Sexual Health and Wellness

REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH

Problems with your reproductive system can affect your fertility, for those women that do want to get pregnant.  Some women experience problems with their reproductive system.  Reproductive health problems can also be harmful to overall health and decrease your ability to have and enjoy a healthy sexual relationship. Your reproductive health is influenced by many factors.  These include your age, lifestyle, habits, genetics, use of medicines and exposure to chemicals in the environment.  Many problems of the reproductive system can be corrected. Participating in the following activities can impact your female reproductive health:

  • Smoking;
  • Alcohol and drug;
  • Toxins; and
  • Sexual history.

Smoking Smoking can have a serious impact on your female reproductive health by interfering with your body’s ability to create estrogen and thereby regulate ovulation.  It can also cause your egg cells to be more prone to genetic abnormalities and is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage that has been linked to early onset of menopause.  In addition to its impact on female reproductive health and fertility, smoking has been tied to increases in the likelihood of cervical cancer and pelvic infections. What to do about your smoking? If you smoke, consider quitting.  The impact of smoking is greater the longer you smoke and while not all of the female reproductive health damage is reversible, stopping now can prevent future damage.  In addition to improving your female reproductive health, you can also improve other important aspects of your health, including heart and lung health. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. Alcohol and Drugs Moderation is the key with consuming alcohol.  In fact, many studies have shown that there is some benefit in the consumption of small amounts of alcohol for women.  However, excessive consumption of alcohol and alcohol abuse can lead to female reproductive health problems including irregular ovulation, amenorrhea (absence of menstruation), and the abnormal development of the endometrial lining (the layer that lines your uterus on the inside). Illegal drugs, such as marijuana, heroin and cocaine, are universally damaging to female fertility and female reproductive health.  Perhaps more difficult to manage are the risks that some legal and over-the-counter drugs may have an effect on fertility and female reproductive health.  For example, some prescription medications can interfere with ovulation cycle. What to do about alcohol and drug use? Don’t use illegal drugs and moderate your alcohol consumption.  Discuss any prescription drugs that you are taking with your doctor to determine if any of the medication may pose a female reproductive health problem in the future. Toxins Lately there is more information available on the effects of “body burden”, or the build-up of certain environmental toxins, such as pesticides, fertilizers and solvents, in our bodies, as well as its impact on female reproductive health.  While the extent to which toxin exposure contributes to infertility is still somewhat unclear, it should be considered as a preventable cause of female reproductive health problems. Exposure to toxins has been linked to several female reproductive health problems such as, irregular menstrual cycle, hormone changes, endometriosis and higher miscarriage rates in pregnant women. What to do about toxins? Try to limit your exposure to toxic materials as much as possible, particularly while trying to conceive.  Take the proper precautions when using products containing or comprised of harmful toxins including the use of safety gloves, face masks and protective clothing to minimize direct exposure. Sexual History The best way to prevent female reproductive health problems regarding to sexual history is to practice safe sex [ see: Safety Zone > Safer Sex].  Many sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) go untreated for long periods of time because their symptoms are sometimes not visible.  This can pose a considerable threat to female reproductive health and future fertility.  STI’s, when left untreated, can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, causing scarring or blocking of the fallopian tubes, and changes in the cervix.  In severe cases they can even affect your brain and result in death e.g. Syphilis. What to do about your sexual history? If you are sexually active, make use of your barrier methods [see: Safety Zone > Barrier Methods] e.g. condoms, femidom’s, silk-e’s (dental dams) and gloves, as these are the most effective way to protect yourself from STIs.  Consult with your doctor or health care practitioner on a regular basis and go for regular STI screening and HIV testing.  Remember also to live a balanced healthy lifestyle [see: Ensuring Your Sexual Health] and do self examinations e.g. breast examinations [see: Safety Zone > Routine Check-up’s] and annual examinations.