Women’s Health Myths: 11 Facts to Know
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding women's health. Here are the facts about 11 popular women's health myths.
- Myth: You can’t have penetrative sex on your period.
Reality: It’s fine to be sexually active during your menstrual cycle. In many cultures, sexual activity during bleeding is socially taboo, but it does not have any medical ramifications. Some women feel more aroused before and during their menstrual cycle, and there is no medical reason to wait until the period ends. Of course, if you would rather abstain until your period is over, that is totally fine. It’s your body!
- Myth: You should cancel your OB/GYN appointment if you’re on your period.
Reality: You can keep your appointment as is even if you’re on your period! Of course, it depends on a few factors including your personal comfort level, how heavy your flow is and what stage of your menstrual cycle you’re in. For example, if you are on the last day or so of your menstrual cycle and your flow is light, you can still come in for a Pap smear and your physician will be able to proceed with the exam. Overall, if you’re on your period and it’s too hard to reschedule your appointment, just come on in – we would rather see you and keep you on schedule with regular exams.
- Myth: Bras cause breast cancer.
Reality: According to the American Cancer Society, a 2014 study of more than 1,500 women found no association between wearing a bra and breast cancer risk. That said, most early detected cancers are don’t show any symptoms and are picked up during cancer screenings. Therefore, it is important that women get annual screening mammograms starting at age 40.
- Myth: Douching “cleans” your vagina.
Reality: Your vagina does not need your assistance as it is self-cleaning. In fact, douching can cause health issues such as a bacterial vaginosis (vaginal infection), pelvic inflammatory disease (an infection of the reproductive organs), problems during pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, irritation and vaginal dryness. Instead, focus on cleaning the exterior areas of your genitals daily when you bathe, using unscented soap and water. If you have concerns about a change in odor, address it with your gynecologist.
- Myth: Eating certain foods will help you get pregnant.
Reality: There isn’t a specific food that is a magic pill for pregnancy. Fertility concerns are something you should address with your doctor for medical guidance. In the meantime, make sure you aim for a balanced “plant-strong” or “plant-dominant” diet to improve your overall health.
- Myth: Beginning menopause means you can’t get pregnant.
Reality: Until you have missed your period for 12 consecutive months, if you do not want to get pregnant, you should continue to take birth control or whatever method of contraception works for you. Menopause is not “complete” until you do not have a menstrual cycle for 12 months in a row, and usually occurs around age 50. If your period starts and stops and is irregular, there is a possibility that you can still become pregnant.
- Myth: Polycystic ovarian syndrome makes you infertile.
Reality: It may be more difficult for you to get pregnant if you have PCOS, but pregnancy is still possible. There are several options for women with PCOS to help them get pregnant, and you can discuss your choices with your doctor.
- Myth: Severe anger, depression or anxiety before your period is normal.
Reality: If you have recurring emotional and mental health issues during the beginning of your menstrual cycle before your bleeding starts, you may have premenstrual dysphoric disorder. PMDD is a health problem that is like PMS but is more serious. It can cause severe emotional distress a week or two before your period and symptoms can be debilitating and affect various aspects of your personal life. Symptoms usually go away two to three days after your period starts. If you have concerns, you should talk with your doctor, who can recommend treatment to manage your condition.
- Myth: A midwife
is not a medical professional.
Reality: Certified nurse-midwives (CNM) are medically trained and can deliver babies. Certified nurse-midwives should not be confused with certified midwives (CM) or certified professional midwives (CPM), who do not have formal medical training. Certified nurse-midwives are often confused with doulas. A doula is a labor support person or coach but isn't trained to be a birth attendant and assume care for a mother and her baby. At Ochsner Health, certified nurse-midwives (CNM) and physicians work together on behalf of the patient. A certified nurse-midwife must graduate from a master's or doctorate program, pass a national certification exam and complete hundreds of hours of patient care to become a certified nurse-midwife. Learn more about certified nurse-midwives here.
- Myth: Your OB/GYN will judge you.
Reality: If you have any question, no matter how embarrassing you may think it is, always ask. Your physician and care team are here to help you! If you have sex questions, period questions or any question about your health and body, bring it up during your next appointment.
- Myth: OB/GYNs are just for pregnancy or when you have a specific concern.
Reality: Every woman should begin seeing a gynecologist between the ages of 13 and 15 and should continue to see her physician throughout her lifetime for screenings and preventative healthcare. Often, physical exams are not needed until 21 years of age, so coming in earlier to get to know your care team and ask questions, can be comforting.
Learn more about Women’s Services at Ochsner Health.