Sex without strings is simple to talk about, and it doesn’t rattle the comfortable norm. But it also fails to discuss the underlying and taboo topic of women’s sexual health and its impact on day-to-day and romantic lives.
Obstetrics and gynecology are inherently part of being a woman, especially one who is sexually active.
“We need to remove the stigma around all of it,” said Amanda Gross, 2015 Auburn alumna.
While birth control can be used as a form of contraception, many women take it to alleviate painful periods, migraines and regulate mood swings.
“It’s not about sex all of the time,” said Emily Chapman, 2018 Auburn alumna. “It’s for your health, that’s the main point.”
Types of birth control include IUDs, contraceptive pills, shots, implants and patches.
Kaitlyn Logan, senior in public relations, has the Mirena IUD, which releases hormones to prevent pregnancy and is 99 percent effective.
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“The process of getting on it is quite painful because they have to dilate your cervix and place it, so it’s almost like a small contraction,” she said.
Ultimately, though, she said it was worth it. Unlike the pill, which has to be taken at the same time every day, she said “the IUD is as if you’re not even on birth control because you don’t have to think about it.”
Birth control pills also introduce new hormones into the body and have been known to clear up acne. With this being said, hormones can also alter the hormonal balance and cause mood swings for some women.
If side effects still persist after a month or two, doctors recommend trying another birth control option. Every person is different, and some women may not find the right fit immediately.
“Each comes with different benefits and risks and allows us to take control of our reproductive health,” said Dr. Erica Manogue with Lee Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The freedom that comes with an IUD also comes with a risk, Logan said.
“When you’re on birth control, you don’t feel like you have to use a condom, but in those situations, it can be dangerous because of STDs,” she said.
Asking when your partner was last tested, especially if it is a casual relationship, will help normalize this issue and encourage sexual health.
Although STDs are indiscriminate, the American Sexual Health Association said that women are more likely to experience long-term side effects if left untreated.
What many people do not know is that STDs can be asymptomatic, which means that patients will not experience any noticeable side effects.
There may not be immediate repercussions, but without treatment, women can become infertile or have pregnancy complications as a result.
“STD screening should become part of any regular check up, much like checking our blood pressure and weight,” Manogue said.
Students can be tested at the Lee OB-GYN office at the Auburn University Medical Clinic.
“A lot of women are getting STDs, and that’s affecting their fertility later in life, their all-around health and their relationships,” Logan said. “Get tested because your doctor isn’t going to judge you.”
OB-GYNs exist for women’s health, but talking about these issues out loud can be intimidating.
“There feels like there is a stigma about going to the OB-GYN, and the nurses [and] doctors can make things more awkward if they don’t explain things well or assume you know everything,” Gross said.
Overall, though, Chapman, Gross and Logan said their experiences have been positive.
“OB-GYNs never want you to feel uncomfortable at your exam,” Manogue said. “We always attempt to accommodate requests to make you more comfortable, but there are times a male doctor may be helping you.”
But, for survivors of sexual assault, Chapman and Logan stressed the importance of being considerate, especially if they request to see a female doctor instead.
“Once, I had no idea that I was going to have a male doctor, and he just walked in,” Logan said. “For me, it was OK because I have no fear toward men, but I can feel for women who have been through sexual assault and don’t want that. That’s something that needs to be prefaced beforehand.”
Julia Speegle, graduate student in industrial and organizational psychology, had a similar experience. She requested a female doctor but wasn’t told until she arrived at her appointment that she would be seeing a man.
“I refused, and the doctor was fine with it. He didn’t push me,” she said. “But the nurses acted annoyed.”
Creating a dialogue about OB-GYNs, birth control and STDs is an important step in normalizing issues of women’s health, the women said.
“It’s important to advocate for yourself when you’re in there,” Chapman said. “If you’re worried about something, you can say, ‘Can you ask before you touch me?’ It can be as simple as that; you don’t have to explain why.”
The women said that once the conversation is no longer taboo, women can begin to feel more comfortable with their bodies and in their sexuality.
“Have respect for yourself, and insist that your sexual partner have respect for you, too,” Manogue said.
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