We’re sure you’re careful about what you eat, what you put on your skin, and what you wear. But are you taking care of your sexual health too?
It doesn’t matter if you’re single, married, in a long-distance relationship, or NBSB. Whatever your status is, you have to take care of your vagina, your ovaries, and all the connected parts!
We talked to Dr. Nini Infortuno Sana, OBGYN, and she said, “Women should take care of their sexual and reproductive health because it's an integral part of a woman’s overall health. It makes her confident in making decisions about her sexuality... It also [allows her to make better choices should she decide to have children in the future].”
So here are a few tips:
1. Visit your OBGYN regularly.
Dr. Nini says, “A woman should visit her gynecologist at least once a year when she becomes sexually active.” But don’t stop there! See your gynecologist if you notice anything weird or you feel something unusual down there. An annual pap smear is also recommended.
2. Protect yourself from STDs and an unplanned pregnancy.
There are several ways a sexually active woman can protect herself from STDs and an unplanned pregnancy. “[Women] can choose from a wide range of methods: from barrier methods—condoms, cervical cap—to oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) and injectables, and more invasive methods like IUD.”
3. Get to know your body.
Do you experience PMS? Do you know what your vagina looks like? Do you examine your breasts every month? Are you allergic to latex? If you know your body, then you’ll be able to tell if there’s something wrong or weird going on. This is especially important if you’re looking at methods of protection from STDs and pregnancy. According to Dr. Nini, “It is essential to have yourself checked, to know the better option for your body as well as your reproductive status.”
It helps to know if you have a condition or other issues, like PCOS, endometriosis, ovulation problems, problems with your uterus, or blocked fallopian tubes. These conditions can affect your menstrual cycle and fertility.
4. Get tested.
Anyone who’s sexually active in any way—no matter how many partners you have—should get tested! Get tested, even if you always use condoms, even if your partner says he or she is clean, and even if your partner says you’re his or her first: “The STDs that you can get screened for are HIV, Hepatitis B, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Trichomonas Vaginalis, Syphillis and HPV.” Most clinics offer testing for specific STDs, or packages for several STDs. And there are organizations and clinics dedicated to HIV testing and awareness.
5. Track your period.
You probably learned about menstruation in school. But you might not realize that the menstrual cycle is different for every woman. Dr. Nini advises, “One can take care of herself by being aware of the changes happening in her body, especially with regards to her period.”
Some women have 28-day cycles, while others have 30-day cycles. Some women have such irregular cycles that they don’t get their period for several months, or their period lasts a week or two. Others bleed heavily only on the first day, while others might just have light bleeding for their whole period. If you know what’s normal for you and your period, then you’ll be able to tell when something’s off.
There are a lot of apps on iOS and Android that can help you track your period, which can also be useful if you’re trying to get pregnant—or trying to stay child-free.
6. Be honest with your partner/s.
Maybe you’ve had a threesome. Or you had drunken sex with your best friend. You’ve never had anal sex. You like sex toys. You had a child when you were a teenager. You’re separated from your husband. You think your number is higher than your partner’s.
Whatever your sexual and relationship history, you and your partner should be honest with each other. You could even get tested together, for your mutual peace of mind. And if your sexual history is a problem for your partner, then maybe this is your chance to talk about relationship issues and expressions of sexuality.
7. Take the right meds and vaccines.
Some conditions can be eased with hormone treatment. Your gynecologist might prescribe pills not just to prevent pregnancy, but also to treat PCOS. One brand of pills might not work for you, so you might have to try a few different ones to find the right match. Whatever your condition or treatment, don’t try any new meds without consulting your gynecologist!
And if you haven’t gotten around to it yet, get vaccinated! Dr. Nini says, “Protect yourself from HPV-causing cancer by availing of the anti-cervical cancer shots.”
Each woman is different, and each body is different. Get to know your body, so you and your gynecologist know how to take care of you!
Follow Regina on Instagram.