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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.

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

“Normally the vagina is acidic, [a condition bacteria don’t like]. But blood raises the pH substantially, making it a more alkaline environment,” says Santoro. And that’s a condition that can allow bacteria to thrive.

Goldstein says, “If you’re not 100% certain of your partner’s sexual health, always use a condom.”

Secret # 6: Wearing cotton underwear and changing your laundry detergent really do work to reduce your risk of vaginitis.

Doctors say these long-standing axioms are not just an old wives tale. Vaginitis is an irritation of the vagina. It causes excess vaginal discharge, burning, and itching. Wearing cotton underwear and using a different laundry detergent can reduce the risk of vaginitis. Another way to avoid the risk is not to use perfumed soaps, intimate deodorants, or other fragrant products around your vagina.

If you don’t see at least some reduction in symptoms of vaginitis soon after you make these changes, Goldstein says talk to your doctor. Your problem could be bacterial vaginosis, a yeast infection, a sexually transmitted disease, or another infection that needs medical care.

Secret # 7: To reduce the risk of developing toxic shock syndrome when traveling abroad, bring a supply of US made tampons.

The potentially deadly infection known as toxic shock syndrome is on the rise again. It’s still linked to highly absorbent tampon use. These tampons are no longer sold in the United States, but depending on where you travel out of the country, you might still find them on store shelves right next to safer, less absorbent type. If you aren’t very familiar with the language in another country, you could easily come away with the wrong type. “To be safe,” says Goldstein, “bring your own from home, and never leave them in your body for an extended period of time."

Secret # 8: Avoid the use of tampons to protect against incontinence leaks.

Because a tampon in the vagina also exerts pressure on the urethra (the tube where urine passes out of the body), it can act as a kind of “stopper.” This may help control leaks, drips and dribbles. Doctors say it’s okay to use this method once in a while — for example if you tend to “leak” urine while exercising. However, Goldstein warns not to make a habit of it and says to remove the tampon as soon as you’re done working out. A tampon inside a dry vagina, he says, can cause significant irritation as well as microscopic tears in the skin. The irritation and tears can later open the door to infection. To help control everyday leaks, drips, and dribbles, you can use one of the new ultra thin incontinence pads. They are more absorbent than a typical menstrual pad and safer than a tampon.

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