
Live fertility friendly:
If you are currently trying to get pregnant or will be at some point in the future, do right by your body and take care of it now. Don’t wait until you’re ready to have kids to start eating a nutrient-dense diet, exercising the proper amount (not too little, not too much), quit smoking, and begin to understand your hormones and baby-making abilities. If you think you might have a hormone imbalance, it’s best to get tested now and find solutions for your overall health. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, may affect one’s chances of conceiving, as well as contribute to weight gain, high blood pressure, and disrupted sleep patterns. Be aware of the factors that might impact your ability to get pregnant in the future and consider making necessary lifestyle adjustments.
Talk to your partner about STI prevention:
No matter your relationship status, do not be afraid to have the talk with your partner about STI prevention and protection. It’s essential that both parties understand signs and symptoms of STIs, treatment options, and what type of protection to keep on hand. When it comes to protection against both unwanted pregnancy and infections, I recommend finding your preferred condom, testing various shapes and sizes to see what fits best and feels right for both partners. Trojan Condoms introduced ULTRA FIT, a condom line with four different shape/sensation options to maximize pleasure and protection by finding the right fit. Aside from efforts to prevent STIs, it’s also best to get tested regularly (once per year) and know your STI status.
Understand “normal” vs. “abnormal” odor:
All vaginas have an odor, so unlike what society has told women for years, you should not try to get rid of your natural vaginal odor. However, abnormal odor is a sign of an imbalance in the delicate vaginal environment. Several factors can throw off vaginal pH, such as having unprotected sex, douching, using scented soap, menstrual periods, taking antibiotics and more. To prevent any issues, treat the vagina as a “self-cleaning oven” and pay attention to differences in what you see, smell, and feel. Taking probiotics, like RepHresh Pro-B, will help balance the normal flora that’s naturally present in the vagina and allow one to maintain a healthy microbiome. If you do experience odor or discomfort, it is likely a pH imbalance, which can be rebalanced by using a product like RepHresh Gel that will get rid of odor and discomfort for up to three days. If an unusual odor persists, do check in with an OB/GYN provider.
Use sex toys and keep them clean:
Studies show that using sex toys, either on your own or with a partner, increase libido (sexual desire and arousal). So, don’t be afraid to integrate them in the bedroom, but do be cautious of cleanliness. Make sure to clean sex toys in between use to avoid bacterial or infection transmission. Unlike bacteria, yeast can live for a while on hard surfaces. If you struggle with yeast infections, double check to make sure the toys you use are cleaned thoroughly before and after use. It’s also important to use a water-based lubricant with toys, such as the Trojan H2O Sensitive Touch Paraben Free Water-Based Lubricant, since using a silicone-based lubricant with a silicone sex toy can damage the toy, collect bacteria, and ultimately cause infection.
Communicate with your partner:
A healthy sex life is one that prioritizes communication. Communicating with your partner about sexual preferences – what you like, what you don’t like, what you want to experiment with and other elements in a relationship – will continuously create better experiences for both parties. I recommend finding time to have an open and honest conversation outside of the bedroom to debrief and connect. Communication is key to the happiness of you and your partner and to the health of your relationship.