Don’t Put That There: The Dangers of Bad Sexual Health Advice
One would hope that with the passage of time people would tire of giving terrible sex advice. The internet has made a world of legit information available to us (from reliable sources) and yet many of us keep getting caught up by sketchy advice from not-so-reliable sources.
In all fairness, it can be hard to find trustworthy advice that fits your particular needs and isn’t a bore to read. But considering how crucial our sexual health is—not only physically but also mentally and emotionally—it’s important that we all learn how to recognize bad advice when we see it. From myths around contraception, STIs, and fertility awareness – all of which can have permanent implications – our blog posts bring clarity to some common misconceptions and ill-advised DIY feminine hygiene projects.
Today we’ll tackle just a few of the things the internet is encouraging people to put in their vagina – that absolutely do not belong there.
This topical ointment is not meant for vaginal care. No matter what you’ve heard, vaginas are self-cleaning, and they aren’t meant to be odorless. If you notice a strong odor, itching, or discharge, it’s best to investigate those symptoms with your healthcare provider. Covering up what could be a symptom of a serious treatable issue is never a good idea.
It may help your skin, but pretroleum jelly is not a good stand-in for lubricant and should never be used on genitals because it can create an environment conducive to bacterial and yeast growth, which can lead to infections, itching, and unnecessary suffering. One of the most common myths about sexual health is that home-made lubricants are safe and reliable. In reality, home-made lubricants have the potential to disrupt pH balance and introduce bacteria, resulting in irritating and even dangerous consequences. Ultimately, choosing a trusted, store-bought lubricant is your best option when it comes to safer sex practices.
You just don’t need to douche before and after sex in order to “clean” it. It’s not just unnecessary it’s potentially harmful. Douching is one of those vagina hostile practices that doesn’t seem to want to go away. People have been in denial about normal vaginal odor for decades, so you might have heard this tidbit from an elder relative but trust me this advice is also bogus. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises against douching and encourages that we allow the vagina to clean itself naturally. Douching has been shown to increase rates of bacterial vaginosis (BV). If you aren’t a fan of subtle natural vaginal odor, you will be mortified when excessive douching leads to the strong fishy odor BV is known for.
Garlic, tea tree and other essential oils
These are risky ways to treat a yeast infection. While it is true that garlic has antimicrobial properties, putting garlic directly on the skin can irritate the skin and cause burns. That’s the last thing you want when you are dealing with a yeast infection. Essential oils can be similarly irritating when applied full strength to the skin. Time spent experimenting with safe concentrations could be time lost as the condition worsens leaving the vagina more vulnerable to STIs in the meantime.
When it comes to sexual health, it is not always wise to trust what you hear. The consequences of believing false information can be more than just embarrassing – it can get you hurt. For example, a rash resulting from an STI that is improperly identified and treated can get out of control quickly and cause serious harm if left unchecked.
Although our online friends may have good intentions, it’s best to stick with a professional source for your sexual health questions. Consider your primary care physician as a great starting point. If you feel uncomfortable opening up and asking questions after multiple visits, it might be a sign that you need to find another doctor. Research is also your friend. Look to peer-reviewed journals for studies that can give credible insight into the questions your sex-positive self has been asking. Double-check the sources of any advice you find online. Check with recognized public health organizations that have published articles on the topics that interest you. Lastly, use your critical thinking skills. If something doesn’t seem right to you or seems different from what your doctor is telling you, it probably isn’t!