Health tips: Here’s how every woman should take care of her sexual health | Health

Women’s sexual health focuses on safer sex practices, regular screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), choice of vaccines and medications, appropriate use of contraception, and obtaining medical treatment for reproductive health issues and, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), sexual health includes not only individuals, couples and families, but also entire communities and cultures. It is important for women to know about the different contraceptive options available to them, as this can help them better manage their family planning decisions related to the timing and size of their family.

Women should feel free and interested in discussing their options with their doctor. Stating that women should know how to protect themselves and their partners from the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, Dr Kiran Coelho, consultant in gynecology and obstetrics at PD Hinduja Hospital & Medical Research Center in Khar, said in an interview with HT Lifestyle, “Adequate protection during sexual activity can help prevent transmission of STDs. Women should be aware of simple contraceptive measures like condoms (barrier method) to prevent STDs.

She advised, “Every woman should be immunized with HPV vaccines like Gardasil, Cervarix, etc., which not only protects them from warts caused by the human papilloma virus, but also from cervical cancer. These vaccines are most effective when taken before the age of sexual activity. Screening can help reduce the risk of contracting an STD. Regular STD testing can help reduce the long-term effects of an infection. Untreated, bacterial STDs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia can have serious negative effects on your health, including infertility. Screening can help prevent these complications.

Since many women think menstruation is supposed to be painful, they may not discuss their discomfort with their doctor. However, Dr Kiran Coelho warned: “Severe pain during your period can be a sign of an underlying gynecological or gastrointestinal health problem and should seek prompt treatment. It is important that women do not take lightly the symptoms related to their sex life like low libido, pain during intercourse, orgasm problems, etc.

According to Dr. Kshitiz Murdia, CEO and co-founder of Indira IVF, it has been observed that the awareness of caring for and maintaining one’s sexual health is limited in India, especially when it comes to women. He said: “This can be attributed to the way topics under the umbrella of youth sex education and the like are considered taboo and its discussion stifled. This lack of information can lead women not to recognize the symptoms of sexually transmitted infections, to contract infections, to have unwanted pregnancies, to be unaware of diseases of the reproductive system and its medical treatment.

He listed a few points to understand the same:

1. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) – STIs are infections of the reproductive organs caused by sexual acts. These can be spread with the exchange of sexual fluids, including penetration, oral contact, and anal sex. Additionally, in mothers living with STIs, it can be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy as well as during breastfeeding. It therefore becomes essential for women to monitor STIs by regularly visiting their gynecologist, not only to protect themselves but also to protect their partner and their future children. An effective way to prevent STIs is to have safer sex by using condoms and dental dams while engaging in sexual activity.

2. Vaccines as a preventive measure – STIs can be caused by different microorganisms, including bacteria and viruses. Currently, there are vaccines against STIs caused by viruses, including human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B. HPV is known to cause cervical cancer. These vaccines therefore also contribute to prevention in women. HPV and hepatitis B vaccines are optimal when taken before women become sexually active.

3. Safe Sex Practices – Safe practices adopted during sex help in two ways – by keeping STIs at bay and avoiding unwanted practices. Using barriers such as condoms and internal condoms during intercourse and oral sex is a way to stop the exchange of sexual fluids including semen which can cause pregnancy if fused with an egg. Dental dams and nitrile gloves are other barriers used during oral sex and other sexual contacts to prevent STIs. In addition, it is essential to follow a hygiene routine before and after sexual intercourse. Keeping sexual partners to a minimum is an ideal case. Between two partners, it is imperative that STI screening is performed to detect any infection present; this can help contain the spread of infections, should they occur. Moreover, undetected STIs can spread their impact to different parts of the body causing complications and leading to infertility.

4. See a medical professional regularly – Regular visits to the doctor’s clinic and highlighting any sexual and reproductive health issues can help bring a number of issues to light, if any. For example, an irregular or painful menstrual cycle is a clear symptom of an underlying condition – such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis – in the reproductive organs or hormones. Timely detection and treatment can stop complications.

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