There are many myths related to sex, pregnancy and hygiene, it is not clear where they all originated from but they seem to be passed on from one generation to the other. Sometimes mothers give advice to their daughters, but mothers don’t always know best! Strange enough some health care providers believe some of these myths and thus present wrong advice to their patients. I will try in this article to address some of the common false beliefs, but if you have heard others and not sure about the facts please send me an e-mail and I will try to clarify matters.
Myth: Vaginal odour is bad
Most women have a “normal” vaginal odour which is not offensive and which varies during their monthly cycle. This is dependant upon personal hygiene, the use of contraception and the level of their hormones. The odour may be related to a recent intercourse, the use of antibiotics, an imbalance of the normal vaginal bacteria and yeast, or the presence of vaginal infections. You should only worry if the odour is markedly different than usual or has a strong fishy smell, as this may indicate the presence of an infection such as bacterial vaginosis or one of the sexually transmitted diseases called trichomoniasis. Foul odours may also indicate the presence of a foreign body in the vagina such as a forgotten tampon or a swab.
Myth: You can lose something in your vagina
Many women worry that they may lose something in their vagina. Although many women have had difficulty removing objects they inserted into their vaginas (e.g. tampons, diaphragms, cervical sponge contraceptives, etc.), don’t worry these are not lost just difficult to remove. Although the sperms enter the neck of the womb and the menstrual blood flows out of it, the opening is so small and just wide enough for blood and sperms. The vagina otherwise is like a blind pouch nothing will be lost inside it. If you have difficulty removing something like a tampon, usually the change of position and trying to relax will help. If you can’t remove it, your gynaecologist will have no problem taking it out.
Myth: Vaginal Douching gets rid of any harmful bacteria
Douching is washing out the vagina with water, vinegar, or other special rinses. Many women douche because they learned about this practice from their mothers. But moms don’t always know best. Today, most doctors advice against douching as it can do more harm than good. Douching upsets the careful balance of bacteria and organisms inside the vagina. It’s normal to have small amounts of yeast and certain types of friendly bacteria in your vagina. But if friendly bacteria are wiped out by douching, your yeast levels can quickly get out of control. When this balance is disturbed, you may start complaining of a yeast infection.
Feminine and hygiene products often come primed with perfumes, fragrances, and dyes. You can buy scented sprays, toilet paper, tampons and pads, soap, bubble bath, lotion, laundry detergent, and fabric softeners. The problem is the same chemicals responsible for the nice smell or colour can cause irritation of the vulva and vagina. Irritated or inflamed tissues are more prone for yeast infection. Thus try and avoid purchasing scented products.
Many women are not aware that the vagina is self-cleaning. Its natural discharges help protect you from harmful bacteria. That means it’s better to leave your vagina well enough alone. In order to reduce the risk of vaginal infection; wash the external part of your vagina with mild soap or even plain water. That’s all you need to do to keep yourself clean. Always dry yourself thoroughly after washing, swimming, or exercising. On the toilet, wipe from front to back, not back to front. Give your vagina some breathing space! Avoid tight pants. Wear underwear made of cotton rather than nylon, which can trap dampness.
Myth: Vaginal douching may prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections
Vaginal douching after intercourse does not prevent pregnancy, it is not contraceptive. Douching does not prevent sexually transmitted infections. On the contrary douching after intercourse may have an opposite effect by pushing the sperms high up into the vagina may increase the chances of pregnancy. Similarly, douching may spread an infection high up into the vagina and the neck of womb, which may cause pelvic inflammatory disease.
Myth: Yeast infection or Candida may be transmitted through intercourse
Yeast infection known as candidiasis is a common infection of the vagina which may be precipitated by prolonged use of antibiotics or lowered immunity. The infection is common during pregnancy or with use of contraceptive device known as coil or loop. The use of contraceptive pills may as well increase the likelihood of infection. The infection may cause itching, yellowish or whitish thick vaginal discharge, pain during vaginal examination or intercourse. However, this infection is not transmitted to the partner as it is not one of the sexually transmitted infections.
Myth: Having sex in a hot tub is safe against pregnancy
This is an old story that gets a lot of attention, but the answer is no. Having sex in a hot tub is no safer than having sex out of one. However, this interpretation is based on a factual scientific truth. The male reproductive system, more specifically the part of the system that makes sperm, is highly sensitive to heat. This is why the scrotum is located outside the body. However, you can not get pregnant swimming in a pool where somebody has ejaculated, but pregnancy can occur if intercourse takes place in a pool or Jacuzzi.
Myth: Ejaculating outside the vagina is a good contraceptive
Withdrawal, otherwise known as “Coitus Interruptus”, is quite possibly one of the worst myths. There is a false belief that as long as ejaculation occurs outside the vagina, there is no way pregnancy can take place. This method of birth control is very ineffective. Even before ejaculation occurs small drops of semen are released to aid in lubrication. This semen contains thousands of sperm cells that can cause pregnancy or transmit sexually transmitted infections.
Myth: Intercourse during periods can not cause pregnancy
Although it is unlikely to get pregnant if intercourse occurs during menstruation, however, there is a small chance that a woman can get pregnant during her period, particularly during the end of her menstrual cycle. Sperm can live for up to 5 days and if you have a short cycle that month you could ovulate early and indeed get pregnant. No matter what time of the month couple should always use a method of contraception if they definitely don’t wish to have a baby.
Myth: Going to the bathroom immediately following sex prevents pregnancy
The womb tends to suck sperms into the cervix (neck of your womb) towards the egg. So going to the toilet won’t flush it out. Similarly having sex standing up won’t prevent pregnancy as although by gravity some of the sperms will be lost but others will be sucked in.
Myth: You only get pregnant on the 14th day of your cycle
There is a false belief that ovulation takes place 14 days after the start of your period. The fact is ovulation occurs 14 days before the following period. If you have a 28 day cycle then you will ovulate around day 14. However if you have a 35-day cycle then you will ovulate around day 21. And if you have a 23-day cycle you will ovulate around day 9. Most women do not have perfect cycles and cannot predict with exact certainty when they will ovulate. Plus sperm can live in a woman’s body up to 5 days. Since you may ovulate 14 days before your first period it is possible to get pregnant even if you haven’t had a period yet. Similarly you can become pregnant while breast feeding without having any periods. While breastfeeding may delay ovulation and your period, you won’t get your first period post-baby until two weeks after you ovulate. So you will release an egg before you get your first period.
Myth: You can’t get pregnant the first time you have sex or if you are too young
If you are ovulating it doesn’t matter if it’s the first time or the 100th time you’ve had sex, you can still get pregnant. You get pregnant when the sperm fertilizes the egg. Neither the sperm nor the egg know how many times you’ve had sex previously. Even if your body is too young for the stress of a pregnancy it’s still possible to get pregnant. If you have ovulated, you can get pregnant. Some girls ovulate a couple of weeks before their very first period. Even girls as young as 10 or 11 have become pregnant.