During my early 20s, I struggled with sexual and intimate health problems, like excessive menstrual bleeding and incapacitating pain. It was quite isolating as it’s not the type of subject we tend to discuss openly. Growing up I didn’t receive much intimate or sexual health education, so it was difficult to figure out what the right decisions were and how to advocate for myself. And just googling random symptoms can be so scary!
My health problem impacted my life in many ways. I would have such painful, incapacitating cramps that I would faint and it would keep me out of class or the office for hours – or locked in the bathroom. Other times, I’d have to go to the emergency room to get shots to stop the bleeding. It also affected my confidence in dating, and they sure made for some interesting (and now almost funny) incidents! Although I saw several medical practitioners about it, I never got a specific diagnosis and they only recommended taking the pill.
Now that I am in my 30s, I am dedicated to women’s health and technology. I create resources and spaces for women to discuss their symptoms, concerns and health issues. I truly believe that providing comprehensive women’s intimate and sexual health solutions is one of the pillars of gender equality. We go through so many transitions from puberty to menopause, and my mission is to provide a point of access to the resources women seek. It’s time to break the taboos around the female body!
First: Information is power, particularly when it comes to prevention
If you are a young adult exploring your sexuality for the first time, make sure you discuss your health and safety concerns with a specialist, and get the support you need for all the new experiences you are encountering. If you are thinking about having children, seek all the information necessary about the changes that your body will experience during this of the process, and how this impacts your overall health. Understanding the fundamentals of hormonal health, as well as pelvic floor health and restoration will help you build the mechanisms to make this big transition easier, both physically and mentally. Incontinence, sexual pain, and mood disorders are common, and women don’t always get the close support they need to address these. As you get closer to menopause, make sure you understand the symptoms you could experiencing and how to manage them.
Second: Build good self-care and prevention habits
We operate in a system that is reactive by default, and that includes the way we go on about healthcare. Making a commitment to being proactive and developing prevention plans at every stage of life can significantly increase our well-being – and confidence! Habits don’t have to be static. They can be revised periodically and adjusted to the changing needs of each moment.
Third: Set up goals and track your progress
As is the case with nutrition and fitness goals, women’s health also can be improved by setting goals. Have you been experiencing pain during sex? Track when and how and what it feels like. See a specialist, tell them about your problem and have them help you create a plan. Be kind to yourself and give your body time to adjust and heal while keeping in sight your objectives and working towards them.
One thing that helped me regulate my symptoms was to routinely track my periods, and to adjust my food intake the day before the beginning of my next cycle to reduce inflammation. The night before I would also intentionally drink more water, and take some anti-inflammatories, as I learned that this would stop the worst symptoms from unfolding. The act of tracking it alone helped me understand my cycle and make better choices. I also felt more confident and in control.
Fourth: Advocate for yourself
When symptoms persist or are concerning, don’t shy away from seeking medical help and from advocating for yourself and asking for an in-depth analysis – even when dealing with symptoms that are supposed to be “normal and irreversible”, like incontinence. If you know that something is definitely off, seek a second opinion. Understanding in depth our health concerns, consulting with others and tracking our symptoms can help us articulate our concerns better, and have a richer conversation with healthcare providers.
My friend and fellow women’s health advocate, Erin Jackson from Inspire Santé, dealt with incapacitating chronic pelvic pain for nearly a decade and saw many specialists. Finally, she met a physical therapist that helped her understand the condition and worked with her to address the pain. She recovered and now lives a very active life!
Fifth: Surround yourself with supportive people
Your care team, friends and family have a very important role in how you deal with health issues, particularly if symptoms are severe. Make sure you have people around that are open to discussing your concerns. When it comes to intimate and sexual health, there’s still a lot of stigma. Normalizing these conversation can not only help you stay mentally strong but also bring you closer to your loved ones.
Are you ready to take control of your intimate health? I want to hear your experiences!