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Common myths and facts about female sexuality

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Most ladies in Nigerian society have continued to erroneously hold fast to some conventional, unorthodox teachings about women’s sex organs and sexuality they learnt while growing up to the detriment of their sex life and personal hygiene. Here are common myths about female sexuality you must drop and embrace facts backed by scientific researches.

By Chinelo Nwangene

Hymen determines virginity

Many people, including ladies still believe that a woman’s hymen determines whether she is still a virgin or had engaged vaginal sexual intercourse. Although much significance is attached to the hymen as determining factor in virginity in many cultures, the truth is that more often than not, it can’t actually tell much about a woman’s sexual history.

The hymen is a stretchy collar of tissue or membrane that lines the opening of the vagina. The hymen is set just inside the vaginal entrance and is well protected by the two layers of lips of the vulva, the labia major and the labia minora and has nothing to do with virginity. Its actual shape and size varies from person to person. Normally, it does not cover the vaginal opening entirely — which makes absolute sense, since otherwise menstrual and other discharges would not be able to leave the vagina.

While vaginal intercourse or some more strenuous physical activities could cause minor hymen tearing, many women do not experience any tearing or bleeding during sex, as the hymen can stretch to accommodate the penis.

Even if tearing does occur, bleeding doesn’t always follow. And because hymens can have myriad different shapes, it will be incredibly difficult to tell whether that “dip” in the membrane is due to a minor rupture or whether it was there all along.

Tampons break hymen, virginity

Many people still believe that using a tampon (sanitary towel) as a virgin will break the hymen and take a woman’s virginity. This is an incredibly damaging myth that still abounds in many parts of the world. Contrary to popular belief, the hymen is not a flat piece of tissue that completely covers the vaginal opening. In most cases, the hymen is a fringe piece of tissue that is around the vaginal opening. Some women are born without a hymen, while others only have a small hymen.

It is true that hymens can be torn during intercourse, physical activity, or when a tampon is inserted. But the hymen does not “break,” and virginity is an emotional concept, not just the disruption of a piece of tissue that a woman may or may not have been born with.

Sex during menstruation is unhealthy

The popular belief is that having sex during menstruation is unhealthy for the woman and can endanger the man as well. While many women and men may feel uncomfortable with period sex, it is not at all unhealthy and won’t kill anybody. Experts say that having intercourse during menstruation can alleviate cramps.

Pregnancy hardly occurs during menses

Another dangerous myth most women and men still believe in Nigeria is that a woman can’t get pregnant if she indulges in sex during menstrual period. While it is unlikely for a woman to get pregnant if she has unprotected sex while on her period, but it is still a possibility if she menstruates on irregular basis. Ovulation occurs after a period finishes, but if a woman has an irregular cycle, a short cycle, or bleeds longer than she normally would, it is possible that her fertility window could overlap with her period.

Also, new research in the area of reproductive health and fertility suggests that sperm can live in the female reproductive tract for up to ten days after intercourse. For women with shorter menstrual cycles, it is possible to get pregnant if she has unprotected sex at the end of her period. Studies have also found that even in women with regular cycles, their fertility windows can vary wildly from cycle to cycle.

Also, it is safe for women and their sexual partners to assume that absolutely no day is safe to have unprotected sex unless the woman is using a hormonal contraceptive such as the pill, or a long-term contraceptive such as the copper IUD.

Cosmetics products enhance vaginal smell

The increasing number of cosmetic products in the market that claim to be making the vagina cleaner, healthier, smell nice and look more appealing suggest that the female genitals are supposed to have their own beauty care routine. But the truth is that these products are not necessary and can even cause serious harm to your vagina and outer genitals. Experts insists there is no need for vagina to smell like strawberries, vanillas etc.

Every woman has her own distinct vaginal scent and any foul smell or odor can be dependent on a slight change in a woman’s body conditions such as during menstrual period, sweat or lack of hygiene. If a woman’s vagina’s smell becomes “noticeably offensive” it could be signs of poor hygiene, bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis or sexually transmitted infection, a retained tampon and in this case the person must seek medical help. However, eating pineapples and other fruits and drinking a lot of water is good for you. Good diet has a heavy impact on a woman’s vaginal smell and “taste”.

The fact remains that vagina is self-cleaning. Warm water, two fingers is literally all you need to keep your vagina clean. Using cleaning products can change the pH balance, resulting in vaginal infections.

Vaginal discharge is danger signal

Many women are meant to believe that vaginal discharges are bad omen. But experts insist that there is literally nothing wrong if a woman looks down and sees mucus discharge from her vaginal area.

Truth is, having vaginal discharge outside of a woman’s period is completely normal and does not mean there is something wrong with her. That is because the cervix naturally creates a mucus, which changes in color and consistency depending on how a person’s hormones fluctuate.

Even if one’s vaginal discharge looks slightly different from week-to-week or month-to-month, it doesn’t always mean she has sexually transmitted infection (STI) or other infection. However, the colour of the mucus determines whether the discharge is normal or abnormal. For instance, red mucus is an indication of menstruation, clear mucus means healthy, Yellow-Green mucus is sign of sexually transmitted infection or yeast infection and grey means bacterial vaginosis whereas pink indicates cervical bleeding. Note that when a woman is ovulating, the discharge is more and this is nothing to worry about. However, a woman is advised to seek medical help if the discharge from her vaginal has a peculiar color, smells odd or causes itching; that could be a sign of overgrown bacteria and infection.

Vaginal itching is yeast infection

There is equally popular belief that every itching in the vaginal area is due to a yeast infection. So many women also think that every symptom they have in their vagina is a yeast infection. This is not entirely true. Experts say that in some cases, vaginal itching can be due to irritation from use of cosmetics products, hormonal changes, bacterial vaginosis, pubic lice or a sexually transmitted disease called trichomoniasis. In many cases, it is advisable for one to seek medical advice if the symptoms continue.

Women achieve orgasm through vaginal sex

Many women still cling on to the outdated belief that a woman’s orgasm is purely a vaginal experience, achieved through repeated penetration and intercourse. To this school of thought, if a woman cannot experience an orgasm during vaginal intercourse, then something is wrong.

The truth is only a small percentage of women experience an orgasm from just vaginal sex alone. Most require some form of clitoral stimulation. Some doctors even argue that a vaginal orgasm does not exist and anything close likely results from some form of indirect or direct clitoral stimulation. For some, penetration does not cut it at all, and clitoral stimulation alone is their stairway to heaven.

That is why both partners should do well to learn as much as possible each other’s bodies and try to understand what makes them tick individually.

Menopause does not require treatment

Many still believe that a woman reaching her menopause does not require medical treatment as it occurs naturally. This is not always the case. Some women who undergo menopause naturally do not require medical assistance to deal with their symptoms. Other women do require treatment, in particular, women for whom menopause occurred prematurely. Healthy living, natural, complementary therapies and other medications may assist with menopausal symptoms.

Note: Menopause is a natural biological event in a woman’s life, commencing when her period stops. It is a normal part of ageing which can also be induced medically, for example, as a result of chemotherapy or the surgical removal of a woman’s ovaries due to other medical conditions. Sometimes, menopause occurs prematurely in women who are less than 40 years old.

No pregnancy once menses stop

Many still believe that once a woman’s menstrual period stops, she does not have to use contraceptives because she cannot become pregnant. This is not always the case. In fact, health experts recommend that women who have stopped menstruating should use contraceptives to prevent pregnancy until they have had one year without a natural period if they are over 50 years old, or two years without a natural period if they are under 50.

Frequent sex affects vagina

The popular belief is that frequent sexual activities can make a woman’s vagina loose. Sex can lead to a number of health issues, like urinary tract infections and STIs, but one long-held myth that too much sex can permanently stretch or weaken the vagina is simply not true.

According to experts, vagina is comprised of elastic tissue that can stretch while retaining its original shape. Sex can stretch the vagina, but only temporarily. Although the vagina can stretch during sex to accommodate the size and shape of whatever is going inside of it (like a penis or sex toy), it won’t retain that size.  After sex, the vaginal muscles contract to its original size.

The only time that the vaginal opening might seem to get bigger and stay that way for a while is when a person is having sex for the first time. That is because before a person ever has sex, her vaginal opening is covered with a thin membrane called the hymen.

If vaginal sex feels painful, that does not mean the vagina is being stretched too much or in an unnatural way. This pain is due to a lack of vaginal lubrication, which can be fixed with foreplay or use of a store-bought lubricant.

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