Source: iOne Digital
First things first, get regular pap smears! Sensuality is rooted in self- care. Self care is rooted in wellbeing. Well being for a woman is rooted in making sure your vulva is healthy! I talked to my favorite wellness influencer and OBGYN, Dr. Wendy Goodall McDonald ( AKA Dr. Every Woman) to ask her a few questions that we all have about our vaginal health! See her tips below:
Tell me about your practice and your mission:
I am a board-certified, practicing OB/GYN located in Chicago. I have been in private practice for almost 10 years. While I am grateful to educate and hopefully improve the health of the individual patients who I care for face-to-face, my mission has expanded to include educating the masses through multiple types of media from fun and informative written literature to medical parodies of popular music in video form. I’m trying to bring a fresh take to the phrase, “watch and learn.”
What is the normal smell of the vagina? What made you write your book, ” It smells like popcorn?”
Most people who are without infection will say that their vagina doesn’t smell like anything. Others do report a scent that smells “like me” but is not bothersome. A handful of times in my career women have told me that their vagina smells like french fries, and yes, popcorn. While the patient who mentioned popcorn caught me off guard, I never did find out what was wrong with her. My sense is that there wasn’t anything wrong with her, but that our vaginas can remind us of common smells on occasion. The book does just what that question did, answers medical questions while making you chuckle.
What does sensuality mean to you?
It means freedom to feel sexy. To me, sensuality is deeper than how you look, how you move, or what you’re wearing. It is the belief that YOU could get it, from your damn self. How you move, what you feel, and what you want from a pleasure perspective is birthed out of a self-love, confidence, and worthiness that you can feel good and enjoy yourself if that is what you want.
How can you improve the lubrication of your vagina without using lube?
First, there is no shame in using lube. If you fight the use of lube when you need it and that causes sex to be uncomfortable, that can negatively impact your arousal this time and next time because of the anticipation of pain. Without arousal, natural lubrication is going to me minimal. Back to the original question, one way to improve a person’s own natural lubrication is more thoughts about sex and foreplay, both physical and mental. A text, a touch, a sweet, thoughtful errand. Also, more sex will often increase lubrication to a degree. If a person is menopausal, sometimes olive oil or coconut oil can be used as natural lubrication. Prior to menopause though, the solution is often mental. Let’s also not forget that sex therapists exist to help individuals deal with this.
Why is vaginal health important?
A healthy vagina/vulva is key to keep you safe and sex has its health benefits. If the vaginal is irritated or not getting regular screening, cancer, STD/STI risk and even depression/anxiety can follow. I truly think the vagina can be seen as a barometer for our overall health. Learn more here.
How do often do women need to see an OBGYN
At least annually. Even when a pap test isn’t due a clinical breast exam to check for lumps, a pelvic exam to check for fibroids or ovarian cysts/masses, a check-in on STD screening, family history, weight, and vital signs are all extremely important. Learn more here.
What are fibroids? Why are black women getting fibroids at the highest rate and what can we do to eliminate them?
A fibroid, by definition, is a benign tumor of muscular and fibrous tissues, typically developing in the wall of the uterus. Science can’t really explain why fibroids occur at the highest rate in black women, but that statistic is true. Keep in mind though, that Caucasian women, Hispanic women, and Asian women, get them too. From the NIH, “
One study found that, by age 50, 70 percent of whites and 80 percent of African Americans had fibroids.” Learn more here.
Fibroids are genetic do a degree, but they also feed off of increased estrogen. Being overweight is a risk factor for more rapid fibroid growth. There isn’t a diet supported by evidence that eliminated fibroid growth. Progesterone containing intrauterine devices, or IUDs, can stabilize their growth. Some evidence does suggest that a plant-based diet rich in antioxidants are anti-cancer and tumor growth. A diet focused on avoiding simple carbs and processed meats is valuable.
What are daily healthy rituals women need to do do everyday to maintain their vaginal health?
Every day a woman should wash externally with mild soap. The vulva is the external area that normally contains hair. Keeping that clean is important for odor control and skin health. A woman should not put anything inside of the vagina to clean it. It just doesn’t need that. At the risk of sounding like a broke record, “self-cleaning oven” is a thing. That includes no douching, no yoni pearls, no soaps or internal cleansers. These items can actually cause the bacteria of the vagina to be imbalanced. This can increase your risk for yeast, BV and even STDs and STIs. I also think that it is important to look and feel down there. New lumps or bumps or lesions, painful or otherwise, should be evaluated. If you steer clear with just a washcloth, you may not recognize issues right away.
When should I start to be concerned about my fertility?
That is a difficult question because some have fertility issues in their 20s and others can become spontaneously pregnant at 40. Fertility does begin to decline around age 32, and more rapidly at 35, 37 and 40. If pregnancy isn’t a far reach for a person’s lifestyle, I say go for it, understanding that there is never a perfect time. If the time is not right and doesn’t look like it will be for a while, let’s not forget about egg freezing as an option. Now, that will cost about 10,000, but for someone who is sure that they want to try to have their own biological children but need to fast-forward to late 30s or early 40s, it is a great insurance policy. I am a firm believer that not everyone needs to have children, but if you want them, have them as soon as you can, but don’t rush if it’s not time yet. Confusing enough?
Will my vulva be the same after having a child?
Oh, it’ll be fine. If you need to work on the tone, Kegel exercises are your best friend. Kegels help with urinary leakage, vaginal tone, and orgasm strength. If you have pain or pressure or concerns that are not improved with regular Kegels, you need to see your gynecologist. Physical therapy and even some surgeries can improve issues that can affect the vagina post-baby. Kegel regimen: Ten squeeze and holds twice per day.
What do black women need to know about their bodies?
I think that we need to be especially conscious of the products that we put on our skin and hair. Talcum powder is now known to have caused ovarian cancer, as an example of products with detrimental health benefits to our pelvic organs. There are so many unknowns, but we can’t ignore the possibility that some products may be harmful and affect our overall health. I avoid parabens, and trust the environmental working group. Learn more here.
Why should women have more sex? What are the health benefits of sex?
As I mentioned before, there are health benefits to having sex, both physically and mentally. i have to remind us that there are benefits of abstinence and celibacy as well. Sex in an unhealthy relationship is not healthy sex. Sex draws you closer to a person emotionally. Do you want to be closer to this person? Self-reflection is important because your physical and mental health are at stake. Physical health benefits include lower blood pressure, more flexibility, stress relief, and pain relief.
I hope you find Dr. Wendy’s information to be informative!
Also, Dr. Wendy has BARS ya’ll! Yes she’s an OBGYN that raps over your favorite beats to communicate important messages for health and wellness. This woman will flip a Cardi B. verse into a song about vaginal discharge, IUD’s and living your breast life!
Check her out at www.youtube.com/c/dreverywoman