Important COVID-19 Updates: Office Guidelines | Vaccine and Pregnant Women

Friday, September 15, 2023

Debunking 6 Common Women’s Health Myths

By Dr. Robert Wool

Think drinking cranberry juice can cure a urinary tract infection? Relying on friends or the World Wide Web for your health information may mean what you’re getting is unreliable, incomplete or just plain wrong. We’re here to help. Below, we debunk six common women's health myths to help set the record straight.

Myth 1: Vaginas Should Not Have an Odor

In reality, the vagina has a natural scent that can vary due to factors such as hormonal changes, diet, stress and activity. Trying to change it with intense fragrances or by douching can disrupt the delicate pH balance and lead to infections. Your vagina itself does not require washing, and the external area (vulva) should only be cleaned with warm water and mild, unscented soap.


Mild, musky odors are normal and may vary during the course of your monthly cycle, but any sudden, strong or foul-smelling odor could indicate an infection or other health issue. Talk to your women’s health provider if you notice any concerning changes.


Myth 2: If I Don’t Have Symptoms, I Don’t Have an STD

This myth may be part of the reason sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)—like syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, HIV and others—are on the rise. Early signs of these infections are not always present or obvious, which means people can spread them before they realize they have them. Talk to your provider during your annual exam about prevention strategies and an STD screening schedule based on your risk factors.


Myth 3: Tightening Products Are Effective

A myth that has gained popularity recently is the notion that products like vaginal tightening creams or gels can rejuvenate, or “tighten,” the vaginal area. In reality, the vagina is a muscular organ that changes in tone due to factors such as childbirth and age.


While Kegel exercises can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which can help prevent urinary leakage as you age, there's little scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of the numerous products or procedures on the market. If you're concerned about changes in vaginal tone, talk to your women’s health provider for personalized advice.


Myth 4: You Can't Get Pregnant During Your Period

There are a lot of misunderstandings about when a woman can become pregnant, all of which can lead to unintended pregnancies. Peak fertility typically occurs around mid-cycle, before and during ovulation. While the likelihood of conception is lower during menstruation, it's still possible, especially if you have a shorter menstrual cycle or experience irregular periods.


Sperm can survive in the body for several days, so it's essential to use contraception if you're not planning a pregnancy. Our providers can help you choose the option that will work best for your needs and preferences.


It’s also important to note that after you’ve delivered a baby, you can become pregnant again fairly quickly. This is true even while you are still experiencing postpartum bleeding and before you have your first “normal” period, so be sure you have a plan for birth control in place after delivery.


Myth 5: Pap Smears Are Only Necessary if You Have Symptoms

Pap smears, also known as cervical screenings, are crucial for detecting early signs of cervical cancer or abnormalities. Some women mistakenly believe they only need a Pap smear if they're experiencing symptoms, but regular screenings are recommended for all women once they become sexually active or turn 21 (whichever comes first), regardless of symptoms. Early detection, typically long before symptoms appear, greatly increases the chances of successful treatment.


You should have a routine women’s health appointment every year, during which your provider will perform a pelvic and breast exam, talk to you about any changes or questions you have, and recommend other screenings based on your risk factors. The Pap smear itself is typically only part of the exam every three to five years based on your personal and family medical history.


Myth 6: Cranberry Juice Prevents and Cures Urinary Tract Infections

Your lifetime risk of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI) is as high as one in two, according to some estimates. If cranberry juice could prevent or cure these infections, they would be much less common.


There are some strategies for preventing UTIs, but it’s still likely you will experience one at some point. If you experience any symptoms—such as pain and burning while urinating, fever, or pain and pressure in your pelvis, abdomen or lower back—call your health provider promptly. Antibiotics are usually very effective, and without treatment, infections can worsen and spread to your kidneys.


Here for All Your Questions

We pride ourselves on our ability to answer your health questions clearly, completely and without judgment, so don’t hesitate to bring up any of your concerns. There’s no such thing as a silly question, and the more you know about your body, the more empowered you are to live your healthiest life. If you have any questions or need to schedule an appointment, please reach out