Friday, March 23, 2012

No more annual paps?

Most of us are used to going to the lady parts doctor once a year, put our feet in stirrups, getting that scary looking duck thing shoved inside of us and then having a coarse swab taken. But my friends, while you will still have to undergo this super fun ritual, it will no longer have to be on an annual basis.

That swab is a pap smear, and it tests whether your cervix is growing funky cells, which could possibly be cancerous. While paps are an important part of cervical cancer screening, they carry a high false positive rate (meaning that your test comes back with not so good results, despite the fact that everything is really fine), leading to unnecessary biopsies and procedures that can arise in complications further down the road. 

Now docs are advising to only get a pap smear every THREE years, and only once you turn 21, regardless of sexual activity before. Instead, women under 30 should be getting regular HPV (oh yes, that fun virus) tests (a leading cause of cervical cancer). Mind you, these recommendations only apply to ladies without a history of abnormal pap smears, cervical cancer, dysplasia, HIV, or other illnesses. 

And even if you are healthy, you should still be going to your lady parts doc on a regular basis, and get your lady parts and the boobs checked out annually. If you are sexually active, you should have regular screening for STDs, and should check in about your birth control situation. Checking in with your lady parts doc is also just a great way to ask them all those nagging questions you have about your body. So just because you won't have to be getting your cervix scraped as often, doesn't mean you should be ignoring your lady parts. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sex shouldn't hurt

Ladies, if you are looking at the title of this post and thinking to yourself, "Yeah right. It always hurts," then listen up. There are many reasons why you could be experiencing painful sex, with real medical conditions that could be causing it.

First things first. If your lady parts aren't nice and lubed up, sex is going to hurt. Foreplay, lube, and some relaxation can go a long way. But sometimes it is much more serious than that, and you may need more than a little extra hanky panky and KY.

Some things to consider:
  • Lady parts infection: yeast and bacterial infections can make your lady parts feel like they are on FIRE during sex, and not in a good way. Various sexually transmitted diseases can be the culprit too, including genital warts, herpes, and sores.
  • Vaginismus, or vaginal muscle spasms, means that your vagina just clams right up, creating a no-go zone for sex. 
  • Issues with your cervix (making deep penetration hurt), ovaries (those pesky cysts), endometriosis (read all about it here), or your uterus (such as fibroids). 
  • Babies: if you just had one, you should wait at least 6 weeks to let your lady parts heal. You did just push a child out of there.
And finally, you may have something called vulvodynia, which is when you have pain in the area around the opening of your vagina. They have no idea what causes this, but it leads to burning and irritation so bad that having sex becomes simply unthinkable or a form of torture. Since there is no known cause, there is no known cure, but there are various ways that it can be treated. 

Bottom line, if the very thought of sex makes you want to cross your legs, run across the room, and grimace, give your lady parts doctor a ring and make an appointment. It may be embarrassing (even other lady part docs get shy when they need to talk about their own painful sex life) but sex should be awesome and never painful (well, unless you like it that way, and that is a topic for another day). 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Grow me some new eggs! New possible fertility treatment with stem cells

We have always been told that we are born with all the eggs our body will ever make. In fact, at birth, our ovaries contain 2 million follicles (little hollow balls of cells with an immature egg in the middle). The ovaries absorb half of these during our childhood and when we get our period for the first time we are left with around 400,000 follicles, of which 300 to 500 will actually develop into eggs.

And then a study that came out this week (from Harvard no less and published in Nature Medicine) totally makes us rethink our ways of thinking. They found that a new type of stem cells in the ovaries that can make immature egg cells (which will then grow into possible fertile eggs). Now they were able to show that when injecting these stem cells into pieces of human ovaries, and then transplanting them to mice, the mice were able to make eggs. Como say wha? Yeah, pretty cool stuff.

Does this mean that we can go to our lady parts doc and ask for stem cells to be injected into our ovaries to give us some more eggs? Not quite. But the research is quite promising and can mean that later down the road we may be able to give our ovaries little recharge if we are having fertility issues.

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