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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Keeping Women's Bodies Healthy


I'll admit something. I grew up knowing more or less "how to keep my body healthy", but there's one thing that I knew very little about in terms of keeping it healthy. Specifically how to keep my womanly parts healthy. Over the years, though, I've learned much about it, and wanted to share with you things that I've learned, and hopefully you'll also be able to keep your body in a healthier state.

I find this is especially important because it isn't talked about much, and people feel uncomfortable going to gynecologists for internal exams and tend to avoid that. And since people don't talk much about their private parts and don't compare, there also is shame and guilt about bringing it up, and lots of questions of "am I actually normal"?

So to combat that, I wanted to address women's health in a post, to open up discussion, help combat stigma, and to help people reach optimal health.

First, I wanted to talk about avoiding UTI's.

Avoiding Urinary Tract Infections:

When my daughter Anneliese was 5 months old, she was sick and ended up in the hospital. I was sure that she had RSV bronchitis or pneumonia, but it turned out it was just side effects from a urinary tract infection! While UTI's can also happen in men, because of women's physiology, it is much more common in women then men, unless there is a specific issue in the man's body (such as urinary reflux, etc).

First of all, when using the bathroom, make sure to wipe from the front to the back, so that bacteria near the anus don't make their way into the urinary tract or the vagina. This is important to remember when changing little girls' diapers, and it is important to teach your daughters when potty training them.

Making sure to drink enough and peeing often helps flush out bacteria from your bladder and doesn't allow it to set in and cause infection.

Some women get UTI's often, and others get it rarely. However, even for those that rarely get them, it is very common for women to get UTI's more frequently once they become sexually active, and also when switching sexual partners. (I got the first UTI of my life within the month after my wedding.)
For this reason, a common recommendation for avoiding UTI's is to make sure to wash yourself before sex and to urinate both before and after sex, which allows the urine to flush out bacteria that may have migrated inward during intercourse.

Another reason that UTIs are more common after becoming sexually active is that most forms of birth control are actually linked to UTI's. Birth control pills and IUDs can change make urinary tract infections by affecting hormones, as well as other less understood reasons, however it has been studied and shown. And birth control options that involve spermicide, whether diaphragms or condoms also can increase the likelihood of a UTI.

So what can you do? Well, make sure to do the above tips, but many people find drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry pills helps. Some people recommend taking prophilactic antibiotics, but that's really going to mess up your body, and not a good idea. However, I know people that swear by UTI prevention pills, that are completely antibiotic free, that they were getting UTI's at least once a month, but once they started taking pills they went years without them.

If all these other things don't stop your utis, then antibiotics might be necessary because frequent enough utis can permanently damage one's kidneys, but long term antibiotics shouldn't be the first option but the last when everything else doesn't work. 


Keeping Your Vagina Healthy

Number one is that people "in the know" often talk about gut flora and the importance of having a healthy balanced gut flora. That probiotics are beneficial and without enough beneficial bacteria in your stomach, you'll end up with various stomach issues, from bloating to diarrhea to constipation. That antibiotics can mess it up, and that taking probiotics after, or regularly eating fermented foods and drinking fermented drinks such as yogurt, kombucha, and salt pickled veggies will help keep the balance or restore it after.

What isn't talked about enough is that it isn't only your gut that needs these beneficial bacteria, but so does your vaginal tract. There are various things that can mess up your vaginal flora, things that aren't often discussed. When the vaginal flora is messed up, it can lead to all sorts of issues, from irritation, to smell, to yeast infections to bacterial vaginosis, as well as giving thrush to newborn babies as they pass through the birth canal.

Things That You Probably Didn't Know Can Ruin Your Vaginal Flora:
Birth control pills
IUD
Antibiotic use
Spermicide use
Douching
(Among others)

Of those, quite a few would be related to having a healthy sex life without being pregnant, so how does someone actually use birth control and not mess it up?

Better Options for Vaginal Flora
Diaphragms with spermicide are less likely to mess up your vaginal flora than other birth control options, under specific circumstances. Your vagina needs to be a certain pH, between 3.8 and 4.5, to prevent issues. Most spermicides are problematic because they mess with the flora, but natural ones that are based actually assist in healthy vaginal flora by aiding in making a proper pH.

There also other things that can be done to keep your vagina healthy. There are vaginal probiotics, that are inserted as a suppository, and additionally there are pre-biotics, suppository that work by making the environment in the vagina a healthier one, which encourages good flora to grow and prevents bad flora, and improves overall health and smell. (Feel free to send me an email to pennilessparenting@yahoo.com for information about the better spermicides and prebiotics.)

Other Things To Do for Women's Health

Other than vaginal flora and preventing UTIs, there are other things that are beneficial to do to make sure your body stays healthy, and this post would be remiss to not mention them.

Avoiding TSS
Toxic shock syndrome is really scary, and almost killed my friend's daughter. To prevent TSS, don't wear tampons too long or when you don't have your period. Menstrual cups are better options, but even they can cause TSS if left in too long. Remove your period products regularly and be on the lookout for strange symptoms when you have your period.

Chart Your Fertility
I highly recommend reading Toni Weschler's book "Taking Charge of Your Fertility". Learning about how your body works and tracking your menstrual cycle, cervival fluid, and fertility makes you aware of what is going on with your body, and therefore, if anything is off, you'll notice it and be able to catch health issues early on.

Go to Regular Exams
Regularly have breast exams and pap smears, so that you can keep an eye out for changes and catch things before they get severe. Pay attention to your body and if something seems weird, or changes, go to the doctor. And of course do regular breast examinations of yourself at home.


I know, I know, its not fun to talk about these "TMI" subjects. But you need to do what you can to keep your body in its best working shape, and hopefully these tips will help you keep your body in tip top shape.

What additions would you make to my list to help keep women's bodies in tip top shape?

4 comments:

  1. For jewish women getting screened for the brca genes for breast cancer is all important

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is a great topic! On UTIs, I noticed that mine became far more frequent as I got into my late 30s. No clue why, but I've heard from other women that as they entered perimenopause, UTIs became more common. My last one landed me in the hospital with sepsis (I was taking care of my mom and ignored the symptoms, thinking they'd go away). I recovered fine and never had a UTI again. A mystery.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am allergic to latex which caused yeast infections. Not having to use condoms by getting my tubes tied was the best course for me. And thanks for mentioning douching. A nurse told me to avoid that when I was younger and I haven't had a UTI since. Great post.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for this article - this is such an important topic that is very dear to me!
    Have you considered using a picture that shows the whole vulva and includes the clitoris? (It is sometimes difficult to find pictures that show, that the clitoris is not just a little nub on the outside but is quite big in the inside - BUT they are out there!. :) )

    Sorry if this comment is posted twice I seem to have some problems...

    ReplyDelete

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