Prevention & Recovery

7 steps to good gynecological health

Author: Canadian Living

Prevention & Recovery

7 steps to good gynecological health

Many women have a hard time talking about problems "down there," but poor gynecological health can trigger a myriad of health concerns. It can interfere with your sex life, cause unnecessary pain and increase your risk of developing a serious disease such as cancer.

The three most common gynecological cancers -- ovarian, cervical and uterine -- accounted for almost 10 per cent of estimated new cases of cancer for women in 2005, according to Canadian Cancer Statistics 2005, a publication produced in part by the Canadian Cancer Society. Of those 7,150 cases, 37 per cent, or 2,660 women, will die from the disease.

Accept and respect your body
The most important thing you can do for your gynecological health is to know and respect your body. "I am always saddened when I have a patient who is about to have a Pap smear and she says, 'Oh, I really feel sorry for you for having to do this, it must be so unpleasant and so disgusting,'" says Dr. Jennifer Blake, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. "I wish all women could have a positive, respectful feeling about their reproduction system and their sexual organs. They are an important part of us, they are a healthy part of us and they need to be treated well."

Blake offers these seven tips to good gynecological health:

1. Get your annual gynecological checkup and regular Pap tests, which can help detect abnormal cells early, thereby lowering your risk of cervical cancer.

2. Practice safe sex. More than 20 sexually transmitted diseases have been identified. The most common include Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which destroys the body's ability to fight infection and increases susceptibility to disease and cancers; Human Papillomaviruses (HPVs), which increase the risk of developing cervical cancer; and gonorrhea, which could cause pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility.

3. Eat a healthy diet to maintain a healthy body weight. Your menstrual cycle is highly dependent on your weight; women who are too thin or too heavy may start to experience problems such as losing their periods or having excessive or irregular flow. Eating a healthy, high-fibre diet and drinking lots of water can also help avoid constipation, which, in turn, can reduce period pain.

4. Do your Kegel exercises to keep the pelvic floor strong. A weak pelvic floor can cause problems with your bladder, such as loss of urine with a cough or sneeze, and can contribute to sexual problems.

5. Work out regularly and in moderation. Include exercises such as yoga, which are good for reducing pelvic pain.

6. Plan your pregnancy. Once women are into their mid 30s, it becomes more difficult to get pregnant and the risk of miscarriage increases. Good health prior to becoming pregnant is beneficial to you and your baby; a preconception checkup can help determine whether you are at risk of any medical problems so you can treat them beforehand and can help ease the stress of pregnancy and delivery.

7. Care for your vulva and vagina by avoiding harsh soaps and douching, by wearing light breathable clothing and by ditching daily use of panty liners as they retain moisture against your body.

Click here for more articles about women's health.

For more information about gynecological health and risks, visit Women's Health Matters Cancer Health Care, The Canadian Cancer Society, Ovarian Cancer Canada and The Gynecologic Cancer Foundation.

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Prevention & Recovery

7 steps to good gynecological health

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