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Below the Belt: The Gynecology Secrets You Need to Know

Stymied by rumors and half-truths about how to take care of your V zone? See what experts have to say about the secrets of sexual health.

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Secret # 3: Migraine headaches may increase your desire for sex — and orgasms may stop headaches and menstrual cramps.

Having sex may be the last thing on your mind while you have a headache. But don’t be surprised if you feel stronger urges to get intimate in the time leading up to a migraine — as much as 24 hours before. Doctors aren’t sure why this occurs. According to researcher James Couch, MD, of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, it may have something to do with an increase in the levels of serotonin. This brain chemical may be linked to sexual appetite.

Moreover, recent research has shown that for up to 20% of women, having an orgasm may stop a migraine in its tracks, immediately relieving the pain. But this isn’t the first time orgasm has been linked to pain relief. Goldstein says some women find it helps menstrual cramps — possibly because of a release of bio-chemicals that flood the body and relax the uterus, relieving pain.

Secret # 4: Avoiding sex will make painful sex hurt more.

Many women believe that avoiding intercourse and giving their vagina a “rest” is the best antidote to painful sex. Experts say the exact opposite is true. “There is some measure of truth to the axiom that if you don’t use it, you lose it,” says women’s health expert Christiane Northrup, MD. Northrup is the author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. Stop having sex, she says, and resuming it may be that much harder — both physically and in terms of desire.

At the same time, she says, pain with intercourse is not normal. It often occurs when your partner simply isn’t arousing you enough. In other instances, hormonally driven vaginal dryness — like the vaginal dryness some women feel when nursing a baby or going through menopause — can also cause sexual discomfort. A little dollop of a lubricating product or an estrogen cream applied directly to the vagina, Northrup says, is all you need to eliminate discomfort from painful intercourse related to hormones.

If arousal is the problem, Northrup says talk to your partner about increasing foreplay. Then do whatever it takes to get you through the excitement phase and make your body ready for intercourse.

Secret # 5: It’s easier to contract an STD if you have sex during your period.

While having sex during your period is the least likely time to get pregnant, it’s also the most likely time to catch an infection. The reason? “Changes in the acid/alkaline balance of your vagina during your menses make it easier for bacteria to proliferate,” says Nanette Santoro, MD. Santoro is director of reproductive endocrinology at the Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

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