What women doctors want you to know: intimate health
We asked 25 experts to share their vital stay-well secrets: intimate health
We’re not saying they’re better than their male colleagues, simply that some female medics may have fascinating nuggets of health advice that could benefit women. We asked 25 experts to share their vital stay-well secrets. Here's what they said about your intimate health and love life...
The drug tibolone is prescribed to treat hot flushes and osteoporosis, but also can be surprisingly good news for your relationship. ‘Studies show that taking it for four to six months can improve your sex life,' says GP Dr Zara Aziz. ‘It's thought to work by increasing blood flow to the genitals, as well as replacing female hormones.'
If you love him, but he's not a great lover, buy a vibrator. ‘My experience working in sexual health clinics has flagged up how many women still have hang-ups that stop them from enjoying sex,' says author and GP Dr Sarah Brewer. ‘A vibrator lets you take charge of your sexuality instead of relying on your partner to brush up his technique. It helps many women experience their first orgasm and if foreplay is sadly lacking, fulfilment is there at the flick of a switch.'
Focus on his body
Pay attention to his body rather than yours. ‘Poor body image is the number one passion killer,' says psychologist and sex educator Dr Petra Boynton. ‘Women often feel sex has to be perfect - they need to look gorgeous, do something exotic, and have their best-ever orgasm. But you don't have to belong in 'Desperate Housewives' to enjoy sex. You can be sexual at any age or size.'
Contraception can double as HRT
‘When you reach your 40s, your cycle can shorten to as little as three weeks, your periods can become longer and heavier and PMS may get worse,' says sexual health consultant Dr Tina Peers. ‘Many women end up having a hysterectomy that they could be spared if they changed their contraception. Mirena, the progestogen coil, is the Rolls-Royce of contraception for women this age. It stops periods in 85% of women and adding an oestrogen gel like Oestrogel in the run-up to the menopause boosts both hormones. Another choice that's possible for women who are concerned about taking the combined pill until they're 50 is NuvaRing. It's a disposable vaginal ring that's as effective as the pill but delivers a lower rate of hormones because it bypasses the liver. You replace it every month but some women use three or four without a break to reduce the number of bleeds.'
You can stop constant unrinary infections
‘Women often have recurrent urinary tract infections after the menopause because the vagina becomes more alkaline, giving bacteria a chance to thrive,' says Linda Cardozo, professor of urogynaecology at King's College Hospital, London. ‘Oestrogen cream can help because it makes the vagina more acid,' she explains. ‘Another tip that's suitable for younger women too is to take one antibiotic tablet before sex - most GPs will give you a
prescription for that.'
Not all HRT raises the risk of breast cancer
Though taking combined HRT for more than five years has been linked to an increase in breast cancer, there appears to be no such rise in women who take oestrogen-only HRT, says gynaecologist Professor Mary Ann Lumsden, advisor to the charity Wellbeing of Women. But it's suitable only for women who've had a hysterectomy - others need to take progestogen to protect the womb.
It is possible to diagnose ovarian cancer early
‘There are symptoms, and all women should be aware of them,' says Good Housekeeping's health expert Dr Sarah Jarvis, who also advised the government on screening for this disease. ‘They include persistent pelvic and abdominal pain, an increase in tummy size or permanent bloating, and feeling full quickly. If you find any of these symptoms occurring for more than 12 days a month, go and see your GP.'
The most common vaginal infection isn't thrush
‘Everyone's heard of thrush, but bacterial vaginosis (BV) is twice as common and one in three women gets it,' says GP Dawn Harper. ‘It can be caused by bath additives, sex or the coil. You'll know if you have it: the discharge is thinner than thrush and has a characteristic odour. To treat and prevent it, try using a gel like Balance-activ, which contains lactic acid to restore healthy pH levels.'