Thursday, April 26, 2012

People you know may have nether germs: Common Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Many of us often worry about getting hit by a car, or getting cancer, or when it comes to our sexual health, preventing pregnancy (or after a certain age, getting pregnant). And while we may carry around a bucket of hand sanitizer to avoid icky cold and flu germs, we don't necessarily know or do much about the icky germs that may be on your partner's nethers. You may even have something right now and not know!

First things first: If you have sex, no matter if you are straight, gay, married, or single, you can get an sexually transmitted disease, or STD for short. And no matter what kind of sex you are having, no matter which body part is going into which body part, you can get an STD. 

Now you are thinking, "I would totally know if my partner has something funky going on down there." But actually most STDs can be there without any signs. Pretty sneaky, right? So you or your partner can be passing around an infection without knowing it. Or, when you think of STDs, you probably think about HIV, since that is what most of us have been taught to fear the most (for good reason!). But there are other STDs that should be on your radar screen that are quite common. 

Here are the most common STDs that you should be thinking about:

1. Chlamydia. And as many of us learned in high school, it is not a flower. It is the most common, curable STD out there. In us ladies it infects the cervix, and while you can have it an not have any signs or a LONG time, the most frequent symptom is pain during sex, or vaginal discharge, or burning when peeing. Untreated it can spread and cause pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID, which can lead to chronic pelvic pain and infertility. 

2. Gonnorrhea. AKA "the clap". Pretty similar to chlamydia in terms of organs infected and symptoms, but with the extra kicker - it can infect the throat. Makes you rethink oral sex, huh. 

3. Syphilis. "The Pox" doesn't have the squeakiest of reputations, and untreated can lead to some pretty nasty complications. You can get it through direct contact with a syphilis sore, which can usually be found around the nether area and the mouth, both inside and out. To make things even more complicated, these areas areas are not always covered by a condom, so you can get syphilis even if you are using protection.

4. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Probably the most common STD. Very common and associated with 99% of cervical cancer cases. Read here for just how bad it is and what you can do about it. 

5. Herpes. Another sneaky and tricky STD. This virus can lurk without any signs or symptoms, so you may not be aware if your partner has it. For those that do have symptoms, they are usually blisters that appear around the nether area that take two to four weeks to heal the first time they happen. Genital herpes can be treated but can't be cured, which means once you get it, you have it for life. 

6. Trichomoniasis. Never heard of this? Well it is actually the most common STD among young woman. While the other STDs listed above are viral or bacterial infections, the "trich", as it is called for short, is caused by a parasite. Again the majority of people do not have any signs or symptoms. For those that do, they can get a itchy, burning, sore, or red lady part area, and may have pain while peeing. 

So there you have it ladies, some icky nether germs that you should be tested for regularly if you are having any kind of sex with another person. Make sure you bring this up with your lady parts doc - studies have shown that the majority of docs don't start a conversation on STDs, so be your own health advocate and ask about being tested. And sadly, while you may be faithful and think you are in a monogamous relationship, unfortunately, your partner may not, so get yourself tested either way. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The deal with the mini pill: And no, it is not just a smaller sized birth control pill

For some of you ladies that just had some babies, you may already be quite familiar with the mini-pill. For the rest of you ladies, you may have heard about the mini-pill, but may not be quite so sure exactly what it is. Let me enlighten you:

The mini-pill, contrary to it's name, is not a miniature version of normal birth control pills. They didn't just take your orthotricyclen or Yasmin and make the packaging smaller. It is actually a birth control pill that ONLY contains the hormone progesterone, as opposed to the regular birth control pills that contain both progesterone and estrogen. It works by making your cervical mucus (oh yes, we are back to that. More info about cervical mucus here) thick and the lining of your uterus thin, basically making those little sperm swimmers unable to get to your ovaries and any possible fertilized egg from actually implanting. Sometimes the mini-pill suppresses ovulation as well.

Why would you want to take this pill and how come your lady parts doctor hasn't talked to you about it? Well while less hormone does sound great, it does make this form of birth control not as effective as the regular pill. In fact, your chances of getting knocked up on the mini pill are higher mostly because the progesterone only keeps your cervical mucus thick for 24 hours, so you HAVE to take it at exactly the same time every day, leaving NO room for error.

But, there are benefits to using the mini-pill. If you are breastfeeding, you can actually take the mini-pill and it will not change your milk supply (in fact, it may even boost it!). This is great for moms that need the birth control protection but also want to continue breast feeding. Also, some ladies out there don't jive well with estrogen - they may have a higher risk of heart disease, blood clots, high blood pressure or migraines - and the mini-pill is great birth control option for them.

The mini-pill is another great birth control tool to have - just remember that in order for it to actually work it needs to be taken exactly on time!

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