I read a statistic that half of women feel like they didn’t get adequate education about birth control. This doesn’t surprise me. Sex education doesn’t give much info on methods, insurance coverage, the effectiveness, or the risks. There are tons of methods and it can be a process finding the right one. If we educate ourselves on the different types, we can make the best choice for our bodies.

Birth control is only effective against pregnancy and no method protects you from STIS/STDS. Many people get on birth control because they want to enjoy sex but not have a child. This is probably why they don’t encourage this convo in schools… sigh.

The most effective methods are the IUD, the implant, and the Depo-Provera (the shot). Other options are the birth control pills, the patch, the ring, the cervical cap, and the diaphragm. Your doctor, nurse, gyno, or other healthcare providers can talk with you about what option is best. I’ve tried 5 different birth control pills before I found one that I liked.

Any option may cause nausea, headaches, spotting, breast swelling, weight-gain, & other side effects. Luckily, if you experience a side effect it’s really easy to switch options! All birth control methods are only effective if used correctly and consistently.

Some methods are inexpensive while others are more pricey and timely. To figure out what you can afford talk to your insurance provider about what they can cover. You need a prescription for most methods. There are family/reproductive clinics that can offer low cost or free methods, such as Planned Parenthood.

The type you chose depends on your lifestyle! It depends on if you can remember to take a pill every day, don’t mind a shot every 3 months, possible side effects, how often you have sex, and if you want something inserted or not.

Benefits of birth control can be a more regular and lighter period, less cramping, less acne, and the ability to have sex with protection against pregnancy!! Woo hoo!

There are disadvantages to birth control. People say you shouldn’t stay on birth control for a long time but in order to understand how it will affect your health, talk to your doctor. Most people can safely use birth control for years if that’s what their doctor recommends. I personally think staying on any medication for long is not the best thing for your body, but every body is different.

I want to switch to an IUD because I don’t plan on having a child any time soon, (I’m a young career driven lady) and it seems so convenient. Although I’m good at remembering my pill, it seems easier to have a little thing inside of me!

IUD

A small T shaped piece of plastic that’s inserted into your uterus by your doctor. Some people get cramps or feel mild pain but it doesn’t last long. If you are comfy with going to your doctor and having a speculum inserted to open your vagina, this method is great.

The cool thing about an IUD is that it comes in hormonal and non hormonal. Both are highly effective and can last up to 7 years. You just have to regularly check up on it to make sure it’s in place. It’s very effective and a one time type of thing.

THE IMPLANT

The birth control implant is a little plastic rod that is inserted under your skin! A doctor will place the rod into your arm, where it will release progestin, to stop you from becoming pregnant. It’s 99% effective, lasts long, & is convenient.

You may have a small ache where it was inserted at first, but it goes away quickly & you won’t notice it after that!

DEPO-PROVEA (the shot) –

This is another very effective method. The shot is injected every three 3 months & can be done at home or by your healthcare provider. It’s 94% effective, quick, & private (if at home).

BIRTH CONTROL PILLS –

Probs the most common method. There are two types of pills. Combination pills, (estrogen & progestin) & progestin only pills. Combo pills are most common since it’s more effective.

Taking your combo pill around the same time every day is very important. As long as you take the pill each day it’s highly effective. Most packs come in 28 or 21 days.

21 day pills – You take one pill everyday for 3 weeks, then none for a week. You get your period during this 4th week and don’t take any pills. After the week is over you start a new pack.

28 day pills – You take one pill everyday for 4 weeks then start the new pack on the 29th day. The last week of pills do not have hormones in them, they are just there as a reminder to keep taking your pill. Some people start a new pack on the 3rd week and skip their period. They just continue taking the hormone pills. Talk to your doctor about if this option is best. I think we are meant to bleed and shed, but some may pick this for health reasons!

Your birth control brand offers info on what to do if you miss a pill. Don’t worry, it happens. It takes 7 days before the pill is active and you are protected.

THE PATCH –

Does just what it sounds like! You wear a little square bandage/patch that releases hormones through your skin. You can wear it on your stomach, upper arm, booty, back, and your skin sucks up the hormones. You just have to remember to change it once a week!

THE RING –

NuvaRing is probably the most popular brand for birth control rings. You wear the ring inside your vagina, where the hormones are absorbed. The ring is used by yourself. With clean hands, squeeze the sides so it becomes narrow, then insert it into your vagina.

You leave it in for three weeks then take it out the 4th. You get your period during this week. It’s comfy and totally unnoticeable!

THE CERVICAL CAP –

A cute little rubbery cup that is inserted deep into the vagina, so it covers the cervix. You place it inside up to 6 hours before sex and can be left in up to two days.

It basically prevents sperm from entering the uterus! For best protection, it should be used with a spermicide (a chemical that kills sperm). It’s similar to a diagram, but smaller.

THE DIAPHRAGM –

A dome shaped rubbery cup that is inserted into the vagina hours before sex. It also must be used with a spermicide to block sperm.

The diaphragm and cervical cap are similar and can be great options if used correctly.

Pulling out and morning after pills are not effective methods. Birth control is a powerful tool and there is nothing wrong with going on it. It should be encouraged and there are people to help you decide which option is best.

If you are sexually active and not planning on raising a family soon, get on that birth control ladies!

Vaginas have this magical thing called a PH level. Maintaining a normal PH level is essential to a healthy vagina. The desired level is between a 3.8 and a 4.5.

This means there is a balance between good and bad bacteria. Vaginas naturally have a good bacteria called Lactobacillus (a microbiome) that protects against STIs and infections. This bacteria actually feeds on glycogen found in vaginal mucus and emits lactic acid and sometimes hydrogen peroxide. Lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide are what kill bad bacteria and viruses so it’s very important to keep this bacteria alive.

I know it sounds weird that there is a good bacteria in your vagina but trust me it’s normal and every female has it. An unbalanced PH level simply means you have an infection/irritation.

When the levels are higher than a 7 bad bacteria can grow because it is too acidic down there (the good bacteria is too low). PH levels are measured by your gyno and this test is what determines the type of the infection. If you are itchy, smelly, or irritated that means your PH level is off!

If you do have an unbalanced PH level it’s important to treat it or the infection may become worse. Here are some natural and effective ways to treat an unbalanced vagina:

1. Tea tree oil. Dilute tea tree oil in a bath for best results or onto a warm towel and lightly press around the infected area. Use 2-3 drops. Not only does this help fight off infections, but it also calms any symptoms of burning or itching.

2. Apple cider vinegar. Combine 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar with water and drink 2-3 times a day until infection is gone.

3. Oregano oil. The thymol and carvacrol in oregano oil help treat infections. Dilute 2-3 drops with water and actually drink the oil!! You can drink this twice a day for a week.

(When it comes to oils never directly apply to the vagina. Always dilute in water first)

4. Do not douche!! I hear so many women say that douching is a great way to clean/get rid of bacteria but any gyno will tell you not to do it! It actually removes the healthy bacteria and can spread bacteria from the cervix into the uterus. Douches that are sold in supermarkets are filled with fragrances and antiseptics.

4. Yogurt. I’m telling you, yogurt saves vaginas. You can either eat it or even apply a thin layer on the infected area. Just make sure the yogurt is low in sugar and natural. Greek yogurt is the best.

5. Garlic. Eating 1-2 gloves of raw garlic a day can help fight off infections. Do not apply a garlic paste or cream on your vagina. This can actually be too aggressive and irritate the vagina lining.

6. Virgin coconut oil. Wash and dry vagina prior to applying a thin layer of coconut oil over the area and keep it on until symptoms subside.

7. Epsom salt baths! These work really well for me. 2-3 cups of Epsom salts in a warm bath for 10-15 minutes does the trick.

8. Eating fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and coconut or grass-fed kefir can also help balance out the levels. I try to drink kombucha 2-3 times a week because it fights off yeast and improves the immune system.

These are all tips I have learned from my gyno (and they work for me) but there are many other natural remedies that may work better for you. Every female reacts differently to infections.

If your infection still doesn’t go away within 2-3 days or the symptoms become worse, consult your doctor. You may need an anti-fungal medicine. These home remedies are a great start because they can preserve the good bacteria in your vagina, unlike harsh creams and antibiotics.

I suggest doing some of these treatments even if you don’t have an infection. Even if it’s once a month, your PH level will thank you. 🙂

We have all been there… You get a little itch and you think it’s the end of the world but it’s just a yeast infection. Although uncomfortable and somewhat embarrassing, they are nothing to be ashamed of! Yeast infections are treatable and not always from sex. You can get a yeast infection from wearing underwear too long, wiping weird, or eating an unbalanced diet.

Yeast infections occur when there is an overgrowth of yeast in the vagina. Since the PH level of a vagina can fluctuate a lot as a young woman it’s very easy to build up too much yeast and cause an infection. It sounds really gross but trust me they are common and very normal to experience. The vagina is always cleaning and changing!

There are other common infections such as UTI’s or Bacterial Vaginosis (BV). A BV can occur when changing partners because the vagina is getting used to a different sexual chemistry. Since the vagina can easily be disturbed, the new partner can throw off the PH balance and an overgrowth of bacteria can form. This infection is also treatable and can sometimes be mistaken for a yeast infection.

If you have any burning, itching, or un usual discharge it is most likely a BV or yeast infection. When I have had yeast infections in the past I always know because of the itchiness and discharge. A BV is more painful and uncomfortable and a UTI usually burns while peeing/sex.

UTI’s, BV’s, and yeast infections can all be treated and are normal to experience!! Here are some overall tips on how to avoid upsetting your vagina PH levels:

  1. Wipe front to back!! I still see women wipe from back to front and that can cause bacteria to transfer into your vagina. Don’t do it.
  2. Wear cotton underwear and change it regularly. Nylon and spandex underwear traps moisture which can make yeast grow.
  3. Eat foods that balance your PH levels. My gyno always tells me to eat yogurt because of the probiotics but if you don’t like yogurt you should take a probiotic supplement. Probiotics are very important for vagina health. (they keep bacteria from growing!) I take Renew Life Women’s complete Probiotic but you can find probiotics at most supermarkets.
  4.  Eat veggies, fruits, and not too much sugar! Sugar promotes yeast growth in the vagina because yeast tends to thrive in moist and sweet environments. This is also why alcohol can cause infections because of the sugar. So stay away from a lot of that too.
  5. If you are prescribed an antibiotic you must take an anti-fungal medicine with it! Since antibiotics kill bacteria it also kills the good bacteria needed in the vagina so you need to balance it out with another medication.
  6. Stay away from scented soaps and feminine products. This is a big one. Natural products are so much better for your vagina because scented ones have tons of artificial chemicals that can cause bacteria to grow. (tip: do not wash your vagina with soap, just use warm water and a cloth because the soap can actually mess up your PH level)
  7. Sleep more!! Sounds silly, but when your immune system is down it’s easier to get an infection. Sleep can lower the risk of infection and keep your vagina PH levels stable.
  8. Lastly, drink a ton of water. This flushes out any bad bacteria and helps promote healthy PH levels. I try to drink 2-3 liters a day.

These tips are simple and easy to remember! It’s important to do all of these, not just one, in order to maintain a happy and healthy vagina 🙂

Next I will discuss PH levels in the vagina and some natural remedies for treating infections. xx

How recently have you washed your sex toys? If you are using sex toys such as dildos, butt plugs, vibrators or any other toy it is crucial to effectively clean them in order to prevent infections and bacteria. Make sure to wash your toy before and after every use. Depending on where you store your toys, they can pick up bacteria from the open air so a quick wash before and after is necessary. You don’t want body fluids drying on your toy then throwing it back in your drawer. You should also clean them before moving them from the vaginal area to the anus to prevent bacteria from transferring. It’s especially crucial to wash your sex toy if you are sharing the device with an infected partner, otherwise you run the risk of an STD the next time you use it.

In order to know how to effectively clean them you first need to know what material the toy is. Some toys can be put in boiling water for a deep clean while others run the risk of exploding because of the motor. If your toy is electric avoiding any soaking is the best bet. Usually the information regarding the material is on the package but you can also look it up online.

Once you know what material it is you can properly wash it. I headed over to The Pink Pussy Cat, a sex shop in NYC to get the details on how to clean sex toys. Follow these efficient tips from expert, Marie (omitted last name) on how to give your toy the TLC it deserves.   

  1. If it is glass/metal/ or silicone without a motor: Marie recommends placing any non-porous toy (porous toys are typically softer materials such as jelly rubber, PVC, TPR) in boiling water for 5 minutes. Non-porous toys are typically made out of a harder material and can handle the boiling water.
  2. If it is glass/metal/ or silicone with a motor: These are porous toys and can be washed with an antibacterial soap such as Dial or even wiped down with a baby wipe if you are sensitive, says Marie.
  3. Porous toys that you share: Antibacterial soap and water will clean the toy but if you are sharing it condoms should be placed over the toy to help prevent spreading any infection or bacteria, she says.
  4. Cyberskin: This is a material that is supposed to feel much like human skin. These toys work best with soap and water but when it comes to preserving the texture of the material, cleaning with corn starch does the trick, she says.

After your toy is cleaned Marie actually recommends air drying the toy and storing it in a clean spot. If you are on a budget, a zip- lock baggy will do just fine. You can also purchase sex toy bags. Deciding on where to store the goodies is completely up to you!

In this post I will discuss the difference between infections and STDS and how they are tested. This is so important because there was a time when I had a yeast infection and I told my boyfriend and he thought he had an STD and was going to die. That is so ridiculous and just not right at all, but I do not blame these men for not knowing the difference. So us women need to know the difference so we can educate the men and ourselves with correct info.

To start, an STD and an STI are two different things. An STI is a sexually transmitted infection, and an STD is a sexually transmitted disease. Having an STI means that an individual has an infection, but that it has not yet developed into a disease. Take HPV for instance: Typically a woman with HPV does not have any symptoms, but she carries the virus. She has an STI; but if she develops cervical cancer from HPV, she now has an STD since cancer is a disease. The same is true for individuals who have chlamydia or gonorrhea cases that develop into pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

Not all STIs turn into STDs. The tricky thing is that a lot of STIs do not show symptoms and they can easily turn into STDs if not tested. There are so many conversations about the difference between these two and its almost impossible to get a clear answer online but I believe that they are two different things. Just because you have a STI does not mean you have an STD. So do not be scared to say you have a bacterial infection because it is an infection not an STD!!! If you are unsure about which one you have clarify with your gyno.

There are different ways to test for STDs & STIs. To test for chlamydia and gonorrhea, all that is required is a urine sample and swab. For other STDs like herpes, hepatitis, HIV and syphilis, a small blood sample will be tested. Mostly all STDs are tested through blood and infections are tested through urine and swabs.

Smaller infections such as a yeast or bacteria can sometimes be tested on the spot. During an exam the gyno may recognize a difference in your discharge, red swelling, or a foul smell. These are all symptoms of a yeast infection and sometimes further testing will not be needed. Swabs can also be taken to a microscope and the gyno can examine it for bacteria while you wait in the office. The types of tests you receive all depends on your symptoms and what your doctor thinks is best.

One thing I have learned from my many gyno visits is that it depends on where you go to get tested. This is why I strongly advice going to an actual gyno because not to hate on my school nurses or CityMD but they have no idea what they are doing. The gyno will test you and treat you correctly.

STIs can be easily cured and cleared by antibiotics so it is very important to get tested for these before they develop into something serious and possibly life changing. Symptoms of STIs include and are not limited to:

  • An unusual discharge (a different color, smell, or amount) from the vagina.
  • A burning feeling when urinating.
  • Pain during sex or masturbation.
  • Excessive itching in the vagina or labia.
  • Unusual bumps or a rash on your genitals.
  • Heavier-than-usual bleeding from your vagina.

If you have experienced any of these symptoms it is very important to make a gyno appointment and go get tested asap!!

 

 

 

 

 

This post will include the simple steps of a gyno visit. I made a list just to show how easy it is. Also, I know some of you may look at these posts and think “wow everyone knows this” but that is exactly why I’m writing this blog because you are wrong. A lot of people do not get this sexual education through school or their parents. So just read along and support and knowledge the people who may not be as fortunate as you!! Like I said before I want this conversation to be heard.

Ok here are the steps!! Please note these are the basic steps for an annual exam. Each exam is different depending on what you are getting tested for. Before every annual you will be asked to pee in a cup and leave it in the bathroom to get tested as well. That part is by yourself and they always have instructions in the bathroom.

An annual exam is a once- a- year visit to your gyno for a vaginal exam, breast exam, and over all health exam.

  1. A nurse will escort you into a doctors room where you will sit on the comfy big chair covered in a plastic wrap because of sanitary reasons. She will then ask you some questions like when was your last period, what brought you in today, medical history, etc.
  2. After the nurse jots down your responses she will walk out the room and give you a couple minutes to get undressed before the doctor comes in.
  3. Once she has left you proceed to take off all your clothes for the exam. I keep my socks on because I feel weird going sock-less.
  4. You then put on the gown, robe, etc that they have left for you in the room and wait for the doctor. She will knock before entering.
  5. After you greet the doctor and discuss what brought you in, you lean back on the chair and prop your feet up on these metal things. At this point you are laying back with your legs open.
  6. The doctor will then exam your vagina by inserting this tool called a speculum, which basically just opens up your vagina very slowly and carefully, so the doctor can see what is going on and test. They may use some gel to soften this process.
  7. Swabs are then taken from the cervix, (the cervix is where bacteria, cancer, HPV, infection, etc can grow inside the vagina)
  8. After the swabs are quickly inserted the doctor will remove the speculum and you are all done!! It helps to take some deep breaths when the speculum is going in and out.
  9. In an annual exam, the doctor will also give a breast exam and feel your lower belly for anything weird.
  10. The swabs are then put into little containers and sent off to the lab!! Results then typically take 2-3 days.

This is the standard process for an annual exam. You can go to the gyno more than once a year, you can go whenever something is off down there. There are also some STDS that can not be tested through swabs and you will need blood work done. Next post I will discuss how different stds and infections are tested.

P.S a pap smear is also done during an annual exam but you are supposed to be 21 when you get one. This is a sticky situation because a pap smear is what tests for HPV. HPV is what my mom had and what turned into cervical cancer. So, I got a pap smear when I was 18 because my gyno wanted to start testing early. The reason they do not usually test for this before 21 is because almost 80% of sexually active adults have HPV but do not know it or it goes away on its own. When you are young the virus will fight itself off. HPV (Human papillomavirus) is a viral infection that is passed between people through skin-to-skin contact. HPV can cause genital warts and changes to the cells in the vagina. If these cells become abnormal this is when it can turn into cervical cancer. There are more than 100 varieties of HPV, which makes it extremely easy to get.

Good news is that there is a HPV vaccine that can prevent most genital warts and most cases of cervical cancer. So if you are sexually active go get the shot and keep up with your annual visits!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I mentioned in my previous post, I wanted to talk about how to pick a gynecologist and what the process includes. In this specific post I will just discuss how to pick one and the next post I will include the process. To start, everyone who is sexually active should have a gynecologist. I understand that a primary doctor can examine you and act as a gynecologist but from my own experience it just isn’t the same. The main reason why I think you need a separate doctor for your vagina is simply because you are a woman and deserve one!! A women’s anatomy is a complex and beautiful thing to learn about and take care of, an ordinary doctor will just not do. The vagina is what makes a woman feel sexy and confident. No one feels good about themselves if they are itchy, experiencing pain, or whatever else happens down there. A doctor is great for your body but please please treat yourself to at least one visit because it is comforting and they know best. Walking out of the gynecologist knowing your in great health down there feels amazing!

So why would you go to a gynecologist if you are having protected sex or no sex at all? Yes, using a condom can protect you from STDs but if you are sexually active you can still get an infection like a yeast infection, bacterial infection, or a UTI. Infections and STDS are NOT the same. Infections do not always have to do with sex so someone who is not sexually active can still go see a gynecologist. Any lady can get a UTI from either wiping weird, wearing sweaty clothing for too long, having an imbalance in your PH levels, etc. A yeast infection can also happen to women who have never been sexually active because the vagina is a sensitive thing and can have an overgrowth of yeast due to diet or stress which can lead to the infection. Although these are more common in women who are sexually active. These are just some infections that non sexually active woman can have. If you are having protected sex, these infections can happen as well.

I understand seeing a gynecologist without having sex or having protected sex can seem silly or not needed but just know that if you ever do experience something off, they are there to help you and talk to you. Of course the main reason you would go to a gynecologist is if you are sexually active because infections and STDS are more likely to occur and it’s just necessary to check up on it.

Now that we have established that gynos are open to any lady, let’s discuss the search for one. I know opening your legs for a random person is extremely weird and honestly very invasive. This thought can be scary and off-putting but trust me it’s not that bad. The first time I went I was nervous and it helps to have someone to talk you through it so maybe bring a close friend or someone you are comfortable sharing this experience with. You can also always reach out to me with questions!

It is so important to do research before picking a gyno. You don’t want to just step foot in any gyno office because they are looking at a very special part of your body. I was lucky and found mine through my step mom, but any google research will work as well. If you have a recommendation that is also great. Luckily there are apps that allow you to put in what you are searching for and it gives you a doctor within a certain distance, what they specialize in, if they take your insurance, and their availability. You can even include the reason for visiting, such as itching or irregular bleeding. I’ve used the app ZoDoc, and I love it. Since moving to the city I have not yet found my perfect gyno. My main girl is back home in Colorado, but I have seen some in the city.

This is a huge trial and error process so do not get discouraged if the first one you see isn’t the best fit. Last year, I had a UTI and had to find a gyno in short notice. Like I said, I don’t have a set lady I see in the city so I found one near my apartment and went. This was the worst experience. I saw a man, and I’m not saying that was the reason, but in my opinion I think seeing a woman is best. He was very harsh and did not warn me before sticking a Q-tip up me. I felt very invaded and it was honestly painful which it NEVER should be. Yes, it is slightly uncomfortable but it should not cause a sharp and unpredictable pain. The process should be fairly easy and I just don’t think a man understands the pain and issues a vagina can cause a woman because they don’t have one!! They can try to understand all they want and study it for years but they just don’t get it.

Man or woman your gynecologist should be gentle and kind because it helps you as a patient feel at ease. An angry doctor looking at your vagina just causes bad energy down there. They should also walk you through whatever process they do so you don’t get an unexpected Q- tip in you. Of course you should meet your gynecologist first for a meeting before getting examined to see if you like their energy. No matter who you choose just know that they are here to help you and that you deserve a caring and informative doctor. After you go a couple times the process will be easy and it won’t be weird at all. Just another trip to the vagina doctor!

Next post will include what actually goes down at the gyno, aka the process!