Women’s Health Myths Busted: Tackling myths about women’s health and hygiene so you can become more confident in your self-care
BY ASHLEY MORRIS
1. Myth: cranberry juice can cure urinary tract infections:
Truth: It has long been told that if we start to experience UTI symptoms, the first thing to do is reach for the cranberry juice. Unfortunately, once bacteria have reached our bladder and started causing symptoms, the only thing that will fully take care of the infection is an antibiotic. Although it is still under question whether cranberry juice helps prevent bacteria from attaching to the bladder wall, it is essential to get UTIs tested and treated by a medical professional as soon as you experience symptoms. If left untreated, the infection can progress to your kidneys and cause more severe complications. And as always, plain old water is the key to hydration success!
2. Myth: you need to be washing your private area with special, pH-balanced soaps
Truth: You may see advertised special “pH balanced” soaps, wipes, and sprays that are marketed to women to clean their private areas and keep them smelling “fresh.” The reality is, often these products end up doing more harm than good. Believe it or not, our bodies are actually really great on their own at keeping our vaginas clean and “pH balanced.” Using these soaps can end up doing the opposite of what they advertise; throw off your personal balance of good bacteria and cause yeast infections or irritation. Although excessive odor can signify something more serious is going on, it is okay to have a small amount of smell- that is normal! The best way to keep yourself clean is using an unscented bar of soap without added chemicals or additives. No need to waste your money!
3. Myth: Strength training will make me “bulky” and “manly” looking.
Truth: Many women stray away from weight and resistance training out of fear of looking “bulky” with excessive muscle growth. However, weight training is important for women to incorporate into their exercise routine. It is the only form of exercise proven to help strengthen bones, and this is essential in women – we are at a high risk of bone breakdown as we age. Women do not have the same biological capacity to build muscle as men, so weight training a couple of times a week will NOT bulk you up. It can often even burn as many if not more calories than cardio! Ultimately the best exercise is the one that feels good for you, but don’t stray away from strength training out of fear of muscle buildup. Plus, strong women are always in style!
4. Myth: If you don’t have any STD symptoms, you probably are in the clear.
Truth: Unfortunately, we can’t always count on sexually transmitted infections to give us warning signs when exposed and infected. In reality, many STIs can present with no symptoms, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HPV. However, they can go on to inflict long-lasting damage on your reproductive organs that can lead to fertility issues down the line. If you think there may be a possibility that you may have been exposed to an STI, the best bet is to get tested as soon as possible, even without symptoms.
5. Myth: It’s normal to be in pain while on your period
Truth: Women have long been expected to fight through period pain, going to work, school, and life events with debilitating cramps. Although some discomfort with your period can be normal, pain that affects your ability to function throughout the day is not. This could be a sign something more serious is going on, so checking in with your OB/GYN is always a good idea. Other great ways to treat and prevent minor period pain include exercising, reducing stress, and using a hot water bottle. In addition, several studies have indicated that including supplements such as Vitamin E, B1, B6, and omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent cramping. Never accept debilitating pain as a “normal” part of being a woman!
R. Raz, B. Chazan, M. Dan, Cranberry Juice and Urinary Tract Infection, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 38, Issue 10, 15 May 2004, Pages 1413–1419, https://doi.org/10.1086/386328
Holloway, J.B., Baechle, T.R. Strength Training for Female Athletes. Sports Med 9, 216–228 (1990). https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-199009040-00003